Project 1: Tyvek Portrait by Clay Kippen

I couldn’t help but want to do a traditional two-dimensional portrait at first. I was thinking about coating my FedEX envelopes with cyanotype emulsion and “burning” an image onto the surface. But I didn’t feel like cyanotype said anything about the versatility and durabilty of Tyvek. This material can be twisted and pulled without tearing, making it more akin to textile than paper. I did away with the cyanotype idea and went in a 3d direction. Since Tyvek is super strong, I wanted my portrait to stand on its own without a structural frame. That’s when it seemed inevitable that I would make an inflatable sculpture!

The first step was to figure out how to get air into the sculpture. I didn’t want to buy a fan or waste new material in the making of this portrait, so I ran to Sid’s bikes on 19th Street where I picked up some old tubes with presta valves.

This is a shot of the first test. The FedEX envelope was modified with a valve and then sealed with glue.

With a few hundred pumps (from my portable pump) the envelope inflated! Time to go big…

Handsome devil aint he? All inflatable heads need a base right? Right?

With inspiration from Katie, I fabricated an acrylic base. The punch-outs are for access to the presta valve.

Here is the simulated final result with its easily accessible valve.

Here he is, my slightly inflated self portrait!

Luckily Dave is going to bring in a full size pump for me, because my hand-held pump just isn’t cutting it!

One thought on “Project 1: Tyvek Portrait by Clay Kippen”

  1. Good work, Clay. Now you need to figure out a way to put helium in that thing and make that electric pink box float in the air!

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