A Colorful Cuttlefish Is Coming To Maker Faire Bay Area

Maker Faire
A Colorful Cuttlefish Is Coming To Maker Faire Bay Area

You might say Loren Crotty is captain of the ship, the ship being the Sepia Lux, a colorful animatronic cuttlefish. Loren doesn’t own the ship and he didn’t build it all himself but he is in charge of keeping it in working order.

A few years ago, another team did the metal fabrication to build the the body – based on a Polaris General ATV and a tow vehicle. They brought it to Burning Man in 2020 but not everything worked as expected, and that team decided not to keep working on it. Loren and a second team took over Sepia Lux and got it working for Burning Man this year. 

The magic of Sepia Lux is its inflatable balloon-skin, developed by Bill Kennedy of Inflatabill. The lighting design, programming and integration was done by Brian Willison. Loren worked on the mechanics, robotics, and electronics. There are thousands of LEDs and they can be controlled by an iPad. The big eyeballs are two hemispherical LED displays.  All together, this is a colorful creature with lots of moving parts.  Loren credits many others who have contributed their expertise to the project.

A design for the Sepia Lux

Back from Burning Man, Loren has thoroughly cleaned and repainted the body of Sepia Lux, and its sitting in the bay in an industrial warehouse in Santa Rosa. Part of what Loren must do is make sure everything on Sepia Lux is ship-shape for its next outing, which is Maker Faire Bay Area on October 20-22.  

The Sepia Lux without its inflatable skin in a Santa Rosa garage

Loren pointed out to me the different systems on Sepia Lux:  the battery power systems that can be charged by generator for five or six hours of operation; the sound system that can be controlled by a DJ;  the four banks of cams that control the motion of the eight fins and the nine actuators that control tentacles attached to the head. An Arduino controller, the brain of Sepia Lux, can be found in the head as well as a Mac Mini.

The Arduino in the head of the Sepia Lux

Growing up in Sebastopol, Loren worked in construction out of high school.  By now, he has learned to do a lot more than that. As a maker, he has to know how everything works, as well as maintain and upgrade the different systems over time, ensuring that they can work in the harsh climate of Burning Man.  It’s a large project, one that a mysterious philanthropist funds. Some wealthy people buy yachts; some put the money into art projects. Either way, they need a captain, someone like Loren.

Loren said that he is looking forward to Maker Faire not just to have Sepia Lux lit up and moving about but also to talk to people about how it works. “I like to explain how everything works and I like to find people who are interested in that kind of thing,” said Loren and he knows those kind of people go to Maker Faire.

Sepia Lux is a great example of of kinetic art — a whimsical creation that comes to life, and we are delighted to have it at Maker Faire Bay Area this weekend.

Loren Crotty of Sepia Lux in his Santa Rosa garage

Link: Sepia Lux on Instagram

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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

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