Jake Wakefield — Artist
Arrietty — by Wakegraphic

Arrietty

In Brief: A giant garden of colossal Colorado-inspired wildflowers. An adaptable pop-up art project featuring aerial acts and other performances.

Description

This projects was built to be a small scale, outdoor, immersive environment. Elements are fabricated from highly weather resistant PVC, felt, and EVA foam. Combined together they create a beautiful tiny world where the miniature scale of flora is scaled up to the macro-scale.

Funding

  • $550 — Crowdsource Campaign

Concept

The aesthetic of Arrietty was inspired by “The Secret World of Arrietty,” a 2010 animated movie. That movie was based on the 1952 children’s fantasy novel “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton. Both explore dense gardens and fields from the point of view of tiny, benign borrowers who reside within the hidden areas of a cottage.

However, Colorado’s high-desert flora are starkly different from verdant British-style cottage gardens depicted in both the movie and the book. The goal was to show something more native to our local climate. In this case; tall, often spindly, and visually striking flowers instead of dense foliage.

Outside of just the aesthetic, the general goal was to build a backdrop/staging that could pop up wherever needed. Like opportunistic wildflowers, Arrietty would be able adapt to fit the space it is given.

The project was broken up into three main elements —

The Backdrop —  4’x8′ and 2’x4′ boards were to be painted to match the foliage designs. These would be the cornerstones when Arrietty was set up as a stand-alone space.

The Foliage — With the backdrops establishing the space, flowers would help further define it. This would also be visual, and tactile, appeal of the project. If a predefined space was available, the backdrops could be left omitted from the build and the wildflowers would help define the space instead.

The Stage — The initial build featured an 11′ aerial performance rig with a 10’x10′ footprint that will function as a dedicated stage space.

Fabrication

Fabrication focuses on three main elements; foliage, moss, and backboards.

Foliage — Flowers and petals were cut from EVA foam (craft foam). PVC pipe pipe was used for the rigid stems. Designs were based on local Colorado wildflowers; Bluebells, Sedum, Indian Paintbrush, Columbines, Daisies, Dandelions, and Sunflowers. All materials are highly weather resistant.

Moss — Crafted with the help of the Fort Collins Creative Hub and CaseCrafts. Vector-based moss and lichen designs were cut out from crafting felt; turning a single square foot of felt into between 30–60 feet strings of moss/lichen.

Backboards — Built from simple OSB, these were painted with acrylic to match the foliage, flower, moss, and lichen designs. The Lyric even let us host a painting event at their venue!

Arrietty Flower Cutting
Arrietty Color Concepts
Jake painting at The Lyric
Arriety Flower Fabrication
Painting event at The Lyric
Arrietty Sunflower

Contributors

Jake Wakefield — Project Lead, Art Direction, Fabrication

Casey Moore — Safety Lead, Fabrication

Ali Murphy — Fabrication

Kim Smith — Fabrication

Erin Dean — Performance Lead, Stage Manager, Fabrication

Casey Summers — LNT Lead, Fabrication

Adam Johnson — Fabrication

Arrietty at Apogaea — Front View
Aerial performance at Arrietty, Apogaea 2022. Featuring Erin Dean
Arrietty's placement marker for Apogaea 2022
Arrietty at Apogaea — Front View (Side)

Installation

Arrietty made it’s first appearance at Apogaea, who was also a major contributor in funding the art project through their CATS art grant.

At Apogaea it was a major installation, attracting people day and night. Each day there were several hours of aerial performances, lessons, and open play on the aerial rig. It provided an exciting, and physically challenging, activity for people of all ages. It also ended up being a small social hub, where people could chat between lessons and performances.

Summer in northern Colorado hosted a collaborative event between major bike advocacy groups in Fort Collins. Bike Fort Collins, The Fort Collins’ city-run Bike Share Program, and Bike Mobb teamed up to host their ninth annual Bike Prom. Arrietty was invited to be featured as the event’s main performance stage at The Lyric, an art venue who was also host to build events for Arrietty. Arrietty was the backdrop for several different DJs and musical groups would be performing during the event. More details about the Bike Prom are available in the Coloradoan’s article on the event.

It was also featured as a backdrop for a wedding at The Lyric as well, though I didn’t get pictures of that.

Due to it’s success at Apogaea, Arrietty was invited to Sunburn. Thanks to crowdsourced funding, this would become possible. Instead of an aerial stage, the project would be featured as the entry facade for the event’s major music stage. This iteration also dropped the painted backdrops, in order to allow for better flow in and out of the venue.

Finally, elements of Arrietty were used in the Terrarium, a hydration venue at 2022’s Burning Man event in Black Rock City, Nevada. Elements were combined with brilliant LED art to build a welcoming space to thirsty travelers during the hottest Burning Man on record. The Terrarium was the main gift of Camp Dustea Pickle, a placed camp, and was open 24/7 for iced tea and water service at 7:45+A, on the mountainside of the road.

Installation History

August/September 2022 — Part of “The Terrarium,” Camp Dustea Pickle’s tea and hydration service venue at Burning Man 2022. Camp placed at 7:40+A, mountainside.

July 2022 — Featured as the main stage at Bike Mobb and Bike Fort Collins’ collaborative event Bike Prom.

July 2022 — Placed art at Sunburn, a Burning Man sanctioned regional event near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

June 2022 — Placed and grant-funded art at Apogaea, a Burning Man sanctioned regional event outside of Valdez, Colorado.

May 2022 — Fabrication completed in Fort Collins, CO

Post-Season Plans

After visiting a few festivals, a few thousand miles of travel, and some very extremely harsh weather conditions; Arrietty is still ready to go! Burning Man’s wind and Sunburns downpours were both good tests. As expected, the materials have held up extremely well. Wear and tear has been minimal.

Flowers have been lost though. The primary culprit? Humans! Just like wildflowers, Arrietty’s flowers get picked and carried off in the hands of opportunistic festival guests. Because of this I am considering building out flowers for sale. They are particularly popular as festival totems; especially the sunflower and columbine designs.

The second most common issue is accidental vandalism. Craft foam is sturdy and weather-resistant but is no match for a person trying to pull off a petal. Thankfully, Arrietty is adaptable. Missing pieces can be repaired or replaced.

During the festival off-season, Arrietty, will most likely be loaned out to The Lyric, in Fort Collins, CO. There it will be used for different events.