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DIY Fire Sculpture

wearable art & self-performance kit
by Allen Bukoff

A 2 1/3-inch wooden self-striking match affixed to shirt with a safety pin.

Handout. 1 x 2.5 inch folded paper envelope containing labeled match with safety pin.

Making the DIY kit
close up

Artcite is an artist-run center for the contemporary arts in Windsor, Ontario. I've been a member of it for many years. Artcite has organized and staged five Fahrenheit Festivals, an annual public festival of fire sculptures. This year, Janice and I decided to attend.
I am a big fan and enthusiast of fire in its various forms (from burning wood in our living room fireplace, to charcoal grilling, to fireworks), so I was looking forward to seeing how the participating artists built and burned their wood and hay sculptures.

The day before the event, I got the idea to create a wearable pin from a wooden match--something that I could distribute at the festival as my way of participating. I talked my idea over with Janice and we went out to find some large ("kitchen size") strike-anywhere matches. This turned out to be one of those projects where nearly every step fell into place very smoothly (an "easy flow" where instead of having to solve problems the first thing or two I tried worked). For example, my smallest drill bit was just small enough to drill a hole through the stem of the matches--once I figured out to use a pointy-ended wire to center a divot to act as a guide for the drill bit. A smaller, Dremel-type drill, would have been better, but I was still able to do this precision drilling work with my clunky electric hand drill. Best of all, the hole was big enough to put a size-1 safety pin through without stressing the hold or the match.

The next step in the process also flowed: I created the text label for the match, "Artcite - Fahrenheit Festival 2008," using a plain Arial font and guessed at using a 6-point font size. Printed it out on a piece of paper, cut it into a narrow strip and voila! it exactly fit the width of the match. So I just went ahead and laid out rows of these labels to be printed on address labels. Getting these tiny strips to lay down straight without sticking out over any of the match stem's edges took a little experimentation, but this turned out to be easy, too. Figuring out good dimensions and folding-proportions for the paper wrapper required a little playing around, but the final template was created pretty easily. Last came the tape to keep the folded wrapper sealed shut. I found an old roll of paper tape that was perfect: color green (adding a little color) with the word "DESTROY" printed on the tape. The right attitude and spirit for a do-it-yourself burning kit. I created 50 of these "DIY Fire Sculpture" packets, put them in a baggie, and headed off to the Fahrenheit Festival in Canada. Christine Burchnell, the of Artcite, was at the entrance to the festival, so I handed the baggie to her and told her they were wearable pins for the festival and pointed to the one I was wearing on my shirt. She told me she would distribute them to the many volunteers helping Artcite stage this event. I was expecting that the Fahrenheit Festival was going to be a small event with maybe 50 - 100 people attending. It was a lot bigger than that--more than 1500 people including families with kids showed up to sit on the side of a small pond looking across the water at a row of 16 large (up to 25 feet tall) hay-and-wood sculptures built on a narrow gravel penninsula stretching across the center of the pond. Here's a bad blurry picture I took in the waning light. It took over an hour to burn the sixteen sculpture one at a time. The sculptures were lit by a busy crew of people wielding long torches--sticks with clumps of burning hay. Each one went up like a big bonfire designed to reflect a certain shape (a tree, a cat, scissors, the outline of a walking figure, a word, etc.). The hightlight of the burn was probably "Peacock" created by local artist, Matthew Romain, shown in full glory in the photo above. For more pictures from this festival, click here.

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Creative Commons LicenseDIY Fire Sculpture by Allen Bukoff is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License