Phoenix Puppet

Photo by Shaan Reza Ali

First concept drawing. Was planning on using flat steel which evolved to tube for strength. The idea was to use the techniques of fire twirling equipement, so we are making a large, moving poi. Rather than using expensive kevlar, i used jute webbing as we are only burning this once.

The pheonix myth has been done many times by artists through the ages and more recently as burning art. I wanted to make a phoenix fly. Such a strong icon is not just going to sit around while being incinerated right?

Not quite finished version 1. I started with “a little bit of plastic”. As you can see, this is a lot of plastic. I was tripping with this direction and scrapped it.

I predicted this should of worked better than the steel one as it would of flexed and added more life to the puppet. It would of also been destroyed in the fire. Made from fire sprinkler CPVC pipe with fibreglass tent poles. Bound (not completed) by fire resistant tape.

kookaburra reference by Creative-Addict Final design spec

Base frame made with thin guage steel and joined using hose clamps. The right angle joins were done with two interlocking hose clamps. The joins are reenforced with another layer of tube (a wired size tent pole that was hanging around).

The wing feathers, head and tail were welded by Rohan at Norm Warehouse. We also added the verticle pipe pictured in next image

Puppet with springs attached. On each side is a custom made stainless steel spring as well a standard steel one from hardware shop. I predicted the springs to be the fail point and a risk that they would fail completely. Also pictured is the start of the wax accelerant layer. Photo by Jazzy Fizz.

Detail showing the spring attachments at the top. Springs fail when stretched too far so I attached a cable (top + left) to stop the spring over extending. Not shown are the cables that pull the wings down. They are place futher out on the wing to increase the angle of the cable.

If the wings went too high, the angles prevented the downwards pull so we made two stops pictured in large circle. You can see the curve on the bar, where the springs are too strong for the material so we also re-enforced this bar. We got thi sslighly wrong, so i used another hose clamp to space it perfectly. I predicted a risk that this bar may fail, however the structure held perfectly with the springs the only fail point of the bird. Secondary welding by Brian.

Video explaining the lift mechanism for the puppet. The anchor point for the downward motion of the wings was re-enforced and better secured than was pictured in this video.

Lift pully at the bottom of the pole (missing from video)

Moving the completed lift channel

Lift channel inside the main support structure being lifted verticle. Its ok Pamcakes!



The accelerant cladding was done in two layers. The first using molten soy wax bound in jute strapping, secured with thin tie wire. The second layer was raw jute strapping as we planned to add gum turpentine while dousing. We could not add the gum turpentine (see below) so only the soy wax provided the flames. Photo by Jazzy Fizz


Lifting the puppet with a crane.  Probably the lightest thing he has  ever lifted. Once in place, the puppet was secured with a pipe sleave and hose clamps. We attempted to hide the puppet as much as possible while stacking timber into the structure so the burners would not know about this part. We like surprises. Photos by Gonzalo Collazo.

The view from the top of the scaffolding while we are loading 80 litres of used vegitable oil sourced from the Grongi pub. We attempted to douse the puppets second layer of webbing with gum turpentine. This was not working and could not be done safely so we abandoned the plan. The first layer of soy wax burnt well anyway.

This is the only video that captured the puppet.

00:00 – Tiffany and myself pull the rope that is attached to the steel cable mechanism to pull up the puppet.
00:02 – Puppet reaches peak. Wings have not pulled down.
00:05 – I assume the downward wing mechanism has failed. After reviewing the video, the puppet has not reached full height. Probably some wood has jammed somewhere. Likely stopping the bolt we used to stop the puppet twisting. During this time i realised the lubrication from 80 litres of chip oil has made the puppet feel a lot lighter for one person to handle. I ask my partner to drop her rope.
00:07 – I get the feeling of the mechanism and puppet weight.
00:09 – I start jerking the puppet as hard as I can to get the springs to recreate the pull effects.
00:10 – This works. I keep jerking. (insert dodgy joke here)
00:18 – The wing springs fail.
00:26 – I drop the puppet.

I predicted a high chance of failure for a complex piece using springs so was aiming for at least 4 seconds of flight. I doubled this aim with around 8 seconds of flight. YAY!

Returning for their fifth year burning artwork at Seed, FlameWriter and the Crew of talented collaborators are building their most ambitious piece yet. Mixing puppetry with animation with accelerants with a blazing bonfire, we will be having a crazy Friday night.

Collaborating with Red Earth Ecology in the lead up, we will be exploring the beautiful, ancient world of wonder that is our home at Matong State Forest.

Have a stroll through the forest, The ancient spirit of the forest lives strong through the connection and the many diverse species that inhabit Matong State Forest. You will also find many stumps of felled trees. You would think that's from the old days, however Matong's sister forests are being logged to build houses and structures for us to burn. Is this really leaving no trace?

There are many standing dead and fallen trees that, added with climate change increase the intensity of bushfire beyond their natural limits. Traditionally this fuel load would have been reduced by the local Wiradjuri people who used fire to manage these forests.

There are many sources of timber waste such as local logging waste, salvage timber and large volumes of disposable wooden packaging such as pallets from surrounding cities. Forest Rising will use no timber from native sources, no plywood or other toxic composites and use minimal farmed timber. We will also use no petrochemical accellorants.

Rising from the ashes is a consciousness and connection to land that is inspiring people to rise and protect the many special and sacred lands across the country.

We are prototyping an alternative. As a community are we ready to adapt?