A Gorgeous Floating Crystal Inspired by Alexander Graham Bell's Kites


Heather and Ivan Morison's Little Shining Man is work of art that can fly. Built from carbon fiber and a 3D-printed joint system, it draws inspiration from the crystal structure of pyrite and Alexander Graham Bell's tetrahedral kites. Here, the artists take one cube of the three-part sculpture for a spin in St. Aubin's Bay, in a beautiful video by James O’Garra.

Little Shining Man was commissioned by Dandara and made in collaboration with Queen + Crawford, a design and fabrication studio, and Sash Reading, an architectural designer. Ivan Morison describes the experience of flying the kite for the first time:

When we first took it out onto the beach you could feel the sculpture come alive; it wanted to twist and tumble as we took it across the sands. As the wind took hold it rose slowly, bobbing just above our reach, until a gust caught its sails and lifted way up above us. Standing there, watching this complex form that had taken us months to plan and build, rise high up into the sky was truly breathtaking. We felt as Bell must have in his early experiments into flight – a time of true wonder and optimism.

One of Alexander Graham Bell's tetra kites made of silk and wood, via David Galbraith at Oobject 


A photograph of Little Shining Man by Matt Porteous, and a diagram of the crystal structure of pyrite, via Wikimedia Commons

The full sculpture consists of over 23,000 hand-assembled parts. The artists describe the technology that went into the work in their press release:

The structure had to be as strong and light as possible in order to fly, but had to return to earth with minimal damage so it could be installed as a piece of sculpture. Carbon fibre rod and Cuben fibre, a hand made composite fabric used primarily in racing yacht sails, achieved the perfect combination of strength and weight. The visual impact of the fabric produces an ethereal sense of depth and refraction that gives the heavy mass the lightest touch.

Queen + Crawford designed a joint system, the CKJ_01, a universal nylon joint that would handle every connection in the composition. They work closely with 3TRPD in Newbury who are at the cutting edge of the Rapid Prototyping Industry. Printing the joints allows design, production, testing and refinement in a short time frame. The material is light and strong, perfect for this application.

Although the finished work will live indoors, the kite-like structure will be taken down from its display once a year for a flight over St. Aubin's Bay.

For more work by Heather and Ivan Morison, visit http://www.morison.info.

Via The World's Best Ever

Jump to comments

Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus


Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.


Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.


The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air



More in Video

Just In