Sunday, June 29, 2003

The flowers cover everything

Last year for Burning Man Anne-Marie and I made an art piece for our camp, an 8-foot lotus flower batik with electroluminescent wire ("EL wire") sewn on and an electronic controller to make it flash and spin. Since our thoughts are turned to this year's projects, I thought I should document the old project before I get too far behind. So, here it is, the Amazing Incredible Flying Lotus of Doom.

You can click on the pictures to get a larger view.


We made a wooden frame, over which we stretched white cotton. Then we traced the lotus design onto the cotton.


After that we brushed wax over the outline of each petal.


Then we painted fiber-reactive dyes in each petal, using rainbow colors.


The colors bled through the wax outlines a little bit, so we touched it up.


We got a huge pot full of melted wax, and soaked the lotus. We spread the lotus out on a tarp, with fans on it to cool the wax.


When the wax was cool we crinkled up the lotus, and coated it with blue dye, which sunk into the cracks.


The lotus was hung up on its frame and left to dry over night... the crackled pattern looked very nice.


Out came the irons and a stack of newspapers; we ironed all of the wax off and washed the lotus.


First light... we fired up some of the EL wire to check out the colors.


Anne-Marie spent a heroic couple of nights sewing the EL wire onto the lotus... quite a feat. We fired it up, and it was good.

I designed a controller, with 32 channels of SCR's to switch the high voltage (230VAC) for the petals. Opposing petals were paired, such that each colored ring of petals was controlled by 3 channels. This allowed me to program patterns such as spinning spirals and growing and shrinking. Maybe I'll figure out how to make animated GIFs of this, and post them here.