El Pulpo Junkyard Locations
We’re thrilled to announce that the one and only El Pulpo Mecanico will be coming to Maker Faire Bay Area this year, taking place May 17 and 18 at the San Mateo Fairgrounds! El Pulpo is a 25-foot-tall mechanical octopus made from found objects and scrap iron that spews fire from its mechanical tentacles while the eight eyes pop in and out of its head. The brainchild of Eureka, Calif.-based artist Duane Flatmo, with electrical panels and flame effects by Jerry Kunkel, El Pulpo is a sight to behold in person. We chatted with Duane to find out more.
Duane Flatmo (left) toasting Jerry Kunkel (right) on a job well done.
1. What inspired you to build El Pulpo Mecanico and how long did it take?
I’ve designed a similar version of this mechanical sculpture a few times over the years and realized that it could be a really cool sculpture if it were much larger. Having gone to Burning man for 6 years prior, I knew that I wanted to build it for that upcoming year: 2011! Every year we head down to our house in Mexico for two months and work on our own artistic projects — and this was mine. I would design a small, working model to use as a guide for the big one when we got back. I collected junk all over the roads near our house and built the model from that. When it was done, I disassembled it and brought it home to our lab. The Spanish name El Pulpo Mecanico means mechanical octopus.
2. What are some of the materials used in the build?
I have a great working relationship with Bonnie at our local scrapyard, Arcata Scrap and Salvage. I started by realizing that the scale was going to be determined by a 55-gallon rusty drum as the tentacle size. The scale was derived from that. Most of the parts are made from rusty junk metal with embellishments of silver steel and aluminum.
3. Was this a solitary build or did you have a team working with you?
I have been working for 32 years designing and building kinetic sculptures for the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race here in Humboldt County. My partner Jerry Kunkel was the co-builder and handled all the electrical panels and flame effects. Jerry is an amazing diverse tinkerer. He can build anything. Working together on this project was a definite high point in our building repertoire. Then our good friend Niel Wangsgard along with Lucas Thornton put in many hours to help with the overall project.
4. How did you get into building large-scale art?
I guess all the years doing the Kinetic Sculpture Race prepared me for this. I have done some large-scale projects in the mural business. Three-dimensional art is much different and more challenging.
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