Saturday, March 9, 2013

"Home" - 2012, A Heartfelt Gesture.

Back in 2003, I made a motor-driven piece called "Heart in Hand". It was powered by an old 8mm camera motor and had a figure that opened his arms to reveal his heart. I wanted to a similar piece where a figure was opening his coat to reveal his chest and/or heart. This piece is similar in action to "Dubious", who I made back in 2008.

**Update 9/16/13** I’ve installed a motion detector device inside the base of this piece. It now will go on if motion is detected in front of the piece, and stay on for 2 to 6 minutes after it stops detecting motion. This saves on run time when it's shown in a gallery setting. And makes for an interesting effect when displayed in your home.

As always, click on image for large picture.

Here is the piece closed. An electric motor operates 2 cams and levers that move his arms.

"Home" open. Right before his arms open, a small flicker lightbulb is illuminated by the means of a cam and a switch. When the piece is switched on, he opens his arms to reveal his heart. He pauses for a second, and then closes his arms. His right arm opens and closes slightly ahead of his left. The light goes off when his arms are fully closed.

A closer shot of his chest.

The Process

Starting out, I cut out and carved his torso, then I cut out the center to create a cavity in his chest. I added a socket to hold a lightbulb here.

I not only had to run the electric wire along each leg, but also run a cable housing, which contain the cables that operates each arm.

Here you can see the support rod, the electric line, and the cable housing, as they come out from the bottom of each shoe.

Once all the work on the inside was done, I trimmed down the piece I had cut out to about 1/8", and glued it back on. Small pieces of wood make up for the saw kerf.

Shoes, ready to be carved.

Done carving.

Here I'm working out the length and shape of the arms, and where the hands need to be.

The hands, carved from basswood, will hold the ends of the coat.

The 2 arms - yes, one is slightly longer than the other, it's just the way they worked out.

The flickering light bulb inside his chest. At this point in the process, I wasn't sure how much of the bulb I wanted to be seen. You can also see the cable housings for each arm.

His body ready for paint. You can see the cable housing for the right arm goes in his chest and down his left leg. And vise versa for the left.

His head, painted and ready for assembly.

His chest during assembly. I thought I might just put a wire cage over the bulb, but it looked odd. That's why you see decoupaged paper on the inside.

A test of the mechanism.

I opted for a thin piece of plastic with only a heart shape to reveal the flickering "flame" inside.

The two levers that operate the cables. Because these are situated so very close to each other, they each had to have a special connection, as you can see.

The mechanism. I added a third cam that operates the light inside his chest.

His suitcase - made from a block of wood, some spare parts, and the cover of an old bible.

Here is the movie......

For higher quality you can watch it on YouTube here.

More to come........


  1. Hi Tom, I love your work! I'm a contemporary-realist, figurative, oil painter in Birmingham, AL.Your work is moving. My grandmother had a Charlie the Bartender mechanical figure when I was a child and it fascinated me. I can still remember the two of us giggling over it. It was a silly thing. Then to find your work, which is poignant and layered with meaning, yet at the same time fills me with the good kind of nostalgia is a delight! Thank you. Sincerely, Terry

  2. Glad you like my work Terry.
    Yeah, I know that bartender. When I was a kid, we had a mechanical bear that drew pictures, I loved it.