In December 2014, while reading a blog (Bike Hacks.com), I came across a fantastic art installation by the folks at Colorado-based Creative Stained Glass Studio (CSGS), titled Tour de Verre ("Tour of Glass", pictured at right). The artist says the "sculpture celebrates the joy of an active lifestyle, and bicycling in particular." The piece features a dozen or more bicycle wheels, turned in to art through the unique use of hand-blown glass, metal panels, and varied spoke patterns to make a visually striking piece of sculpture. But the best part was that this piece was installed just blocks from my office, at the AMLI Ponce Park apartments (across from Ponce City Market, and just off the BeltLine).
So one cool winter day I rode my bicycle over there to see the piece in person. I loved it even more when I could see it with my own eyes, and knew immediately that I wanted to put their static sculpture in motion. After some brainstorming sessions and a few sketches, I conceived of an entirely new kinetic sculpture to showcase their glass wheels. The results of that process led to the schematic pictured below:
I began the process of selecting appropriate wheels and modifying them as needed to make each wheel unique. For the bike nerds in the crowd, all five wheels in the Kaleidoscycle piece are laced uniquely. Only one wheel is laced in a standard 3x pattern, the others are 1x, 2x, radial, and even a "3-leading 3-trailing" spoke pattern. The varied spoke patterns gave the folks at CSGS some different templates to work from in making their custom glass treatments. Once the initial mock-up was complete, I boxed up all the wheels and shipped them off to CSGS in Colorado.
In the meantime I set about figuring out how to set the whole piece in motion.
A single bicycle chain connects each wheel together so that all five wheels move as one. The bicycle chain itself forms the outline of a bicycle frame, with the two main wheels (and the wheel where the crank/pedals would be), all spinning clockwise, as if the bicycle was actually rolling forward. The two smaller wheels that form the top of the bicycle frame spin counter-clockwise. Each wheel has a different size gear so that only the two main wheels spin at the same rate.
The movement itself is provided by an AC motor, hidden behind the mount of the front wheel. I went through a couple of motors trying to find just the right one that could support the wheel and spin at a slow enough speed. From the start I wanted a motor that spun very slowly to give the sculpture just a subtle bit of constant motion. Eventually, a motor manufacturer in Mexico was gracious enough to custom make a motor for my needs. Gracias! The custom motor spins quiet and smooth at just 1/2 RPM.
Now finished and installed, Kaleidoscycle is a dramatic sculptural piece for the lobby of my dental office. As a life-long cyclist and daily bike commuter, cycling is a huge part of my life, as is represented in my artwork. I hope the piece entertains, mesmerizes, and brings a smile to all that get to see it!"