Made On Earth — Avian Spacecraft

Craft & Design


It wasn’t your typical crash landing, but, then again, it wasn’t your typical UFO, either. On a wet May day on the outskirts of Philadelphia, Gail Simpson and Aristotle Georgiades forklifted a 500-pound wooden flying saucer 20 feet up into a grove outside the Abington Art Center.

As Georgiades and a helper clambered on top to cable it to a tree, the rain came pelting down. “There was a windstorm, a rainstorm, and the temperature had dropped 20 degrees,” says Simpson. “It was kind of nightmarish.”

The UFO, on the other hand, is anything but. Made from a warm and familiar material — weathered pine boards left over from a turn-of-the-century barn — the sculpture isn’t likely to inspire fear. And eight built-in birdhouses add an inviting touch.

The duo, who go by the name Actual Size Artworks, aimed to give the spacecraft “a really handmade, crazy-carpenter look,” says Simpson, adding that this isn’t a big departure from the Martian ships of the 1950s: “When you look at them in old posters and movies, they do look a little rickety.”

Building the giant donut (the center of the alien ship) was equal parts high tech and handicraft for the two University of Wisconsin-Madison professors, who combined a CAD software design with a lot of fiddly sawing. “The program gives you an idea of size and angles but there’s always human operator error, and the materials were all eccentrically sized,” explains Simpson.

They built an armature of ribbed sections and skinned it with the boards. At 16 feet in diameter, it easily allowed Simpson to slip inside and spend a lot of time there threading bolts through.

“The scale is true to little green men,” says Georgiades.

“It would comfortably house two small aliens,” chimes in Simpson.

“Oh,” counters Georgiades, “it would house four or five.” Not to mention a whole flock of birds.

Larger-Than-Life Sculpture:

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