Contraptor, metalworker, global activist, steampunk... specializing in pedal-power.

Using steel, wheels, and sewing, I rend Victorian æsthetics into a Mad-Max setting with a rigorous use of found and recycled materials.

Time Out Chicago's "Bike Love"

Time Out did a piece on cyclists and how cycling affects their love life, featuring prominent local bikers. You can read the article here.


Loves Me, Loves Me Not

Redmoon Theater's 2005 summer spectacle was exemplary of their style: Sweeping stage, daring location, involved in the neighborhood, and hauntingly magical. It set out to be a sort of post-apocalyptic comedy, set in a flooded town, about materialism. The show opened on September 15, and three weeks before opening night Hurricane Katrina forced it to undergo a considerable re-write. You can read a New York Times article about the show's transformation.

Originally I designed a series of bicycle-cars representing various forms of modern-day consumerist vice, such as a grill-mobile with endless attachments and implements. As the location was chosen, we began to come to terms with the challenges of putting on a theatrical production over water. Each character needs a boat for every movement, each dropped tool or prop is gone forever, and the wind can considerably affect the timing of the show.

We set up an above-ground pool in our shop, for testing. My vehicles became boats, and with the set crew I created a floating house and gas station, as well as a mobile floating band platform. The house transformed with a fold-down kitchen floor, a grill in the chimney, and a nursery that spun upside-down to appear as part of the roof.

The two boats I built for this show were The Quadropus and a pedal-powered jet ski. During the show itself, as usual, I worked on the pryo crew executing a floating net-of-candles effect.

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New York Times article about Loves Me... Loves Me Not

Loves Me, Loves Me Not began as a whimsical comedy, but the Katrina disaster forced a frantic re-write three weeks before opening night. However, this gave the show a chance to be a reflection on what happened, making it far more powerful than it ever could have been.

For such a tragic coincidence to have repercussions for a prominent theater caught the attention of the New York Times. You can read the article in the Theater section from September 15, 2005.


Pedal-powered Jet Ski

This pedal-powered jet ski was made for Loves Me, Loves Me Not. I stripped the interior of all engine components and sealed up the resulting holes. Then I built the paddle-wheel mechanism (the bike frame was left whole to make it clear that it was made from salvaged goods, the play taking place in a kind of post-apocalyptic world), added a miniature railing around the deck to make it look like a ship, and put two deck chairs in place of the original seat. The barrels were added because a jet ski is a vehicle on which the rider expects to get wet (it rolls), and the actors couldn't have contact with the highly bacterial Jackson Park lagoon.

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This boat was made for Loves Me, Loves Me Not. The Quadropus' shape was created by running four pipes through an English wheel twice at 90 degree angles. The recliner's lever was the throttle, and a lamp was moved to steer the boat. The TV was lit from inside so that it glowed on the performer's face.

The boat is pictured in its original decoration; when the show was changed to a tragedy it was treated with burlap and vines to appear more disheveled.

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Corinbank 2008

The organizers of The Corinbank Festival wanted their first festival to impact the participants with its level of participatory, surreal, and unique attractions. They hired a circus school, marching band teachers, and the bizarre (but genius) clowns Wacko and Blotto to create an atmosphere where attendees were also welcomed to bring and set up "Creative Campsites" of their own.

The festival was located in a beautiful valley in the Brindabellas, swimming with cockatoos and kangaroos. I was billed in the promotional material as an "Artist In Residence". For the two months prior to the event I designed and built a pedal-powered attraction. Called the "Death Derby Arena", it was an area where people could try out a variety of wacky bikes I'd built, along with a pedal-powered bumper car rink. The bikes only appeared dangerous; in fact, there were no injuries all weekend.

This bike had a surfboard on the front, so one person could pedal and the other could surf on land!

I made sure to provide bikes- such as this pixie bike with bull bars- for the smaller children, although it didn't stop the grownups from giving them a try.

This smaller, safer version of my pennyfakething let the less-daring give it a try.

This chopper with a spring in the middle was not as hard to ride as it looks!

The pedal-powered bumper cars were a huge hit. You can see more about them here.

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Pedal-Powered Bumper Cars

My original plan for the Corinbank festival's pedal-powered entertainment was to whip up as many wacky bikes as I could and we'd have a sort of rodeo. However, once two of these bumper bikes were completed, they were just too much fun. It was clear I needed to drop my plans and create a pedal-powered bumper car arena.

The casters in the back cause the bike to spin out when it's hit. The arena size can be adjusted to prevent the sort of speeds that cause injury. These bikes use 100% recycled material, and don't need the electric floor like the carnival version!

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Kiwi-Burn 2008

Kiwi Burn is the New Zealand regional of Burning Man. This was their first year as an official, supported regional of the Burning Man festival. It took place near Mangakino, Te Ika a Maui.

I traveled to New Zealand to work the festival's Ministry of Public Works. The MPW sets up and breaks down the festival, which is a Leave No Trace event. I'm excited to be on the crew so early in an event's life, and plan to return as often as I can.


Iris's Neo-Victorio-Egyptian fashion

My good friend Iris Bainum-Houle went to Egypt to study fashion for her senior show. She produced a striking series that referenced the Victorian obsession with Egypt. I fabricated the understructures, much like bustles, for three of her pieces:

The black staff had a steel understructure, as well as the large sleeves of the black piece. The tan outfit had a long, sarcophagus-like bustle. The pieces had casters to help them roll silently across the floor.

Iris' work for this show won the Richard M. Driehaus award for fashion excellence, as did Robyn Coffey's work the year after.

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Giant Globes

Since 2006 I have worked for Giant Globes, Inc. as a metalworker/polisher working on large (3'-10' diameter) aluminum globes. This is an exacting task, as a perfect sphere is hard to make but even the untrained eye can detect a lopsided one!

Making these globes has pushed me to produce metalwork that justifies its price. The uniformity of an unpainted, raw aluminum globe has challenged my precision more than my usual style of rugged, post-apocalyptic work.


Burning Man 2007

A "yellow bike" program is something that townships do to provide bicycles to their citizens. The bikes are provided by the town and painted a distinctive color. People can use them to get around town and are supposed to leave them on public racks when they are done.

If the saturation of bicycles is high enough, theft goes down because the bike has essentially no value. Towns like Austin, Texas that have tried these programs have found a little attrition (usually kids throwing them in the river) but the real challenge is the long-term maintenance of the fleet.

At Burning Man 2006 the bicycle crew had managed to paint and assemble about 200 bikes for the citizens of Black Rock City to use. The organization's eventual goal is a saturation of 10 per cent. In theory, you only use a bike far less than ten percent of the day, so that many bikes should be plenty.

For the 2007 event, an attendee wanted to fund the program so that he himself could take advantage of it. He purchased 1000 Huffy bicycles for the festival, which we painted a distinct green and assembled. We deployed them on the event grounds and recovered them afterwards.

This is a Leave No Trace event, so we also recovered approximately 1500 bicycles that were left on-site. These went again to the Paiute tribe and the Kiwanis of Reno.

As our program grows, so has our maintenance requirement. At the 2008 event I will manage a crew for maintaining the existing, assembled fleet.

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Long Chainey

I had an odd urge to build an underslung chopper, one where the bike's frame hung from the fork. Consequently this bike was quite overbuilt. I ended up having to fabricate my own head tube, bottom bracket, and rear axle. Then I finished it in a "Mad Max" style for that post-apocalyptic feel. The large rear wheel acts as a flywheel, allowing me to reach high speeds and tow cargo with this bicycle.

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Steampunk Magazine #2

After pictures of my pennyfakething Winifred started to get around the internet, I was contacted by the editors at Steampunk Magazine and asked to write an article on how to make one.

The issue is available for download in pdf form, on page 34 of Issue 2, here.

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Robyn's Post-Apocalyptic Alice In Wonderland

A Chicago School of the Art Institute senior named Robyn Coffey hired me to weld accents for a costume in her "Post-Apocalyptic Alice in Wonderland" series for her senior show. I built the shoulderpieces for the White Rabbit's costume:

Robyn's work for this show won the Richard M. Driehaus award for fashion excellence, as did Iris Bainum-Houle's work the year before.

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Ghostride Magazine

In 2006 I wrote an article entitled "Mutant Bike Culture: Past and Present" for Ghostride Magazine.

You can read the full text of the article here.


Winifred the Pennyfakething

Subsequent to my interest in steampunk I wished to get around on an Ordinary bicycle, but had no large wheel on hand. So I flipped up the frame of a cruiser bike and invented the "pennyfakething", a DIY punk twist on a Victorian classic.

After my article on the bike in Steampunk Magazine #2, other people started making them, and so I've set up

Here's a video of the mount:

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Don't Go In The Water!

I participate in an annual outing of homemade rafts and boats called The Guerilla Floatilla. In their June 2005 issue Lake Magazine featured me in an article about the Floatilla:

Read the full text of the article here.


Bike Club

Since 2004 I've lived in the gang-ridden Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago. It was only natural that neighborhood kids would come around to have their bikes fixed, and so before long I had a regular event on my hands. We called it "bike club" and we'd teach kids how to fix bikes, build up bikes with them to give out, and weld custom bikes that they had designed.

While my job has me traveling a lot more these days, I still fix up and give out as many bikes as I can, and can't stay in one place for long before every neighborhood kid knows my name. Eventually I'll grow my Ghana project enough that I can fund an arm of it in the U.S. inner city where it is equally, desperately needed.

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