“Insects, worms and other small animals that carry out vital functions for life on earth have declined by 45 percent on average over 35 years, threatening human health, water quality and food supplies…”
-Steve Connor, “Vital invertebrates decline by 45 per cent, study finds,” independent.co.uk, July 2014
This is an alarming statistic. The loss of these insects could be very detrimental for the ecosystem. Not only do insects provide waste management by decomposing dead animals, they also play a huge role in agriculture. Without pollination some plants may be completely wiped out. This will decrease food variety and civilization may find difficulty in meeting nutritional needs. I want my children to have the same amount of fruit and vegetable options as I had in my childhood. I also want them to have the same experiences with seeing fireflies light up the night, butterflies flapping their colorful wings, and bumble bees drinking the nectar of flowers.
In order to prevent one of my favorite insects, bees, from dying out I have created an insect hotel. The insect hotel is made of connected hexagonal compartments made of ash wood. The hexagons reference the honeycomb’s natural structure. Each compartment is sealed off with wooden coins cut from a large, found branch to prevent harsh wind blowing into the compartments. Each wooden compartment is about eight inches deep, the minimal desired living habitat for bees. Each compartment is tightly packed with sticks to house bee larvae comfortably. Most sticks are at an angle to prevent rain from entering the compartments. The form of the hexagonal compartments provide an angular roof that also provides protection from rain. The wooden structure was scorched to prevent weather damage and to avoid using harmful chemicals from varnishing to not deter insects. The other side of the compartment is sealed off with half inch metal fencing to prevent vandalism and other animals from removing the insects foliage. The structures metal fenced side will face south to create a higher chance of of warmer winds. The whole wooden structure will be placed on a metal pole about five feet from the ground to prevent ants from feeding off the bees larvae.
In order to keep my Insect Hotel in best condition, I will need someone to change out the sticks and foliage within the compartments every four seasons. To do this, one will need to unscrew each screw and remove the metal fencing. Then, carefully remove the sticks and foliage and replace with new six to seven inch sticks and foliage such as leaves, bark, etc.
In this project, we were asked to solve how to effectively house insects in an aesthetically pleasing way. We were given a large natural ash board and taught how to use numerous tools in the wood workshop. We had to prove what we learned in the workshop and show our skills making preliminary pieces. We had to make a cardboard maquette, using our previous knowledge with working with paper. We also had to display our ideas with detailed sketches. We had to display our preliminary idea within Google SketchUp. Our final wooden piece had to reflect our knowledge of good design and craft for the public’s eyes. It had to also keep in mind the functionality. We had to also comprehensively write about our piece in a way that the public would enjoy reading about our design.
I solved this by starting with prelims. I created many drawings of multiple ideas. I created a cardboard sculpture of it which I later revised due to technical issues and my original idea changing. I then created my Google SketchUp drawing and moved onto working on the physical project. My ideas kept shifting as I created my sculpture. Wood is very unforgiving and I found a lot of difficulties with making exact measurements. I was going to cut every piece into eight by three inch pieces then cut every long edge to be thirty degrees to create a perfect hexagon. Once I cut every piece to have one thirty degree side, my classmate suggested just using what I have and placing every thirty degree side offset of another pieces ninety degree end to create a hexagon. I like how the hexagon looked and went with the flow. I knew that if I continued to make all the other pieces have a thirty degree side my piece probably would not be flush when put together due to the planks of wood not all being my desired depth of one inch. Also quite a few pieces of wood had imperfections that would make it impossible for me to have the original amount of compartments I wanted to create the form of my original idea. I rearranged the eight hexagonal compartments I ended up with many times before deciding upon my final form. I then went to Home Depot to find that none of the birch wood would be a good fit with my project to put on the back side of the compartments to prevent wind. I decided to take a large branch and saw coins to seal off one side. I like the look of the bark and natural sawed wood. I scorched the whole piece to give it more texture and hide imperfections of the wood from where the nail gun did not work, but punctured many holes. This unfortunately did not work to my liking so I tried to cover up parts with bark which would also work as roofing on my piece. I then stuffed the compartments with sawed sticks and other wood scraps. Finally, I attached metal fencing I bought from the store on one side. I wanted to attach my own pole to the structure, but the metal ninety degree pieces I bought would hang off the side if attached and the bark of the branch looked odd with the scorching.
If I did this again, I would dedicate more of my first weekend to this project than my second weekend. This project needed a lot of time and stepping away to think through things. I just kind of went at everything I did blindly and with a lot of optimism. I learned that wood asks for you to be very specific and exact. Wood is a subtractive medium and if there is an imperfection, it can be very visible.
Also, I learned that once you get wood glue on a piece, it is very difficult to remove.
I think that what I mainly took away from this project that I will apply to future projects is that preliminary ideas and forethought in how to achieve success in working with a medium is impertinent. The process of this project made me think a lot about my perception of time. Everything I did with this project turned out to be longer than expected. I’m going to take that fact into the future and not only calculate the time I think it will take, but the time it could take.
I found it very interesting that you asked me if I was proud of my piece during critique. I wanted really badly to say yes because of all the time and effort put in , but in all honesty I have to say no. I am proud of making something that is helping a worthy cause. I am proud of sticking to an idea and using the resources given to the best of my ability, but I know that the piece could be improved. I can see aesthetically displeasing things about my piece. I agreed with you before you said anything about the bark being an afterthought. I actually was thinking that you were going to say those exact words after applying the bark. I agree with my peers that there can be flaws with how the weather will react with my piece.
The thing is that I feel this way with everything I’ve ever made. I don’t think I’ve completely been proud of anything I made because I will always have high expectations. Maybe my expectations are impossible, but that’s just the way it is right now. Maybe twenty years down the line I will look back at this piece and be proud that I made this with the given time restraint and my little knowledge of woodworking. I think that it could be a good thing that I have high expectations because if I keep shooting for these stars, I could land on a skyscraper and I could be happy with just that.
I appreciate this class beyond words. I have dug deep many times and I feel that I look at art differently. I appreciate your honesty and dedication to this class. Thank you for your constructive criticism and instruction this semester.