02: The Votive


Nearly every day I pass an oak tree while walking my dog. Normally it blends in but in the dead of winter when all of the other trees are bare this one is full of dry brown leaves and those leaves shudder aggressively in the wind. They’re the essence of frigid February. It got me thinking, what would a winter wind candle be like?

What I Built

This candle channels the wind. By lighting it the user gets an ambient visual of the wind speed in their area based on how violently the oak leaves shake. Blowing the candle out extinguishes the projection.

Exploration process

Painted with an acrylic wash and assembled

Painted with an acrylic wash and assembled

Not the right candle color choice

Not the right candle color choice

This month I decided to just go with an idea after doing sketching ideas out in my notebook. February is a short month! I designed my votive holder in Illustrator then laser cut some wood, painted it and glued it all together. How handy is it to have a laser cutter at work?!

Getting the shadow footage that I wanted involved a good amount of trial and error. I had to find just the right angles and lighting so that I wasn’t in the way and neither were the leaves. I ended up with this goofy set up, crouched awkwardly and trying to be stable while blowing really hard to simulate wind because fanning was too hard to do while staying still. Yeah. Lesson learned, I’ve got to figure out a legit set up. That said, my carton leaf holders served their purpose before heading back into the recycling.

Once I had the footage, I used After Effects to fix the crappy lighting and do a bit of stabilization.

My amazingly high-tech rig for capturing oak leaf shadows

My amazingly high-tech rig for capturing oak leaf shadows


The idea of projections playing along with candles or being activated by them is delightful to me. I am positive that I’ll return to this method. But next time I want to do more with the interactivity animations. Using a fade-in felt flat. I also could have also gone to more lengths to wire this up in a technical way. To do that I’d use a Photo resistor and a Raspberry Pi to control the projection’s on and off then have an API for local windspeed feed into the choice of leaf video so that no wind would have still leaves and high winds would see a lot of movement. I’m still feeling out how high fidelity each of these experiments will be. Is it enough to communicate my concept?

Audrey FoxComment