Client: Private Homeowner
Location: Takoma Park, MD, United States
Completion date: 2016
Artwork budget: $45,000
Braitman Design Studio
Felicia Evans Photography
Steel, glass marbles, polycarbonate tubes, and LED lighting assembled in a sculpture that embodies the magic and rhythm of a birch grove. This is a concept piece with a single sculpture placed in a grove of 3 birch trees. The artist seeks to develop a larger installation with 3 to 5 sculptural birches within a grove of 10 to 15 birch trees in hospitality or institutional settings. The piece provides both day and night interest.
This project took on two challenges: First: to design a light sculpture that is as engaging during the day as it is at night. Second, to use materials that will withstand the rigors of long-term outdoor exposure while still representing the lithe, natural beauty of a birch tree.
The multi-trunk, 15ft sculpture is made of painted steel, LED strip lights and fairy lights, and polycarbonate tubes filled with 25mm glass marbles mounted on a concrete plinth. For the light show, we created an irregular, rhythm with the hypnotic effects similar to the irregular crackling of a fire.
Numerous mock-ups were needed before the artist found an approach that matched her vision. The steel structure is strong enough to support the 15ft structure even during 50mph winds but light enough to sway in the breeze and to echo the litheness of the live birch. 45 meters of LED strip is fitted into the channel of the mini-I-Beam that form each trunk or branch. Single clear tubes filled with glass marbles sandwich each trunk and branch.
The commercial glass marbles reflect daylight and transmits LED lights after dark. The brown painted steel and mix of marbles echoes the colors of the birch bark and lower canopy. About 55% of the approximately 2500 25mm marbles are orange cats-eye, about 30% are Sunflower (orange, yellow & brown swirls), and 15% are a mix of green cats-eye and BlueJays.
For the lighting show, we used an Arduino micro-processor with custom programming. The light show starts at dusk and runs until midnight. It resumes at 5am and runs through morning’s dawn. The micro-controller is encased in a weather-proof box which is slotted into the base and covered in marbles. We experimented with different rhythms and patterns until we found a rhythm that was attention getting and hypnotic without being bothersome if viewed for a long time.