Petit Grand v.10 Dichroic Light Sculpture
Title: Petit Grand v.10
Medium: Metal 3D Print, Dichroic Acrylic, Wood, Light
Dimensions: 6.25" x 6.25" x 6" tall
Collection: Digital Tectonics
Features: Illuminated, unique light scape, accurate geography of the Grand Teton
Lead Time: <1 week pure digital, <3 weeks hand-finished
Petit Grand v.10 is a digital light sculpture of the Grand Teton using advanced metal-based 3D printing technology, dichroic acrylic, and high-power LED lighting. The sculpture consists of a frame based on the topography of the Grand Teton, embedded with dichroic acrylic panels on each of the facets of the mountain, and resides on a custom made lightbox featuring a 5 watt Cree XPL high-power LED lighting system to cast a lightscape on the ceiling above the sculpture.
In addition to the purely digital form, I am also offering a hand-worked version that features a natural patina on the metal and a more hand-styled look. Please see the options below for pricing details. If you are curious as to how this work came to be, please read on!
Creating Petit Grand v.10
The idea for Petit Grand v.10 actually had a much larger ancestor entitled "Les Trois Tetons" which was supposed to be a 10' tall x 15' deep x 20' long sculpture of the Grand, Middle, and South Teton mountains made of perforated aluminum, LEDs, and interactive fire. However, when COVID-19 took over our lives', this project was shelved and grant submissions stopped. Instead, I took to miniaturizing my idea to potentially help fund the large one.
I first began by pulling in the topography of the Grand Teton from U.S. Geological Survey data into my 3D design application Rhinocerous 3D + Grasshopper. I began shrinking, shaping, and morphing the topology into my vision using a process called 'parametric design'. Parametric design is a way of creating 3D works by defining relations between objects instead of creating individual objects and mutating them. If this sounds interesting, I highly recommend the book 'Algorithms-Aided Design' by Arturo Tedeschi and Stefano Andreani. It is a fascinating way to draw and matches my internal thought process very well.
The first iteration of this process output 'Petit Grand v.1', also available in the store. That design was meant for me to begin to learn casting and so is a bit more basic. With Petit Grand v.10, I knew I wanted to keep it purely digital so was able to push the design a bit further towards my vision.
Once I had a design and the parameters to define it that I was happy with, I turned to a generative process to refine the shape and properties of the sculpture even further. Using Grasshopper, some specialized Open Source tooling, and my design I was able to iterate over thousands of options within my parameters, charting them on a graph based on my specification.
This led to a rough form that I was beginning to get very happy with and from there, I refined the model even further, changing various dimensions, insets, and other measurements of the sculpture to aid in the fabrication and assembly. One part of this refinement that I really enjoyed was figuring out how to light the sculpture.
In order to determine the behavior of the light and a close approximation to the behavior of the light coming out of the sculpture, I used a digital rendering tool within Rhino called VRay. This allowed me to accurately model the sculpture, including the dichroic panels to get a real feel for what the sculpture would behave like prior to building it. I will detail this process more in an upcoming blog post.
With the design complete, I set to fabrication. Each print takes approximately 24 hours to run, and even the purely digital ones require at least some cleanup in order to look pretty. While the print is running, I veneer the wood for the box, laminate the acrylic with the dichroic coating, fabricate the lighting system, cut the box, cut the dichroic panels for the box, cut the dichroic panels for the mountain, and then assemble the box.
Once the sculpture is complete from the 3D printer, I use a grinder to clean up the edges and fit the panels. If I am going to hand-work it and apply a patina, the sanding and finishing work continues until the outside is smooth and the metal within the filament exposed. At that point, I can begin to apply an oxidation agent and develop the patina over the next few days.
When the patina is rich and to my liking, the sculpture is finished with a wax coating, the panels are fit, inserted, and secured into place and the entire sculpture is placed on the lightbox for burn-in. I ensure to run each sculpture for at least a 24-hour period to ensure proper heat dissipation and light functionality.
Well, I hope that was interesting and gives you an overview of the process I used to create these pieces!