Category Archives: Burning Man

Building the Air Kraken Trike

Line art concept sketch (by Molly Friedrich)*** More pictures are here ***

Last year, around this time, I started building the Air Kraken Trike.  It’s a project I was inspired to create from the scenes of great big things like it at Burning Man.  This article is an overview of my process, challenges, costs, and thoughts.   I’ll describe how I came to the design, and various elements of building it.  I’ll provide a broad-strokes cost overview of what it took to make it, to take it to the Burn, and to store it.


So what’s an Air Kraken?   The Air Kraken is a fun idea from the steampunk community that has to do with an event in march, called Air Kraken Day, where folks take refuge in bars, and carry umbrellas to keep the sky kraken from descending to feast on folks.  It’s pretty hilarious, and I liked the name, so I went with it.    What else is an Air Kraken?  It’s also a ten foot long, six foot wide metal tricycle made out of new and used materials that has been to several events.

It’s made of steel, of drainage culvert, of bus parts, of old bicycles.  I’ve put more than a little blood, sweat, and tears into the construction and application of it.  It’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve learned a lot. There have been frustrations and mis-steps.  But it’s been overall pretty awesome about it.

It has been a very time intensive project.  I put in a lot of nights and weekends into it.  For about four months, it was effectively my second job.  I’d get home from work around 6ish, eat food, and go out to the shop to work on it.  I’d throw 8-10 hours a day on the weekends into it.  I probably put 600-700 hours into it.  Definitely a lot more than that with the time I wasn’t actively working on it, and “merely” thinking about it.

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That was Burning Man

I feel very fortunate that I got to experience the Burning Man Festival before everything changed.

Wow. What a big statement to make, huh?  To claim that the festival has changed dramatically.  That things might be over.  That what had been isn’t what will be.  Very impertinent of me.  Very bold.  But it feels like it rings true to me.  I started going to the burn very recently, in 2008.  It was something I’d heard about for a long time, and always wanted to do.  I finally got things in gear, and went.  And it was world changing.

I went again every year since then, and if I can, I’ll go this year, too. There have been tons of cool experiences.  Loads of keen, interesting people that I’ve met, and some great friendships that I’ve spawned from the experience.  I’ve let go at the temple of things that held me back, of things that weighed on my heart.   I feel like the trip really meant a lot.

Like a ton of other burners I know, I lost the ticket lottery.  There’s lots of confusion about what’s going on.  Is it scalpers?  Are folks sitting on a bunch of tickets and not saying anything?  Did the community really grow to a hundred thousand in a year?

I think no one really knows what’s going on.  There’s a lot of fear and pain around it.  Fear of scalpers having taken a large portion of tickets to resell.  Pain at not knowing whether your theme camp will be able to go.  And doubt around what will happen.  The BMOrg is doing a lot to try to figure out how they went wrong, and what to do about the situation.  This is evolving, and what comes out of it, I don’t know.

But whatever happens, it won’t be the same.  Burning Man has grown very large.  It’s struggling against its own bonds of success.  As Halcyon said, this festival has perhaps grown too large to be contained by a playa.  So what does that mean?  What does it mean to have outgrown yourself?  To have gotten to a point where continued growth seems unsustainable and unlikely to be effective.  Where do we go?

I think one place that we can go is looking to our regional events as an outlet for all those things we wish for so hard in the experience of the dust.  I think that perhaps by looking again to our local communities, we can make local what we find remotely.  That we can bring the spirit and quality of the experience out at the dirt rave here.

Maybe it’s time that things split up.  That we have more events, spread out over more areas.  Freezing Man. Drowning Man. Soak.  Critical Massive.  Flipside.  All kinds of events, each with their own special character that leads us in new directions towards new dreams.

I don’t know where I’ll be this August.  I certainly hope on the playa, but it may not be in the cards. I know I’ll be at my regional.

Good luck.

It’s that time of year…

Air Kraken Trike; shooting fireSo it’s time for the annual pilgrimage to Burning Man.  Like so many other folks, I’m going.  Unlike a lot of people, I haven’t had the ticket scramble that the selling out process led to — I bought mine back in January.  Anyway, this post isn’t so much about tickets, as it is about the experience, and how I feel about the upcoming trip.

I’m super excited about it.

This year, I’m bringing my own big art project to the Burn.  The Air Kraken has been a ton of work this year, and I’m so happy that I’ve gotten it done, and that it’ll be on playa.  The project has gone really well due to help from my friends by way of Kickstarter contributions, INW’s Art Grant, and construction assistance.   I’m super appreciative to all their wonderful help!

Check out more about the Air Kraken on my project page.

So what else is going on for the Burn?  I’m planning on taking a ton of photographs this year, and that means bringing a lot of storage… I’m bringing 28GB of CF cards, and 6GB of SD cards for two cameras.  I’m bringing a cool selection of lenses, too:  Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 D, Sigma 21-35mm Alpha f/3.5-5.6, Nikkor 70-210mm f/4-5.6 D, and on my D80 the 18-200mm alphabet soup lens as backup.  There should be lots of cool stuff to see.

If you see me on playa, I demand you ask for a portrait. ;-)   See you in the desert…

SeaCompression 8

I had a great night at SeaCompression 8 – Metropolis Now.  SeaComp is the local burner decompression party put on by Ignition Northwest that follows the yearly Burn.   This year’s theme is a bit of a play on what’s intended for BurningMan’s theme next year — Metropolis. 

At any rate, there were many wonderfully dressed people at SeaCompression, and I had a great time photographing them.  I also had a great time running into friends that I haven’t seen in too long.   My set of images from the event is up on flickr, here’s the link.

I volunteered to work a shift of Door for the event; this process consisted of taking people’s money/tickets, and giving them a wrist band.  That was fun, and it provided a great opportunity to say hello (which I did about a hundred and fifty times.)  The greeter shift passed quickly, and was greatly enjoyable. 

My wife attended the event for the first time, and she had a great time.  She dressed up as a punkish version of herself, complete with a crazy-wonderful purple and black wig, and silver goggles.  She met many people, and said she was glad to attend.  I was also glad she attended, because I love my burner community, and want her to enjoy it, too.   So that’s cool.  We’re going to be going to the playa this summer together, and that should be a blast.

The job done by Suspended Animation, a theme camp that ties people up and suspends them, was very nice.  They lit their subjects beautifully, and clearly showed great skill and concern during their performances.  I enjoyed their performances, and look forward to future events.

There were many other wonderful things to see:  The Black Rock City Cinemas, showing videos from participants of previous years of Burning Man; The dance stages were full and replete of Untz and the cacophony of chest-thumpingly loud dance techno music blaring across the room; and the fire spinners, doing what they love.

SeaCompression was a hell of a party, and I look forward to next time.   I heard it was better next year. ;)

More Casting

pentic of castingSo today I decided to do another pendant.  And it went well.  I’m happy with my progress, like I’m gaining skill (like I want.)

Metal flows through the mold
Flowing swiftly ’til it turns cold
Shapes cast from a fleeting master
I see you freed in your sprue tree
Polished to a shine
Cast metal, frozen solid.

I’m thinking that I’m going to try sandcasting as an approach for doing lots of these.  I takes a lot of time to prepare these as one-offs of wax, to sprue them, invest them, burn them out, and pour them.  2-3 hours each.  I think by sand-casting, I can get that down to 30 minutes for batches of ten.  That’d be awesome.

Hopefully in a couple weeks, I’ll have the materials on hand to do that.  See you soon …

Of Bronze and Metal, Casting and Community

I’ve been messing around a little with casting metal for a while.  When I was a kid, I would make molds out of cuttlefish bones, and cast lead into them.  I did this in my room, often without the knowledge of my mother.  I only caught the rug in my room on fire a few times, and never seriously.  I’d taken to keeping a cup of water handy for putting out the rug.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I went to BurningMan this year, and had a good time, and an experience filled time.   I was gifted an aluminum necklace, round, with a man in the middle, arms held high in the stereotypical burner way.   I really appreciated that necklace, and treasure it.

And so I decided that I’d enjoy making pendants of my own to gift to people who really showed themselves to be special folks, or for those doing a really great thing.   I also decided that I could make these myself, as is my wont.   So I made a first one, a little man, arms held high.

I like to do things myself.  Things that are interesting to me, or are difficult.  It’s pleasant for me to take such a project and make it real.  I love being able to say (and I think of Gir from Invader Zim here), “I made it myself!”

Decompression and a little story

It’s an interesting thing, reintegrating into default world.   I’ve had mixed feelings about being back.   Lots of thinking, and integrating of my experiences into my world view.   It makes for an interesting time.

I had a cool experience Monday, on the bus.  I was heading home after a long day,  it was after Burn Night, the local burner get-together. Jake and I parted ways; him for his bus, me for mine downtown to take me home.  I notice this woman with pink and white dread-falls in her hair, kinda raver, kinda punk.  I think, “Burner?” and I wait for my bus to arrive.

The bus arrives, and I get on.  I took my seat, and proceeded to relax/wait to get to my destination.  This woman gets on the bus, too  She sits in the seats that face the isle, I’m a few seats farther down, facing forward.   The bus gets going.  Time passes.

She looks over at me, for a while, and mouths “Burner?” to me.  I say, “Yeah” and wave her over.  We talk.  It was her first year, too.  We had a nice conversation, and then went our seperate ways at the Transit Center.

Being a burner is like having a special pass that says you’re okay to talk to; like you’re part of a special club of inclusiveness.  That’s facinating.

The question to ask is:  How can I make more of my life be like this — how can I be friendlier and more engaging with people, generally?

Burned out at Burning Man (Sierra Club article)

A friend of mine referred me to this article that is the cover story for the July issue of the Sierra Club’s magazine. The article presents interesting arguments about the balance between the kinds of gigantic, fiery self-expression, about creating community, and changing peoples’ minds through radical expression.

It’s an interesting read, and made me think sovaldi india. It’s an interesting article. Go read it! :)

Take care,

Project Shopping Cart (American Dream)

Shopping CartSo, a friend and I were talking about what we might do as an art project at Burning Man or Critical Massive. And we thought about the theme this year. The American Dream. And then we talked some about what that means to us today. Shopping. Today Americans are in large part defined by what they buy, and their buying habits.

So we thought, “Hell, let’s build a giant motorized shopping cart the people ride around in.” And we knew this was a Great Idea. I’ve been drawing plans and sketches of what we’ll get with this. I think that we’re too addicted to shopping. Too addicted to More Stuff We have to have things.

So, in light of that, we’re going to build a shopping cart. Not an ordinary one, but a grand one. One that stands five feet across, nine feet long, and 7 feet tall. Out of steel. Oh, and it will be motorized. It will be steered by a large wheel mounted in the front of the basket. Drawings will be forthcoming.

Consider this the project announcement page. There will be more to come. And why not donate to our project?