It took less than a week of working at Plywerk for me to come up with my dinosaur project. I hadn't realized before how sturdy and beautiful plywood can be. As I worked, I kept thinking about ways I could use that material to create some sort of sculpture. When I remembered the models of dinosaur skeletons that I used to buy in science museum gift shops, I immediately moved on to brainstorming which dinosaur to build. I wanted a quadruped for stability, one that was impressively large but not overwhelmingly enormous, and an unusual dinosaur instead of the same few that are constantly referenced. I ended up choosing styracosaurus because the frill looks awesome and works really well with the medium of 2D pieces in a 3D configuration.
Building a life-sized version of a toy takes some planning. I clearly couldn't use the same design as the two foot long model, which takes advantage of its near-weightless pieces by having some of them upside down – held together with nothing more than friction. I also did my best to make the skeleton accurate with the help of pictures from natural history museums. Once finished, I scaled up my graph-paper blueprints onto plywood. While the high quality plywood we use for photo mounts is perfect for a picture-sized piece that is going to be viewed up close for decades, it was a bit excessive for a project that required nine full 4' x 8' sheets and that I have every intention of burning in a few months. The birch plywood I ended up using has an aesthetically pleasing wood grain veneer, but the material is warped, prone to splintering apart, and generally not up to Plywerk standards.
I certainly got to know my neighbors better during my time spent in front of my garage using a jig saw. I spent more than one hundred hours on the project, finishing just in time to set up the dinosaur for a celebration at Reed College. I wanted to give back to the community after having enjoyed the art projects that materialized on campus when I was a student. The wind was a bit unkind to my poor dinosaur, but it still looked great lying on the ground like a newly discovered fossil. I will fix up some weak points and attach the legs to the ground with rebar when I take the project to Burning Man this summer. I can't tell you how excited I am to see it go up in flames, a powerful reminder that we need to appreciate beauty and accomplishment in the moment.