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Spiral Can

Notable Features


I once came across a faucet that seemed impossible - it had no neck to speak of. The secret was that the decorative strands holding up the spout were in fact hollow, allowing water to flow.


That trick, along with Da Vinci's sketches attempting to mathematize the flow of water, were the points of departure for this piece. 


Spirals, motion, and the order underlying chaos are persistent themes in Da Vinci's notebooks

Credit: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

My plan was for there to be three key 'moments' in the design: a spiraling spout, a braided handle, and a knotted pattern on the body.

Being the most challenging part, the braiding came first. I was perhaps over-inspired after reading George Baine's iconic 1945 work, Celtic Art: the Methods of Construction


Choosing a braid pattern was hard given the wealth of options

I landed on an elegant, unfussy knot from the Hausa tribe of Nigeria. After a day in Grasshopper, my parametric modeling program of choice, it had been recreated, and I could vary to taste the thicknesses, spacing, and curvature. Score one!


A fine-tunable recreation of a Hausa braid

Next up was the spout. For this I adapted the program used to create my spiral flower pot. As so often happens, the adaptation was no simple matter. Due to the low angle of intersection, the twin spouts could not be joined with Grasshopper, making necessary a manual joining.


Trimming and joining doubly curved, self-intersecting surfaces like these presents challenges

I then modeled the body of the can. Viewed from the side, it would be a circle with just enough of the bottom cut off so it could stand. This simplicity would counteract the busyness of the other elements. In keeping with the geometric vocabulary of my Deco Can, the body's edges would be rounded and the walls would subtly puff out. Not Art Deco per se, just a quiet base shape doing its job. 

But upon combining all these elements, I saw that the Hausa braid was out of place. So I overhauled it, pressed print, and held my breath for the next 32 hours. 


The simplified handle. This version poured like a dream but had all the grace of a wild hog.

Another fumble. It could make a fine handle elsewhere, but given the unconvincing dialogue with the spout - the centerpiece of the whole work - it wasn't gonna fly. On the plus side, I saved myself a day in CAD by realizing that the knot pattern was no longer viable; there was too much going on for it to ever harmonize. 

My third time back to the drawing board yielded the final version, shown in the gallery above. It would've been great to publish the print file of such an exciting and useful piece, but so much slicer hacking was required to pull this off that it wouldn't have been fair. (Though I'll still send you the print file if you want to hack, too.)

In closing, this project imparted a number of lessons: the necessity of overt dialogue between elements, the importance of calibrating the amount of 'poof' in walls, and the shifts in mood brought about by different fillet radii. There are many more, but the easier they become to express with geometry, the harder they become to express with words. 

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