Author Archives: SL

Blender Dog


I will be participating in this workshop, and am interested in working with simple machines to study the motion and mechanics of anthropomorphic sculptures, and then using the results to create artwork that is personally meaningful, and is somehow a logical extension of my own artistic interests.

I started off thinking that I would love to make something that incorporated a jumping motion of any kind.  I take as inspiration examples of jumping creatures in the animal kingdom, in particular, the tarsier.  I have recently returned from a research trip from The Philippines, and had the wonderful opportunity to capture high quality photographs and video of tarsiers.

Tarsiers have a very light body and skeleton, long hind legs, and are able to jump quite long distances in a single leap.  They have a lot of other unique characteristics, however for the purposes of this workshop, it is their jumping ability that I drew inspiration from.

(I also find the tarsier and its precarious status as an endangered species, especially humans’ inability to keep tarsiers in captivity to be a powerful metaphor that I want to further draw upon as an artist.)

So I started looking at some jumping robots, and the one I found that was most interesting to me is this one, which I’m calling The MSU Jumper–

Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 1.34.56 PM

There is a cool video of it in action here.

In order to create some sort of jumping action during the course of this workshop, I would need a coiled spring that bounces back and maybe some sort of release mechanism on a cord or something.

Due to time constraints, I moved on to looking at recreating a pair of Theo Jansen legs, and having a look at the way a rotational motion is translated into a back-and-forth motion.  A student first introduced me to the work of this artist, and, like everyone else, I am completely amazed by his artwork.  So much so that I purchased his plastic creature kits a few years ago.

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This one is complicated with several pairs of legs.  I started thinking about a single pair of legs.


The little plastic Jansen model that one can order off the internet is helpful to take apart, put together, and use as a model for one’s own creation, so I will bring it with me to the workshop.

As this creative process continues over the course of the next 10 days, I will show the results in this post then.

I know that my own results will not be or function exactly like the above animation, nor exactly as I see the sculpture in my head, however the idea of amplifying unexpected results is one that I also want to work with.  While I’m not an engineer, it is clear to me that the math and location behind the pivot points on the above little animation need to be very exact…let’s see what happens…


So I went to the supermarket and got a blender, in order to strip it down and try to use its motor for this project.  I am hoping it is useful, as it must be a fairly fast, powerful little motor, and it drives a rotating mechanism, which I hope I can put to good use.

photo 2 photo 1

I will begin taking apart the blender shortly.  On the way out of the supermarket, I saw this children’s toy, which must also be driven by some type of battery powered motor, creating a four-legged walk, so I will also take apart this little toy right now.

Ok so I started taking things apart, and was successful, but I need to bring these pieces with me to the workshop so I think it’s better I leave them fully assembled at this point-


photo 22 photo 3 photo 51 photo 43


Artist Statement:

This piece is really about power relationships, and somehow became about the difference in power between a 240 volt motor, and a 3 volt motor.  Perhaps about ones relationship with oneself (maybe ones inner child), perhaps about ones relationship with others.  I started this piece by wanting to work with a walking motion, wanting to come prepared to the workshop with some motors that I could take in my luggage, and really going from there.  Upon understanding some of the dangers of working with/taking apart a 240 volt motor, the “dangerous” aspect of that motor is something I wanted to amplify a bit.  I took the fur off the dog in order to see its mechanics, and ended up thinking the half-skinned dog was a great metaphor, and the rest really evolved from there. Its interesting to me that I started this project with the metaphor of a tarsier, an endangered animal whose population numbers are just getting “ground up” by the constant spread of humanity into their habitat, and their status as both survivors as well as victims of circumstances beyond their control, and, in some oblique way, that thought comes through here–

The technical things I learned from this workshop:

  1. that motors need to be housed or encased
  2. that motors of a higher voltage are dangerous to the touch if turned on
  3. how to rewire a plug to convert it to a European style plug
  4. the power of a 240 volt vs a 3 volt motor
  5. issues regarding stability and wobbliness of things
  6. an internalization and a bit practice with the idea of a smaller, faster rotational object/axle/gear driving a bigger, slower rotational object/axle/gear
  7. how, when things are attached to fast axles/gears/rotational objects, they will wind up around them if attached in certain ways

The artistic things I have taken away from this workshop:

  1. I’m left now, several months later, with really wanting to obtain another blender motor of the same make and model, and more fully take apart the motor itself, take it completely out of its casing, and perhaps actually take it apart a little bit.  I really want to explore the motor itself, maybe make a new casing for it somehow.  This feels artistic, like an artistic next step, rather than technical to me.  Something about the metaphor of the motor–
  2. That the act of pushing myself outside my own comfort zone in a somewhat controlled way is paramount to my continued interest in art making.
  3. A much greater appreciation for and fascination with making kinetic sculpture, and its own possibilities for creating meaning and metaphor within individual artworks.