February 24, 2021
For my animal, I decided to choose the Whooping Crane. This animal is one of the most endangered crane species, and is one of two North American crane species. I instantly felt a connection since the crane’s winter home is the southern coast of Texas, which is close to my home town.
Here are some symbolisms of the Whooping Crane:
- Elegance — slim neck and long legs that make up its identifiable silhouette
- Romantic longevity — monogamous with one partner until death
- Good fortune — in Asian cultures cranes symbolize good wishes
These are the qualities that initially drew me into the Whooping Crane; however, upon further research, I found a lot more interesting information about the crane.
Here are some key points from my research:
- White body, black-tipped wings, red crest, black legs
- 5ft tall, 15 lb
Diet and habitat:
- Omnivores: crustaceans, fish, insects, amphibians, crayfish, snails, corn, wheat, roots, acorns
- Wetlands and coastal regions
- Choose a partner at 2–3 years of age and stay with them for life
- Build floating nests in shallow water around 5 ft wide
- There were only 15 wild Whooping Cranes in 1945–46 due to habitat loss and hunting (previously around 15,000–20,000 wild cranes)
- Habitat loss is caused by pollution from construction sites and boats
- The only natural flock left migrates from Texas to Canada
- A reintroduction program raised orphan Whooping Cranes and taught them to migrate from Florida to Wisconsin using an aircraft
- There are around 826 Whooping Cranes in 2020
Here is a video about the reintroduction program! I based my researched animal story on a bird that is raised in this facility.
Then, I did some sketches:
I found that the strictly representational drawings were not able to fully convey the grace and elegance of the bird since it is static, so I incorporated loose drawings that captured the essence of a crane. Doing both styles allowed me to understand the form and characteristics of the whooping crane better.
I wanted to further my understanding of whooping crane anatomy, so I did some research and studies on the crane body.
March 1, 2021
During class, we did an activity where we compared our animals to each other based on size and height, and prey and predator. This helped me understand my animal in terms of scale when compared to other animals and caused me analyze the whooping crane’s place on the food chain. I placed the whooping crane in the upper right quadrant since it is very tall and both prey and predator.
Task: Create a model of your animal from plastic packaging
First, I looked up photo references of the Whooping crane. I wanted a dynamic pose, which was difficult to find through photos, so I moved onto watching youtube videos to study their movement. I watched several whooping crane dancing videos, and I took screenshots of poses that I particularly liked.
The pose I settled on is influenced by a mixture of these images:
To get a better understand of the crane’s proportions, I analyzed several photographs to get a better idea of what I should aim to achieve. The curvatures of the body were also important in making decisions regarding the form.
I collected different white plastic pieces in preparation to create the whooping crane. In particular, I had a lot of plastic utensils that worked well as the head and tail of the bird.
For the head, I utilized a paint brush protector as a tube to hold spoons that made up the head and neck. I basically just shoved the spoons and knives into it and utilized friction/lack of space to hold it together.
This way, I didn’t need to put any glue or other fasteners that would impede the visuals of the head. For the tail, I glued knives and forks to a Chobani cup to mimic tail feathers.
Then, I moved onto creating the wings of the crane. I had to think more for this since the wings would be moveable.
I could either use Clorox lids that opened and closed as ways to move the wings or I could use a butterfly hair clip to facilitate the movement. The clip idea was more interactive since the user would have to actively hold it for the wings to move, but it was difficult to design since the clips I had were relatively small. I settled on the Clorox lids since they were the right size and could still aid in movement and interaction.
I wanted the wings to be interactive, so I tried to make the wings fold out. This was a bit challenging since the anatomy of a bird wing is not the same as static plastic pieces. A bird wing has two joints and three pieces that are movable like human arms.
However, this would be difficult to mimic since I did not want the folded wings to be too bulky or too complicated to move. Three separate pieces seemed like too much for a user to maneuver. Also, when bird wings fold, they almost seamlessly merge with the rest of the body, so I wanted the wings to not be uncharacteristically too volumetric. I settled for a modified version of a bird wing with two joints and two pieces instead of two to prevent excess volume.
I attached the wings to a lid that would be able to open and close. I then attached the lid to the body using zipties. This unintentionally caused the body form to appear slightly curved, which was a pleasant unexpected outcome.
Here is prototype 1.0:
I wasn’t able to create the legs due to lack of materials, so I will work on that for next time. I also want to add black feather tips on the wings, since it is characteristic of the whooping crane.
- create and attach legs
- add black tips to the wings
March 4, 2021
Todays activity gave me insight onto what level of detail is appropriate. I also learned about representing the form realistically through proportions. We moved our projects around based on successfulness and I was surprised at how different my interpretation was from some of my peers.
After class, I set out to do the tasks I had not accomplished yet (legs, wing tips).
I found the legs and feet challenging to create since it was difficult to get the proportions correct. I also had difficulty creating the joints in the leg with the plastic since it was too thick for me to use brads. I ended up using a clear tube to secure the pieces together and cutting a slit in the other leg. The feet are made from the binder holder and I tied it along with a fork together to create feet.
Here is the wing tips. I just glued black utensils to the ends of the wings. I don’t really like the look since it is a bit messy. In the future I will try to use just knives or to use a sheet of plastic to represent the tips. I did not have that many black plastic knives, so I was constrained on resources.
Here is the wing unfolding:
This is what it ended up looking like:
- Add string to the top of the crane for support
- Elongate the legs
Finalizing the Model
March 12, 2021
Feedback from Daphne and Q:
- Make the head/neck/body connection smoother
- Make the ‘feathers’ simpler to reduce detail (adding feathers suggests that the rest of the body is at the same level of detail)
- Reposition the wings to be parallel to the body instead of angled
- Reduce the contrast between the body and tail
- Lengthen the wings to be proportional
- Incorporate the Clorox wings into the body
The neck/head area
With this long list of alterations, I started out my new iteration by smoothening the head and neck connection. It was hard to find a piece of plastic that was in a conical form to replace the previous neck, so I thought of other ways I could create this transition. I felt that I didn’t need to recreate the whole neck, but rather add a transition piece and to make it feel less segmented. I accomplished this by simply making a cone shape with a piece of plastic and wrapping it around the part that needed smoothening.
As I was working on the neck, I realized there was another glaring issue. The connection between the neck and body had a giant hole!
The good thing was that this issue was a pretty simple to fix. I thought about adding another rounded cup to the neck, but I realized I could just take a particularly flexible piece of plastic and wedge it inside the gapping hole to cover it up.
After this, I focused on the beak to head transition. I knew that I wanted to add volume, but I did not want to create a cone for the beak because it would be difficult to create a thin conical shape with inflexible plastic. Instead, I added a vertical knife to the center of the horizontal knife that made up the beak previously. This prevented any unwanted volume while still creating the illusion of a 3D figure. It also ended up forming the proportions of two halves of a beak, which was an added bonus.
Feathers and Tail
Altering the ‘feathers’ was next on the agenda. Fixing the wing tips was pretty easy; I first removed the forks and knives and replaced it with a black solid piece of plastic.
Previously the added feathering detail was a bit too disorganized and frazzled looking, but the new version looked much sleeker!
I was then prompted to construct the tail in a similar manner: using a flat, rounded sheet to represent a collection of feathers.
This tail was more concrete and looked more cohesive on the bird. While I worked on the tail, I also worked on the body and tail transition.
I cut the bottom of the cylindrical body to reduce the contrast in size for a smoother transition, and instead of having the tail be attached to the outside of the body, I slightly overlapped them.
I opted for white brads for the body and tail connection to draw less attention to them. These brads were for the purposes of connecting only, so I wanted them to blend into the form.
The wing length was the next item to fix.
A whooping crane’s wing is almost the same length as its body. I would say it is around 4/5ths the length. However, in my model the wing is around 2/3rds the length of the body.
I also realized that my wing segments are not proportional. The joint where the wing bends is near the halfway mark of the wing of the whooping crane, however, my wing joint was more like 1/3rds the way down the wing.
To tackle both of the problems at once, I extended the portion of the wing that is closest to the body.
The new wing length was closer the the 4/5ths proportion of the whooping crane. I would have made even longer; however, I did not have plastic pieces that were longer than this.
This was the last thing on my problems list… yay! Daphne pointed out that when my wing was extended, it exposed the inner workings of the wing. Since cranes are sleek birds, this clunky attachment of the wings seemed out of place. She suggested that I trim off the part at the bottom and somehow insert it into the body.
I thought this procedure would be easy, and I just cut a slit into the body for the lid to be hidden.
This was not the best option. Because the diameter of the lid is thicker near the base and thinner near the top, the size of the slit would be too large when the whole lid is inside the body. In the middle photo, it is apparent that the slit and the lid do not match up. Because of this gap, the lid would also move around inside the body and was not very stable.
I started theorizing about other ways to insert the wing into the body and thought of making two holes for the lid to enter the body.
This version solved the problems of the slit technique: the lid was secured since the holes were the right size for the lid. However, this caused the lid to jut out of the body because of the diameter problem again! Since the holes were in a fixed position, the lid would not go further into the body, and if I made the holes bigger, the same problem with the slit technique would occur.
I needed to find a way to manipulate the difference in diameter and secure the lid to the body without sacrificing appearance.
I then thought about taking advantage of the curvature in the lid.
I cut out two holes that were closer than the diameter of the base of the lid piece. Because the lid was curved, when I got one side of the lid into a hole, I could turn it and get the other side of the lid in. This way, the lid would be secure and would not be jutting out of the body!
So, I finally fixed the all problems on my list. There are, of course, many many more problems that could be addressed, but alas, it was time for the project to end. If I had more time, I would extend the length of the legs to be more proportionate to a whooping crane and also extend the wings.
Overall, I am quite happy with my whooping crane! I found it challenging to design an organic form using plastic packaging because of the constraints in size, shape, and flexibility. However, it was also fun to think of different ways to represent a form using the materials I had on hand. I feel like this project really made me think of solutions in creative and unique ways that I wouldn't have initially thought of. Although the constraints of using plastic packaging were frustrating at times, I feel proud that this creature came out of Clorox containers, yogurt cups, and utensils that would’ve been thrown away. With a little bit of hard work, trash can become a work of art.