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christina sporrong BM 2011

Taos, New Mexico-based artist Christina Sporrong is a welder, blacksmith, educator, aerialist, illustrator, performer, mayhem creator, and all-around badass. She builds giant, fiery installations, does amazing high-flying aerial feats, teaches welding workshops, and is a mother, to top it all off. We need more women like her in the world. Christina will be bringing her incredible, interactive Caged Pulse Jets to Maker Faire Bay Area, May 18 and 19, and will be speaking on the Meet the Makers stage in Expo Hall on the 19th at 3:30. We chatted with her to learn more.

1. Tell us about the Caged Pulse Jets piece you’re bringing to Maker Faire. What do they do and how do they work?
Caged Pulse Jets is an interactive, awe-inspiring kinetic sound sculpture. The caged birds are five spinning pulse jet engines of various sizes that create a range of percussive and droning tones. Through a completely interactive interface, the public can create sound compositions ranging from the symphonic to the cacophonous while they are held captive by the fiery jets spinning by their own thrust.

christin sporrong- aged-Pulse-Jetts-Matthew-Wanlin

2. What inspired you to make this piece and how long did it take? What was your R&D process?
I love pulse jets. I fell in love with them many years ago, as I witnessed my first one at Burning Man, radiating its heat and spinning seemingly out of control on the side of an art car. I later had the chance to operate a large-scale Lockwood-Hiller style pulse jet in Amsterdam for the SRL show at Robodock in 2006. It was great fun, to start the droning engine and witness the massive thrust of air blowing at the audience, as if we had started our own tornado machines.

I later gave into my pulse jet obsession and built a small Lockwood-Hiller replica jet. It resembled a French horn in its elegance and sounded beautiful once running. My fascination is that of the physics behind this engine — it has no moving parts, yet it can create such thrust and such noise from the composite sounds of the thousands of snappy pulses created by the explosion. I want to integrate these visually exciting jet engines as musical instruments for the public to play by means of adjusting fuel and air levels.

sporrong pulse jet

3. Where else have you shown the Caged Pulse Jets and what types of reactions have you received?
They have shown at Burning Man, first in 2010, then again in 2011. I have set them up in Taos, N.M., at several outdoor events as well. They’ve had a very specific following — usually people who are trying to really figure something out. It is for the curious and the patient, as it takes a minute to understand how to run them.

4. You’ve participated at Maker Faire before. Tell us about your previous experience and why you chose to show your work again.
I have been crew to various Christian Ristow sculptures, and love Maker Faire for the interactive, mind-bending, and fun environment.

5. How did you get started welding and making sculptures?
In college, a hundred years ago.

6. Who are your inspirations?
So many … my partner, Christian Ristow, Tim Hawkinson, Lee Bontecou, SRL, The Seemen, Wise Fool NM (to name a few), and most recently my son!

christina sporrong mug w kodiak

7. Many of your works combine sculpture and performance. What’s the appeal of that intersection?
I love performance as it can be such a powerful medium for transmitting ideas. I work with aerial dance, fire, and circus. I love the way it makes me feel as well as use it with my sculptures to create a larger experience.

sporrong heron project

8. You lead women’s welding workshops. What motivated you to start this and how has the experience been thus far?
I have been doing women’s workshops for a long time now, 17 years. I had different agendas at different times, but the common thread was to help empower women in the field of metalworking. I have learned more by teaching than I ever expected to, and I am certain it has made me a better metalworker. Plus it is empowering to teach women.

9. What advice do you have for makers who are inspired by your work and want to get into making large-scale sculptures?
Process is everything! Start somewhere and keep going.

Goli Mohammadi

I’m senior editor at MAKE and have worked on MAKE magazine since the first issue. I’m a word nerd who particularly loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon as a whole. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for the ideal alpine lake or hunting for snow to feed my inner snowboard addict.

The maker movement provides me with endless inspiration, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. The specific beat I cover is art, and I’m a huge proponent of STEAM (as opposed to STEM). After all, the first thing most of us ever made was art.

Contact me at goli (at) makermedia (dot) com.



  1. terre says:

    How do you start doing something like this? Is it a stepwise process or is a leap possible?

    1. apuranga says:

      Take baby steps. If you’re inerested in pulse jets I’d learn some basic metal working first. Learn to cold forge and work sheet metal well. To learn I’d head on over to and Welding isn’t entirely necassary but it’s an awesome skill and really saves time. For this I’d reccomend going to a local community college or art school and taking some classes. If you live in the S F Bay area I’d reccomend classes at the crucible . If you are going to Maker faire next week, check out their booth, it’s the one with the fire truck shooting fire. They have fanastic classes in all form of metal work, and there’s some great people there doing things very similar to the article. Now if pulse jets are your calling and you want to dive head first is a great place. If any form of metal work interests you do your research and some googling and you will be fabricating in no time. I hope this helps, most of my expertise is in casting and smithing metals, but I do like me some pulse jets. Also feel free to email me with questions if you get inspired.

  2. polytechnick says:

    Are the smaller rotors powered by smaller pulse jets, too?