Getting a Head of Ourselves

Head frame & lattice (Photo by Aaron Muszalski)
Head frame & lattice (Photo by Aaron Muszalski)

Black Rock Station, NV. June 23rd, 2008 – The cutters are nearing the end of their task, and are gradually moving on to gluing each ring or rib together with its mate. Thus assembled, each curved piece is meticulously hand sanded to remove any remaining imperfections or irregularities. Meanwhile, Krew members Dr. Glowire and Spyral have begun plotting out the complex angles required to create the Man’s iconic head.

With its fine, shoji-like red oak lattice, and precisely-angled joinery, the Man’s head is easily one of the most demanding elements of Man construction. Or as Dr. Glowire says, “It’s more like cabinetry than carpentry.” And he should know, as he’s had a hand in building the head since 2003. Although the Man’s design is essentially fixed, the Doctor notes that “each builder add a bit of their own personality” when creating it.

“The techniques involved are passed down from one builder to the next,” Doc says. “As old Krew members depart, many of their tricks live on, but some are inevitably modified by the new builders. It’s an evolution.” One such evolution was the decision to add an additional vertical piece to the lattice, making the design more balanced and eliminating tangents at the peak and corners. (“It’s a subtle change, but it’s more elegant this way,” says the Doctor.) Another is the fact that the head is now entirely created without the use of metal fasteners; it is assembled and held fast only through the skillful use of joinery techniques such as dovetailing and wooden dowels.

2007
2007 "leaf" carving

Other small details are added or changed in response to each year’s theme. For example, last year the four corners of the head were topped with elaborately carved leaf designs, reflecting “The Green Man” theme. This year the head features a cut diamond pattern, with three carved “gems” atop each of its four corners. About the particular symbolism of this design, The Doctor is keeping mum, at least for now. “Ask me on the playa,” he says, “and I’ll be happy to explain everything.”

Gem detail in progress (Photograph by Aaron Muszalski)
2008 "gem" carving (in progress)

About the author: Aaron Muszalski

Collaborative culture expert, currently reinventing social productivity for the crowd. Formerly: Wikipedia Storyteller, Laughing Squid, Industrial Light & Magic.

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