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The Rise of the TowerBot

During Spring 2018, a call for entities starting appearing in social media for 10th ArtPrize. It’s an annual art competition that the public votes for their favorite with a grand prize of $250,000. I’ve helped a little with other artists entering in the past, but never had an idea I wanted to enter until now.

The previous winter, I designed what I call Flame Tree. Three identical shapes I call shards that twist in to a 16” tall cone or tree shape.

I gave one to a friend as a gift in his Irish heritage colors. It was a family holiday hit. For St. Patrick’s Day, his sister ordered three more.

So for ArtPrize I thought I’d grow it larger and make a 3-foot tall one. Since each piece for the original one takes about four hours to print, projected estimates figured about 3 times that—nearly 12 hours. To accomplish this, I’d need a 3d printer that would be capable of doing such work. Also, a printer that size is beyond anything I could afford. So I imagined a printer with three heads working at the same time and built a frame.

75lb. dog Charlie for scale.

One of the biggest hurdles for ArtPrize is connecting with a venue to display your work. If you can’t find a venue, then you are out of luck. The previous year I helped a venue curator, with many other hands, tear down a venue space, so I had a slightly better chance of getting my work shown.

After paying my entry fee and the hurdles I ran into setting up an account, I was able to start the application to the venue for review. The curator needs photos of what I was proposing, so I set up a couple of one of my Flame Trees outside in the sun.

The colors really popped! It needs to be outside. Was figuring setting it on a pedestal, but now it needs to be outside. And outside, needs to be large and free-standing. So I called the curator to ask if he could suggest an outside venue. His voice lifted and said “we have outdoor space!” They never had anyone ask. He added that they had a gallery shop to sell smaller items. I had a color-changing nightlight that I thought would be nice to sell.

So with a venue secured, I had to grow my design further and then create a printer to make the sculpture. I wanted it tall enough that you couldn’t impale yourself. Also, I didn’t want bad weather be able to move it. So the design evolved to this over 6-foot tall.

Design locked in, now I need a machine to make it.