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Interactive toothpick sculpture of SF
April 23, 2011 12:43 AM   Subscribe

Man unveils interactive toothpick sculpture of San Francisco that took 35 years to create. Mindblowing. (single vimeo link)
posted by the_bone (56 comments total) 78 users marked this as a favorite

 
Holy shiznit.

Be sure to watch the whole video, as there are multiple pathways through the sculpture, and he walks you through each one.
posted by LMGM at 12:48 AM on April 23, 2011


goddamn i love my city
posted by Afroblanco at 12:50 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Outsider art defined. Incredible find! Thanks for posting!
posted by zerobyproxy at 12:56 AM on April 23, 2011


Can't wait to buffer this and come back in on Tuesday to check it out!
posted by tumid dahlia at 12:58 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think I've actually seen this before, but definitely pretty cool.
posted by delmoi at 1:00 AM on April 23, 2011


How do you even begin to design something like that? Incredible.
posted by Georgina at 1:04 AM on April 23, 2011


I have to confess that I did not expect awe inspiring toothpick manipulation skills and a sense of humor to go together. I also liked how the meandering, dithering, wide ranging tracks of the balls really did seem like tourists as well.
posted by rongorongo at 1:11 AM on April 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh, wow. I don't have words for this

other than that the years and years of quiet dedication that it took to make something this awesome reminds me of the The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly
posted by FunGus at 1:17 AM on April 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I love this so hard.
posted by JLovebomb at 1:34 AM on April 23, 2011


Jesus. That's amazing.
posted by charmedimsure at 1:58 AM on April 23, 2011


I like this guy... he completely understands the meaning of what he created, his sense of whimsy is so evident in how he describes it. He spent 35 years creating something that, in the grand scheme, is utterly useless and not really that attractive. The only point to its existence is to make us smile, and it did.

Neat post...thanks...
posted by tomswift at 2:22 AM on April 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


I expected to see a pinpoint-accurate scale model of the city, but what I saw was so much better.
posted by scrowdid at 2:45 AM on April 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow. I wonder how they moved it from wherever he built it to this Tinkering Studio. The guy pokes the whale without it collapsing, but moving the whole thing must have been a tricky project in itself.

And here is Scott Weaver's own page about the project (and his other toothpick sculptures).
posted by bjrn at 3:05 AM on April 23, 2011


He must be using magical toothpicks or something. From an SF Gate article:
"Rolling through the Bay" has survived four homes, an earthquake, and Trooper, one of Weaver's four Great Danes who once obliterated Fisherman's Wharf with a swipe of his tail.

"One happy wag took out 100 hours of work," he says. "But for the last, knock on wood, year and a half, there's been no dog damage."
posted by bjrn at 3:08 AM on April 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love that he's included a few features which have disappeared in reality. Gives it a sense of history, and makes it seem less of a promotional piece and more a labor of love.
posted by alexei at 3:13 AM on April 23, 2011


Freaking fantastic! I just hope he's fireproofed that thing.
posted by bwg at 3:27 AM on April 23, 2011


Words fail. Amazing!
posted by Sublimity at 3:39 AM on April 23, 2011


could that great sure hands person created the same, but larger version using coffee stirrers? i recently wanted to create a replica version of a local pier using glue and coffee wooden sticks. but ambition in thought usually amounts to zero commitment to labor.
posted by taxpayer at 3:58 AM on April 23, 2011


That's awesome.
posted by jsavimbi at 4:07 AM on April 23, 2011


I expected something about 1% as wonderful as what it actually is. (Though, unless I missed it, my old neighborhood, the Mission, didn't get represented. It would have been great for one of the balls to stop by a taqueria and get one of those awesome burritos).
posted by williampratt at 4:44 AM on April 23, 2011


I don't know what's more amazing, the sculpture or that it took 35 years to make. And after you finish a massive 35 year project, what do you do next?
posted by cropshy at 5:18 AM on April 23, 2011


Vimeo says they're having some trouble. Mirror?
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 5:32 AM on April 23, 2011


And after you finish a massive 35 year project, what do you do next?

Pimp it on the Internet of course. The tubes were made for showcasing awesome but useless labors of love.
posted by cj_ at 5:33 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


And actually I take the "useless" comment back. I get the sense that delighting people he shows it off to is an ends to itself. Who can argue with that?
posted by cj_ at 5:35 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can't find a mirror to the broken Vimeo link, but this is another interview with him from a year ago. It showcases his creation less well but has a bit more context.
posted by cj_ at 5:43 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Vimeo says they're having some trouble. Mirror?

Does going straight to the Vimeo page and watching it there (instead of the embedded version) help?
posted by bjrn at 5:44 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does going straight to the Vimeo page vimeo and watching it there (instead of the embedded version) help?

Nope. "Whoops! We are having some technical difficulties, please try again in a minute." Except it's been saying that for about twenty minutes for me.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 5:47 AM on April 23, 2011


Finally got it to play. Magnificent obsession. The artist, not me. Thanks for the help, bjrn and cj_.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 6:43 AM on April 23, 2011


That'll burn real good.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:56 AM on April 23, 2011


I was going to come in here and snark on how sad it is that he spent so many years making such a useless thing. But it really is a beautiful piece of art.
posted by Fizz at 7:31 AM on April 23, 2011


This is like something one's father might obsess with over most of your childhood to virtually guarantee you become a serial killer. This or model trains.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:51 AM on April 23, 2011


I love that he even thought to expand the definition of "toothpicks" to include Moroccan toothpicks for a little visual variety.

This is great. Art is for everyone! I'm so glad his efforts are getting recognition.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 8:07 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


His tongue slipped once into a near Spoonerism when he talked about "the Castro dick-District."
posted by kozad at 8:07 AM on April 23, 2011


I love obsession.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:35 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


that awesome sculpture is a fire danger to the house and a small fire extinguisher should be hanging next to the sculpture, when is he going to put it on E. BAY?
posted by taxpayer at 8:47 AM on April 23, 2011


Ah yes, but how much weight can that replica Golden Gate hold? [/veteran of the toothpick wars]
posted by limeonaire at 8:49 AM on April 23, 2011


Wow. This is magic. Honestly I think one thing that makes it unique is the foresight to include all the pathways for the balls to follow. It's not just a crazy, beautiful, intricate maze of San Francisco-themed toothpicks - it's one that can be traveled by little balls so you can get a guided tour of the piece while also experiencing some of the visual joy of a Rube Goldberg.
posted by ORthey at 8:50 AM on April 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Humphrey!
posted by katillathehun at 8:50 AM on April 23, 2011


He made his website out of toothpicks too!
posted by cjorgensen at 8:51 AM on April 23, 2011


San Franciscans are so smug ;)
posted by ReeMonster at 9:22 AM on April 23, 2011


The "ball runs" are what really put it over the top for me, and make me appreciate what he's done on a level beyond just craftsmanship or dedication or obsession. At some point he realized that his creation was going to be super-dense "caricature" of the city, constructed from a material that would make it hard to distinguish one feature from the next. His solution was elegant and simple: use the ball runs as an interactive tour of the sculpture. I'm blown away by that.
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:16 AM on April 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Playland!!! This is the best thing ever.
posted by trip and a half at 10:25 AM on April 23, 2011


Not really a Rube Goldberg device*, I think, since there are no complex mechanical interactions, just balls rolling down paths.

Very cool, and yes, his sense of humour about it makes it even better.

*the rube goldberg episodes of Tom and Jerry were magic to me when I was kid - I believe there were two, one entitled something about building a better mousetrap
posted by neuromodulator at 10:27 AM on April 23, 2011


No, I know it's not actually a Rube Goldberg. I just meant it shares some of the visual appeal of one.
posted by ORthey at 10:29 AM on April 23, 2011


(It occurred to me that I may be the only San Francisco MeFite old enough to remember Playland, so here's an explanatory link.)
posted by trip and a half at 10:36 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, ORthey, I didn't see your comment. I was referring to the blurb on vimeo.
posted by neuromodulator at 10:48 AM on April 23, 2011


Wow. This is insanely incredible. Once again I'm reminded of how lazy I am.
posted by desjardins at 10:48 AM on April 23, 2011


Very cool. Reminiscent of Jollyball, which is a ball sculpture and a whimsical tour of Switzerland. For obvious reasons, it is housed in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.
posted by dhartung at 11:15 AM on April 23, 2011


Truly gorgeous. Mind-blowing!!!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:21 AM on April 23, 2011


Sorry, ORthey, I didn't see your comment. I was referring to the blurb on vimeo.

Whoops! Never mind!
posted by ORthey at 11:35 AM on April 23, 2011


What a beautiful expression. This piece deserves to land in the permanent collection of the American Folk Art Museum.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 12:29 PM on April 23, 2011


cj_: "And actually I take the "useless" comment back. I get the sense that delighting people he shows it off to is an ends to itself. Who can argue with that?"

I recently watched Man on Wire, about Philip Petit's high wire walk between the Twin Towers. He notes that when he was being taken to the police station, the reporters were asking "Why did you do it?" "Such an American question," he says in the film. Creating a beautiful moment, giving others the gift of that impossible sight - that purpose so often gets forgotten in a culture that's attuned to the utilitarian and the commercial.
posted by kristi at 12:47 PM on April 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow. That was incredible -- and it just gets better throughout the video -- at first you are impressed that someone made a toothpick model that big, but then, "oh wait," there is a rube-goldbergian ping-pong journey through it -- and then, "oh what," there are MULTIPLE rube-goldbergian ping-pong journeys through it!?? And he keeps adding things and building and he has moved it and...wow! That was just great! I am torn between wanting to encase it in a big protective shell and wanting it to be open for all to see! Please, please, please no one go near that after having a Trenta-sized coffee!
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 2:26 PM on April 23, 2011


This guy took all the imagination I used building very elaborate MarbleWorks as a kid, and turned it into reality.
posted by audacity at 3:54 PM on April 23, 2011


This is incredible. My mouth was agape once the second tour started.

And yes, this really makes me love my city even more.
posted by chemoboy at 5:35 PM on April 23, 2011


gotta hate on the deuchebag who tosses a ball into it right at the end of the vimeo link, so not cool
posted by Blasdelb at 6:25 PM on April 23, 2011


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