Friday, October 31, 2008

Mitsumata Metamorphosis at Home Ec, Part 2

For the first post in the series, go to Mitsumata Metamorphosis at Home Ec, Part 1

It's always fun coming up with new ideas, but what good is an idea if it isn't executed? When Patty and Seryn first asked me to help out with their lights at Home Ec, I thought I'd provide some ideas and some branches, and someone else would do the tough work of getting it done - after all, I had absolutely no experience with big installations like this and considered myself completely unqualified for the project. Patty and Seryn disagreed and countered every protest of mine with abundant encouragement and flattery. After making it clear that they were putting a very prominent feature of their store in the hands of a novice, I got to work.

It turned out that the execution was time-consuming, but once I got the routine down, was rather simple and easy. The tricky part was keeping the form of the cocoons similar - I had to do the same thing four times, and while the cocoons didn't end up being identical, they were close enough in form so they didn't affront my critical eye.

Each light fixture was surrounded by a 9 foot long, 2.5 foot wide wire cage that provided the structure to which the Mitsumata Branches were attached. Around 100 Mitsumata Branches were used for each cocoon - these were the raw, "craft quality" Mitsumata Branches we get from our importers, not the finished branches we sell on the site. At least 400 translucent white cable ties were used in each cocoon to attach the branches to the wire and to each other. With just me working, each Mitsumata cocoon took about 6-8 hours to make, from the time the branches started soaking until we hung the cocoon.

The Mitsumata Branches soaking. Mitsumata soaks up water like a sponge, and after about an hour or so it is just about as pliable as it would become.

Me in production mode, attaching the cable ties that would secure the Mitsumata Branches to the wire cages (while the Mitsumata Branches were soaking). For this stage, it was a lot easier and faster to attach the cable ties beforehand so all I had to do was insert the branch and pull the cable tie tight. I'm not sure whether this was before or after I leaned over and dropped my phone in the water in which the Mitsumata was soaking, ultimately inspiring a little haiku (one of a few about the times I've dropped my phone in water).

A couple views of the Mitsumata Branches attached to the wire cage, before being bent in and secured to each other with cable ties. This process didn't take long, and although it looks like "it's almost there" the most time consuming step has yet to come.

By far the most time-consuming part was attaching the branches to each other. Every single branch had to be pulled in and secured to another one with a cable tie. Once all the main "ribs" were pulled together to create the cocoon form, I wove branches in between them to increase the density.

Here's a close-up showing the cable ties that made this all possible. While you could use something else to secure the branches, these were extremely easy to use and virtually invisible once the ends were cut off.

The finished cocoon, ready to be put up. Once the cocoon was hanging, we put some rice paper in the bottom of the wire cage to diffuse the light, which really helped accentuate the branches.

Done! You can check out the lights and a lot of other cool things at Home Ec, 303 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215 (718 852 2889). In addition to the home accessories store, the space serves as a classroom for sewing classes and a design studio. If you are in NYC, it is definitely worth a visit! If you aren't, check out their site -


Botany's Desire said...

I love it!!! How unique. Can you fly to California and make some for me??

Justin said...

I'm glad you like it! I'm afraid I can't make it out to California - this was just a very fun special side project! But we certainly can get you the Mitsumata, and I'm hoping that the explanation of how I did it will allow folks to replicate it, or make something similar. - Justin

a little sewing on the side said...

Gorgeous! That is a brilliant way to soften the harsh lights. And I am delighted to see Home Ec- what a charming sewing space.

petiteagle said...

I know it's a super old post, but, I love the idea and want to make a spherical hanging object out of some kind of branches. Would you recommend any other branches that are not white color and that also are flexible enough to wrap around a spherical object about 2' diameter?? I would prefer to use wood of more traditional color/structure...

Justin said...

Hello! When it's fresh and in season the Fresh Curly Willow would work very well for that sort of project -

Mitsumata is the one branch available year round that will work for this sort of thing. Perhaps you could dye or paint the branches after creating the sphere and letting it dry.

Here's a picture of a spherical light fixture made of Mitsumata -