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Barbara Gilhooly, a St. Paul, Minnesota artist, repurposes old Erector set girders to make art.

As an artist I use found objects, wire, wood and many recycled or re-purposed materials to create. I have been known for my wire sculptural work and one of the forms I create in wire are 3-D hearts.

The erector set hearts began as a small experiment in my studio using the long girder pieces from an old erector set I formed a three dimensional heart about 10 inches long. What interests me is combining the industrial material and hardware with a very organic or soft form. This contrast appeals to me as a metaphor, as well. The whole ‘broken heart’ idea turned into a durable ‘industrial heart”!

In terms of making the hearts: I use mostly vintage Erector sets with the original hardware and some pop rivets. Most were found on ebay. I’ve made over a dozen hearts and the sizes range from 18″ to 5″ in length. I bend the girders and shape with my hands and rubber mallet to form the curves. I work intuitively, I make the overall shape and then fill in with cross bracing.

To learn more about Ms. Gilhooly’s work check out her etsy store or

John Baichtal

John Baichtal

My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal

  • mightyohm

    to see erector sets repurposed in this way.

    May the bent and broken girders dream of the Mysterious Walking Robots(1) they will never be able to bring to life again!


  • Keith Neufeld

    It makes me twitch to see gorgeous vintage Erector sets despoiled for frivolity like this. I’m all for repurposing old equipment into new forms and art — but *useless* old equipment, not classic Erector. It HURTSssssss . . .

  • Anonymous

    Those were my first thoughts as well. This is not a good thing to do with class Erector sets. If you must do this kind of thing, at least use currently available sets.

  • Ann

    These are awesome and a perfect use of old erector sets. Why the hell not? Besides, I like the irony. She has retained their elegance. I kind of don’t like “heart” shaped art…but I love these.

  • Aynie

    These industrial hearts are amazingly beautiful and a wonderful creative use of erector set parts. I love erector sets and they’re very existence and purpose is as raw material for creative people to MAKE SOMETHING creative out of – what a joy to see these made into works of art!

  • raecatgarden

    I didn’t know there were rules about what you could make erector sets into??? And who said they were only for boys? Im gonna make mine into a pony!

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