Design notes - how I make Rolling Ball Sculptures

My sculptures are all unique, individual designed works of art.
I strive for balance, symmetry - a harmonious and composed piece of art.
It is my goal that my sculptures look beautiful even when they are not moving.


I generally sketch new works on paper, concentrating on the frame, and the space the sculpture will occupy. I also sketch new works for commissions - working with the customer to get the right shape and color for the space in their home or business.

I design my ring lifts, then they are laser cut. I pick a lift ring that fits the size sculpture I am designing, and build the frame to suit the ring diameter. I cut the steel pieces for the frame and TIG weld it together. I install the motor and the ring lift.


I select marble colors and the proper sized bottom panel for the painted panel. The chosen marble colors dictate the color(s) of the hand painted panel, and also of the corner located metal details. The corner details are recycled pieces that are left over from previous sculpture rail cuttings. The hand painted panels are painted using acrylic paints using the Aboriginal dot painting method.

The sculptures use quiet, safe, low voltage DC Gearmotors to power the lift mechanisms and convey the glass marbles up to the top. These plug into any standard wall socket. Adapters are widely available for International customers.


I then start bending and cutting rails sections. I start from the top adding the exit from the top of the ring lift. Next I add the bottom collector rails that feed back in to the lift ring. At this point the sculpture sometimes takes over, and starts having a say in where the track goes. I complete one track all the way from top to bottom. And then I complete the other tracks, and quite often the last track becomes a bit of a puzzle, but figuring that last part out often leads to the most creative solutions.

RBS051_construction.jpg

I invented and designed track switchers to split the sculpture into multiple tracks. The track switchers I use have no moving parts, rather they rely on the randomness of the marbles - sometimes the marbles go left, sometimes right, or sometimes straight down where they wait for another marble to come along and push them.


There are many kinetic elements available for use in the sculpture, some subtle - some dramatic: Track splitters, run offs, loop, energy transfer, straight spiral, Funnel spiral, spinners, jumps, backwards loops, drop track, rockers, and collect/release devices.


I sign most of my works in metal - using pieces from previous sculptures. And for the corner designs I recycle the left over pieces back into something new - usually a new design in the corners of the sculptures.


Once the track is complete, I test the sculpture, and tweak, tweak, tweak until it is running properly. I photograph and video the work, add it the Web site and then magically it goes off with the UPS person in a handmade box like this:


And then I go back to my workshop, tidy up a bit, and start sketching again. Perhaps I can make one for you.