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How to Create Wind-Powered Kinetic Sculptures

A closeup shot of a wind kinetic sculpture on a cloudy sky background

How to Create Wind-Powered Kinetic Sculptures

Wind-powered kinetic sculptures are massively interesting even though they are not very well known. The peak of kinetic art’s popularity was in the 1950s and 1960s.

Although kinetic sculpture is still often used in large public contemporary installations, its popularity had declined by the 1970s. Here we have a look at these unique sculptures.

What are Wind-Powered Kinetic Sculptures?

Kinetic means ‘relating to motion’ and sculptures are three-dimensional works of art. Kinetic sculptures therefore refer to 3D artistic objects which rely on movement for creative effect. These sculptures may move as a whole or only contain moving parts.

Wind-powered kinetic sculptures are just one form of what is known as kinetic art. Kinetic art is multifaceted. Different kinds of kinetic art are powered by wind, water, magnets, air, or electric motors.

Wind-powered kinetic sculptures can range from objects as simple as wind chimes to other more complicated forms.

How to Build Wind-Powered Kinetic Sculptures

Whirligig sculpture with red and yellow by Vollis Simpson

Building wind-powered kinetic sculptures is appropriate for people of all skill levels because of their variety. Here are some steps to help you get started.

1.    Design Your Sculpture

Use pencil and paper to determine what your sculpture will look like. Keep in mind that form and function are equally important. Decide how small or large your structure is going to be then decide on its location and how long-lasting you want it to be.

Consider if it will be purely ornamental and used mainly to decorate a space or if you want your sculpture to make a strong artistic statement and have a function.

Your wind-powered kinetic sculpture will most likely fall somewhere between ornamental and very artistic so allow yourself to get creative and remember that it is OK to make mistakes.

Creating a miniature version of a recognized wind-powered kinetic sculpture is a good first step for an amateur. Many upcoming and established artists have imitated Alexander Calder‘s work.

Your design techniques can range from very simple to complex. Using 3D design software is an exciting modern sculpture design technique. This technique allows for visualization as you can see how complex sculptures rotate.

2.    Gather Materials

Decide on the types of materials you will need. You can use materials such as wood, metal, clay, rubber bands, wire, glass, fabrics, and plastics.

Almost any material could be useful for your sculpture. You may buy these materials or use materials you already have such as paper clips, spoons, and pans.

A common sculpting method is letting the objects you find in your surroundings influence or determine the design of your sculpture.

This means that gathering materials could be the first step of building your sculpture then allowing creativity to set in. Alternatively, you can design your sculpture and gather materials at the same time.

You’ll then need to consider the durability of your chosen materials. For example, if you’re looking for a long-lasting structure and you would like to use fabrics, you would choose more durable fabrics like oilcloth and burlap.

Another consideration is your chosen color. If your materials will be interacting with the elements outside, chosen colors may fade. Effects such as patina can occur and your structure changes color. After all, the statue of liberty started as copper-brown before it turned green.

Whether the sculpture will be indoors or outdoors will make a difference in the choice of materials.

3.    Assemble Your Sculpture

Upon assembling materials and creating a design, it’s finally time to put your kinetic wind-powered sculpture together. Required tools will vary depending on your design and materials.

Some of these tools will be found in your house such as everyday scissors and some in the garage such as hammers and nails. Other tools that may be required include a saw, metal cutter, metal shears, a metal grinder, and a ball gauge.

In this video, metal artist Doug Boyd builds a wind-powered kinetic sculpture from scratch. You can adopt a few of his techniques according to your sculpting needs.

Where to Build Wind-Powered Kinetic Sculptures

It’s important to consider the location of a sculpture before creating it as all sculptures interact with their environment. This interaction is either strictly aesthetic or may require function. More often, a combination of the two is required.

It is key to place wind-powered kinetic sculptures where they can interact with the wind or moving air. The size of the sculpture could also determine its location and placement.

Indoor wind-powered kinetic sculptures can be mounted on a wall or hung from a ceiling in a place that gets airflow, such as near windows or doors. Outdoor wind-powered kinetic sculptures can be hung from branches or planted in the ground.

Example of Wind Powered Kinetic Sculptures

There are many examples of wind-powered sculptures, some more common than others. From a wind turbine sculpture created by designer and entrepreneur Joe Doucet that transforms wind power into electricity that powers homes, to more common sculptures as listed below.

Doucet’s creation is a wall-sized kinetic sculpture placed against a wall of each house, performing an important function.

Here are some more common kinetic sculptures:

1.    Whirligigs

Funky whirligigs silhouetted in the setting sun

A whirligig is a usually small object that spins either in part or whole. Whirligigs are often used as kinetic garden ornaments. They are some of the simplest forms of wind-powered kinetic sculptures.

2.    Wind Chimes

Gold wind chimes with leaves in background

Wind chimes are the earliest examples of kinetic art which originated at least 5000 years ago in Southeast Asia.

3.    Anthony Howe’s Kinetic Sculptures

Candelaria Church and Olympic Pyre sculpture by Anthony Howe

Artist Anthony Howe creates beautiful and pulsating sculptures that move perfectly in the wind.

4.    Strandbeests

These magnificent wind-powered kinetic sculptures are the brainchild of Dutch artist Theo Jansen. Strandbeest means “beach animal” in Dutch. These sculptures actually walk in the wind!

Ready to Try?

Although not the most common hobby, creating wind-powered kinetic sculptures can be fun and rewarding. There are creative ways to make sculptures, and some may even include a functional component.

Using everyday tools and materials, this hobby doesn’t have to be costly. Find some materials around your house and give this growing and unique hobby a try.

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