Jenna Steely is a designer/maker in the Bay Area working toward a more progressive future.
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Fire Breathing Giraffes

Fire Breathing Giraffes

Client: Me

Project Type: Structural Design, Metal Fabrication, Fun


The challenge: For Burning Man 2016, I volunteered to redesign the frontage for my camp. The previous year, we had built two towers out of bamboo that vaguely resembled giraffes. They were rickety and barely lasted the week — but we all loved how they guided us home at night. This year, I wanted to improve that design, but build them out of a more sustainable material so we could reuse them year after year. 

The process: I began by taking a welding class from the Department of Spontaneous Combustion (DSC) at American Steel Studios in Oakland. I spent several months designing them before ordering over 500 pounds of steel. Then I devoted the following two months of my life to the metal shop, learning and building as I became fluent in metalworking tools and practices. 

The result: They turned out better than I could have ever anticipated. I partnered with a friend who built the propane flame effects, and another who headed up the lighting design. Together, we brought the 20-foot tall sculptures to life as an interactive art piece on the playa.

It was an ambitious first project, but somehow we pulled it off. I feel incredibly proud of what I was able to accomplish with a dream and some determination.

And, I found a great creative outlet and a new medium that I'm excited to keep exploring — metal and fire.

 
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I am most proud of the hinging neck as a design feature. The giraffes dissemble to smaller pieces for transportation and storing, but getting all 20 feet of metal up in the air was a problem I needed to solve for. I designed a hinging neck using flag gate hinges that slip together easily, and a cheater bar fixed with rope to leverage the neck into place on the hinge. It makes raising them a piece of cake with a crew of about 3 people. 

 

Some process shots above. I pretty much had black shit on my face every night coming home on BART.

Also, math!

 

See them in action.