Case Study: Modular Sculpture | Skillshare Projects

Case Study: Modular Sculpture

This past fall, while chopping wood, I came across an unsplittable log. I knew there was some nice grain hiding in there, so I threw it in the garage to let it dry out. A few weeks later, I took it into the shop to see what I could pull out of it. It was gorgeous. The two knots were intact- though cracked- so I cut them into cubes with the intention of turning them into something.

I am still in the beginning stages, so I think this would be the perfect time to start documenting my process and workflow- from the sketching and conceptualizing to the problem solving and finishing. Ideally, I would like to have it down to the 'T' the way artist Tom Sachs describes in his video 10 Bullets ( "Creativity is the enemy"; it should be the driving force, but- for consistency and safety reasons- not the means of production. Amusing, and completely counterintuitive to artists and designers.

Initial direction: the sculpture will be comprised of a grid of 3/4" maple cubes, assembled by 1/4" brushed stainless steel tubes. Some of the "modules" will have a frosted acrylic bottom, and an LED inserted into it- programmed to randomly fade in and out. Accuracy and precision are a large concern of mine- I tend to spend quite a lot of time making sure all of my tools and jigs are square and properly level. I am still learning Arduino, but I am very close to developing the code to where I want it. 

While this example- a single work of art- may seem specific, I believe it's multi-tiered nature will help me organize and standardize my workflow when it comes to the production of the actual piece. Each element has its own series of steps that can be worked on separately, but all must be complete before the next phase is undertaken.


  1. Conceptualize - Determine what can be done with the available materials.
  2. Visualize - Piece together the elements into a working composition.
  3. Design - Work out the piece's creation and function.
  4. Execute - Follow through the Design.

UPDATE: 6/11

Shaping the cubes has been tricky- getting two surfaces that are perfectly square with eachother is more difficult than anticipated. Some will require more shaping, but I should have them all where I need them soon. Because of this, it is likely my original brain fart of a sketch will need some rehashing- and thus the circuitry and pattern programming. It occurred to me to just use multiple boards so I can have up to 12 functional LED's- but again it comes down to how I am able to include the circuitry with the materials.

While that is underway, I am researching my options for connecting the modules. Considering brushed Copper tubing- plated with Nickel for color.

Current Tasks:

  • Finish shaping pieces to determine total usable
  • Finetune code
  • Acquire appropriate tubing
  • Resarch and acquire materials for Nickel plating

UPDATE: 6/16

Classes have started, so I have been getting everything organized to get those underway and haven't had as much time to pay attention to this particular project. I did, however, piece together an electroplating setup and have already created a small jar of Nickel Acetate for the plating process. Really cool and pain-free! I might need some more pure nickel as I move to bigger projects, but this will suffice for now.

Current Tasks:

  • Finish shaping pieces to determine total usable
  • Finetune code


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