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.
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.
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.
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.
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.