NYU ITP 4-in-4

The Big-Ass Arrow EL Flag

All lit up.

One of the biggest problems at the Burning Man Festival is locating all of your friends once you arrive. Cell phones are useless in such a remote location, email is useless (there are a few stations, but the lines are ridiculous), and GPS nearly pointless (Black Rock City moves every year, so it’s nearly impossible to know it’s precise coordinates). One of the most effective means of communicating with those not in your immediate vicinity on the Playa is leaving a message on a huge communal board, a system that quickly degrades into near chaos.

If one is lucky, you may serendipitously chance upon a familiar face amidst the throngs – a truly amazing occurrence considering the forty thousand plus attendees. If you’re not willing to leave your meeting up to fate, however, the best thing that one can do is to inform their friends as to the general location of their camp before arriving. Black Rock City is well planned, with named streets and an actual city grid, Despite this, navigating your way around a temporary tent city metropolis can be a bit chaotic.

That’s why it’s always good to have a landmark on your home turf, something easily recognizable, something you can tell your friends to look out for, and something to guide you home at night.

This is exactly why my girlfriend, Jennifer Fisher, and I spent the evening making The Big-Ass EL Wire Arrow Flag. As we are flying to the festival, we needed something that could easily fit into our luggage. We plan on using military surplus tent poles to get the flag about 16 feet off the ground, just high enough to make it recognizable landmark. I also have a hankering to attach it to a weather balloon banner style, pointing downward. When attached to a belt loop this would work as a sort of airborne beacon, bobbing aroundabove the user, indicating their position to anyone that may be looking for them

This flag can not only be used this to navigate by, but also to navigate with, in a manner nearly identical to that of my Free.P.S. Project. I also can’t help but think that it’s a bit funny that the thing that we will be using to navigate home will always be pointing somewhere else, encouraging further wandering.

The flag is constructed out of rip stop nylon, trimmed with 2″ black sail tape, and EL wire with a great little tail for sewing. Neither were the easiest materials to actually sew, but, all in all, Jen and I are both exceedingly happy with the final product.

Take a look at our construction process below:

Laying Out the Pattern

Laying out the pattern.

Sewing on the tailed EL wire. This was a real pain.

Arrow trimmed with EL wire, and side panels added. Next came the black trim (shown in the 2nd picture), and finally the thing was ready to be lit up.

In future iterations of this, now that I’m familiar with EL wire, I would really like to build in some sequenced animation, along the lines of old neon bar signs.

You can never go wrong with more EL wire.


August 1st, 2008

1 Comment

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  • 1. John Dimatos  |  August 1st, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    As someone who will be looking for this arrow, thank you.

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