Project Fail?

The Great Rebar Pile

The great rebar pile.


“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas Edison

Now that we’ve reminisced on all the great times, dissected the State Of The Man and searched for videos of our favorite art in action, I’m wondering: What did you try to do that didn’t work out?

People pull off some amazing feats in the desert. Fellow burners inspire and encourage us to dream big and go big. But sometimes things just don’t work out. Sometimes we have too much to do and not enough time or help. And sometimes, well, who knows what went wrong.

For years I’ve wondered what was intended for the piles of lumber and building materials way out in open playa, roped off but obviously not complete (and sometimes not even started)? There are the partial domes, crossed-out cardboard signs and piles of “camp stuff” off to one side. What were you supposed to be, towering stack of palettes and rope lights?

I am impressed by people who see every piece of art and every friend’s camp. This year I carried a piece of paper in my bag listing the addresses of all my friends in Black Rock City. And I visited exactly none of them. I had some amazing run-ins and saw a lot of folks but as for making it to the happy hour party or the afternoon DJ session? Nope. After a few days I realized that just wasn’t the trip I was on. I was having a great time bombing around BRC on my bike, chilling at my camp and taking care of myself so I let go of expectations.

Past years I have thrown away at least one costume project because I used the wrong fabric or sewed through it or just hated it. My crafting fail was minor this year. The plan: replace the laces in my corset. I decided to lace the corset on Burn Night after cooking dinner for a dozen friends so I was really pushing it time-wise. The cords I bought were brittle and broke when someone tried to lace me in. Along with the unwearable corset went two costumes that required me to be cinched.

There are classic tales of structures blowing over because someone stepped away for “just a minute” and a gust of wind sent it head-over-heels, landing in a bent heap. I heard tale of one friend’s plans to cook a big dinner on burn night. She’d kept hamburger on dry ice in a special cooler. She’d brought everything for a toppings bar and even had a late-arrival friend bring fresh buns. When it was time to cook she realized a campmate had left the gas on and the BBQ was out of fuel. One by one she cooked burgers on a tiny camp stove until it also ran out of fuel. Insert sad trombone sound here.

In the spirit of learning from our mistakes, I call on you, fellow Burners. Confess your overreaching plans! Exorcise your craft demons! Be healed!


About the author: Molly Ditmore

The night Molly Ditmore arrived at Burning Man 1998, she told everyone that she had come home. She didn't pack a flashlight or get any sleep. She volunteered at Media Mecca for six years, where she handled press inquiries from the music community and hosted an art tour. Because of Burning Man she started sewing again and is now a couture pattern maker. Molly attended from 1998-2007 and is returning in 2009. She'll be blogging about practical matters, personal art projects and relationships. She thinks you should scale back your dance camp.

52 thoughts on “Project Fail?

  • The big teal van stuck on 447 for 5 hours. Yes, that was me. In the middle of the lane, 10 miles from Empire. To the few who stopped and offered help. I thank you. The van was stuck in park, WITH the motor running. Thousands of vehicles had to go around. I could not shift, or turn the engine off. As the traffic finally thinned, a fellow burner stopped to help, managed to pull wires and get it into drive. To those that screamed to pull out of the way, I wish I could have. When we finally got parked at our camping site, the van would NOT shut off. We took off the battery terminal and it still kept running. (24 hours now) But a second hero came to my rescue, and pulled the wire to the distributor to stop the engine. I forgot to close the drivers window. Fixed that with duct tape and a garbage bag. Did not dwell on my situation. I was HOME. I now have a permanent key in the ignition, and a toggle to shut the engine off. Must always use E brake. My beginner Art Car. Thanks to Howdy, Black Rock Hardware Shoppe, Big Ed, Phil and my DoA camp mates. Maybe not such a fail after all.

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