Thursday, August 12, 2010

EMERGY on Kickstarter

Emergy is now on Kickstarter, a fundraising website. I'm trying to raise funding to re-create the photos and transport for the Las Vegas exhibition. Please visit the following link to read about the project, the rewards available and to support the project. Any amount pledged is greatly appreciated!

To pledge click here:

About Kickstarter:
Kickstarter is a new way for the public to directly support creative and ambitions endeavors. It is "powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands". Given the immense difficulty artists have in funding projects, Kickstarter makes it easy for us to promote our projects but also create a community of exchange. To read more about Kickstarter here's the link to the FAQs on their website:

Thank you for any and all support! Please spread the word!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Emergy to show in Las Vegas

The date has been confirmed. Emergy will be exhibited at the City of Las Vegas, Charleston Heights Arts Center Gallery
December 3, 2010 to February 17, 2011

Please check back in the near future for an update and email Maria if you would like to be involved in the project. Email:

Charleston Heights Arts Center
800 South Brush Street
Las Vegas, Nevada 89107
Phone: (702) 229-6383
Gallery Phone: (702) 229-4674

Located near the intersection of Decatur and West Charleston Boulevards.

To view the photos and video of Emergy in progress and previous exhibition click on Archive links to the right.

Monday, March 24, 2008


WELCOME to Treiastudios’ blog on Emergy, the current project in production.

Emergy is an interactive installation art project bridging sculpture, performance, media arts, architecture, mechanical and electrical engineering. At the nucleus of the installation is a 9ft mechanized rowboat that will generate electricity to power lights in the gallery. The project investigates romantic attachments to traditional notions of technology, production and land use. The created environment examines energy and water consumption in an urban desert environment by contrasting human consumption with human expenditure. Raising awareness through embodied experience, the visitor will come to know what it takes to create energy that powers our world.

The purpose for this blog is to raise community interest in the project and to invite participants to pledge a block/blocks of time to row the boat during the exhibition (March 24-28, 2008, Harry Wood Gallery, Tempe, AZ).

The show was a great success! Visit this site for future exhibits of Emergy. For information on how to bring Emergy to your school or venue please contact Maria Michails or

You can come see the boat once more at the Herberger College School of Art scholarship fundraising event held at Chipotle's at Tempe Marketplace, Thursday April 17, 5-9 pm.


The following entries are about the progress of the project. Thanks for visiting, do visit often for updates and enjoy the read!


The show opened today to wonderful response! The weekend of installing was extremely taxing--I am exhausted, now running on adrenalin. All the people who came out to help were awesome and I give much of the credit to them for the final outcome. My oral defense was smooth and the dialogue very engaging. Is this how it's supposed to be? They didn't grill me, they asked me intelligent questions and had positive comments. The word poetic came up all day. Some felt the show lacked it slightly others felt it come through. I never really thought it important. It either is or is not but it's not something I purposely tried to achieve.

During the times when others were rowing I remained backstage and at one point managed to write. I listened to the sound of the row machine (the seat is squealing) as the person went back and forth. As one professor said, it reminded her of an old Russian factory sound. A soothing repetitive sound. The sound can be heard outside of the gallery and is a great way to draw people in. There are distinct lines and patterns being made, both visual and aural. These were somewhat intentional but for the most part, the work creates this on its own. Most people responded to the actual shape of the space. It is very organic but yet, because of its whiteness or even the rectangular shape of the plexi images, comes across quite science-y. I'm very pleased with that kind of cross-over.

Here's a review a friend wrote into his iPhone while experiencing the show:

"The centerpiece of the exhibit is a boat that, through the act of rowing, energizes lights in the enfolding space to illuminate delicate photographic cels. The work directly names the existence of an ephemeral, if not transcendent, aether capacitated within all life around us. The rhythmic work.... of being alive... metabolizes that unseen nature around us into visibility. The work suggests our evolution if new sensory organ by which we may know the world. With each stroke the space pulses with the evidential glow of life. The work, like a simulacra, reinacts the same vital process that we perform at each breath - the cultivation of life. This respiration evokes awareness that, regardless of artifice, the world around us is desperately sensitive to all of our actions." ~Zak Jones

Come in and experience the show!

Installation view upon entering the space.

Performer-rower Kathryn Pinto.

Close up of the photos and LED lights.

To read EMERGY statement click here or read below.


Here's a short video that takes you into the installation:

Camera by Ryan Spicer


An installation of this magnitude is never by the hands of one person alone. I thank every person who has generously given in some way, large and small, to making this project come to fruition. I especially want to extend my gratitude to the following:

To my committee members

Angela Ellsworth, Hilary Harp, David Birchfield
and Denis Gillingwater
(it’s a really good thing you said 'no' to the strawbale idea)

To the installation crew, whose help was pivotal to the final outcome of the show--I could never have made it look as good without your help

Corrie Cole, Katerina Dimitrova, Jana Evans, Mike Ford, Nathan Lewis, Matt Mechtley, Mikaela Meredith, Ryan Miller, Craig Randich, Ellie Richards, Becky Stern, Lisa von Koch, Sebastian Wittig

To Hilary Harp, Byron Lahey and Katerina Dimitrova
for helping me from the very beginning and when I most needed it

To Tom Eckert, Ellie Richards, Tony Perez and Diego
for valuable advice, skill and especially letting me over extend my stay in the woodshop

To Damon McIntyre for the beautiful wall panels


To the rowers-performers
without you there is no reason for the show

Julie Anand
Rebecca Clark
Dan Collins
Jenna Dillon
Jana Evan
Allyn Knox
Byron Lahey
Laurie Lundquist
Sarah Machacek
Ed Maney
Melissa Marriott
Matt Mechtley
Brandon Mechtley
Ann Morton
Laine Nelson
Linda Parker
Kathryn Pinto
Alicia Porter
Brian Scholer
Aaron Spalding
Ryan Spicer
Lisa vonKoch
Gordon Wichern

Thank you also to:

Radek Roucka, Assegid Kidane, Tom Wykes, Gene Carpenter, Lisa and Sean Hardigree, Rob Evans Jr., Vicki Kelley, Carol Cox, Linda Quihuis, Cindy Noldy, Linda Essig, Dave Coffman, and to the many others who contributed to the success of this project!

This project is made possible by the generous support of
p.a.v.e., the arts entrepreneurship program of the ASU School of Theatre and Film;
Entrepreneur Advantage Project (EAP), made possible through the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and ASU; GPSA-the Graduate Professional Student Association; and ASU School of Art

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Less than a week left before I install. After four years it seems impossible that this day is so near. Will it all work out? What will break first? You sort of have to expect that with this type of work. Seeing the walls together and freshly painted - Katerina called this week to offer help - thank God she did or I would still be at the studio right now. They look great! I decided to print test strips to make the arranging layout easier on me. I taped them up to get a feel for the layout but I think it will need more arranging, it's not quite there yet. Friday and Saturday were spent finalizing t-shirts, the plexiphotos and making the mounting system. I still have no idea if the standoffs will work as I've yet to make any tests. At this point they have to work.

One thing that has come together really great is the number of people who have pledged blocks of time. The slots are almost full! There is a total of 23 souls who will row for me. I can't thank them enough. There is no show without my rowers/performers. There will be slots open for the public to try as well.

It was spring break this passed week and it afforded me training time. I rowed and did yoga almost everyday. My body felt so good. Even better was my state of mind. I felt calm and relaxed. Still managed to get a lot done but without feeling frantic.


Today I met with four fellas from the Phoenix DIY group, Ryan Spicer, John Kittelsrud, Matt Metts, and Matt Mechtley who generously gave their Saturday afternoon to solder leads on all the LED strips. I couldn't cut wire fast enough--these guys were machines! We finished in less than two hours. The lights are actually quite bright and very lovely.

Ryan soldering leads.

Matt Metts and Matt Mechtley

Photos by John Kittelsrud.
Check out his website at the link above and more photos
here. Matt's photos here.

Youtube videos about Emergy here and here.


In the final stretch now toward show time. There have been some stressful moments and a nice meltdown last week - due to fatigue I'm sure - has somewhat clouded m perspective on a few things. But I can't stop now (I haven't in months.) I'm constantly worried I will forget something, will forget to write it on my list and therefore, not get it done. I'm acutely aware that I may run out of time and the fine details will not be attended to. I have to accept this.

The response from the Art One showing varied from curiosity to utter excitement. The most amazing to me was the persistence and return, despite their small bodies, of kids wanting to row over and over again. They were so determined to make the LEDs light up (I had set up a couple strips along the trim of the boat.) I knew then that I wil have to do something to make it possible for little kids to be able to row. I'm already thinking about future modifications.

Though there was a lot of initial excitement I had trouble convincing people to commit to blocks of time. How do I become a motivator - I just don't know? i'm realizing that though the boat may be the aesthetic focus of the work the nucleus is really the human body in it. Without the people it's just another art piece and for me, feels rather incomplete and truly inanimate. Life's worth isn't derived from our inanimate objects (even if they are beautiful and bring us joy.) Life's worth is measured by the quality of our relationships and the experiences these relationships gift to us.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


The Emergy boat will be at the final Friday event this week at Art One Gallery - Tempe Marketplace. If you would like to try rowing for power join us on Friday, February 29, 5-8 pm and Saturday, March 1, 1-4 pm. Please pledge a block(s) of time to come row during the exhibition in March at the Harry Wood Gallery! You will be part of a worthwhile project, get great exercise, and receive some gifts from our sponsors.



For weeks I've been trying to find LEDs since sending back the test strips because they malfunctioned. The anxiety of the past week was partly my fault for not keeping on top of it. When I finally found some online that were on a roll and seemed they may be perfect for my application, the dealer handling it informed me that it would take 2-3 weeks to receive from China. It took everything I had not to panic. Late one night while revisiting a site I found the same surface mounted lights on a roll - and they had them in in stock IN the USA. I'm holding my breath - they are to arrive on Monday.

In the meantime I had taken apart the mechanism and replaced the shaft. I also had Tom Wykes fabricate a new intermediary shaft out of hardened steel. He's still trying to find me a new flywheel. I need one much bigger than the 12" in order to keep the shaft spinning so that the power is consistent.

Today Lisa von Koch and I started on the walls. It took the better part of a day to scrape and sand the remnants of spackle off the edges and prep the panels for painting. A tedious job. It will take many more hours of prepping and painting to return the walls to their original state.


I started the photography aspect of the project this week. For three-half days I got the chance to immerse myself in the desert, albeit urban desert. South Mountain may have spectacular views of the city but it's the moments and spots where the city disappears from view that are truly magnificent and hard to believe where one finds oneself--in a city park essentially!

View of Phoenix from South Mountain

Fifteen minutes on the freeway going NE one also discovers a gem. Tonto National Forest and the Lower Salt River. Thursday and Friday I went up the Bush Highway numerous times scouting around for the location and higher ground view of the Salt River, it's flow seemingly less after just one day. Again, I marveled at how close this 'wilderness' is to the city.

Lower Salt River from Coon Bluff

After hiking up and down hill after hill, hungry for that perfect shot, I ended up back to where I had started late afternoon the day before. At the top of Coon Bluff. I got my shots, some short moments of introspective stillness sprinkled with dreaming, and carried down as many strewn bottles and beer cans as I could. I just can't fathom the need one would have for soiling such a place.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


I entered the Focus the Nation event as a way to get the boat out there and hopefully solicit participants. It was a great day! Lots of people loved it and signed up. Some seemed very reluctant to try but once I gave a demo and they heard the music on the tape they felt they could do it. Still need a lot more folks to sign up. If you are interested please send me an email at or and put ‘participant’ in the subject line. Please copy and paste this in the email and fill in. We will be in touch with you soon-thanks!


Please answer a few questions:

1. How many times a week do you exercise? ____
2. Do you have any health issues that may affect your ability to row for 15 min. consistently? Yes ___ No ___
3. Have you ever rowed before (machine or actual)?
Yes ____ No ____
4. How many 15 min. blocks of time can you commit to during the exhibition, March 24-28?
One Block ___ Two Blocks ___ Three Block ___Four Blocks ___

Here's some photos of the event.

Mr. Recycle rowing the boat.

Giving a demo

An excited participant!


All is not lost. Committee was still pleased with results but requested another couple meetings before the show. After talking with Tom Wykes (machinist extraordinaire) I had a friend come help me drill a hole through the hub, aluminum shaft and steel shaft to put in a pin. A temporary solution that helped immensely but there was still some slipping. We think it’s the sprockets. We now had power—too MUCH power and too much friction. With a load it was extremely difficult to row. We reconfigured the pulleys by removing one altogether. Still a little erratic but it ran the little tape deck I had attached. Gene saved the day! I was going to have a working boat in the event.

To much friction and too much power with this setup. Had to eliminate the second pulley and attached the generator to the small pulley of the 6:1.


Designing the framing was more challenging than I had imagined it would be. A few days later, late the night before my committee meeting, with frame finished, I tightened the belt and pulled the pull handle on the row machine. To my shock and horror, the mechanism failed. I examined where it was slipping—the inner aluminum shaft (not the main steel one) must’ve gotten worn. It was what kept the bicycle hub attached to the flywheel shaft. Disappointed that I couldn’t produce power to show the committee I went home and figured I wouldn’t be ready for the Focus the Nation event 2 days later.


The mechanism is also getting close to completion – and functioning. I finally purchased the generator. Dave and Sheila at Winstreampower were an amazing help. Dave looked over my design and gave suggestions for gearing. Sheila went beyond what any company owner would ever do to make sure I got the generator in time with all the right stuff plus more. For all you DIYers out there, I highly recommend you support this small company.

The initial setup.
Notice the intermediary
aluminum shaft that failed.

A decision on which generator to choose from had to be made as my design came in between the high rpm and the low rpm generator available. How do I make my creative choices work with what is mechanically possible? What am I willing to compromise and what won’t I compromise? After consulting with Byron about all the possible end results as well as what it would look like, I decided on the high rpm generator. Which meant I had to gear it up and went out to buy the right pulleys and belts. I worked out a 6:1 ratio then on a jack shaft added another 2.5:1 pulley.


The boat nears completion. Over the holidays I prepped it for the framing, sanding down the lap edges so the stems will be flush. No matter how much sanding (and there was a lot!) the stems needed much adjusting. The stem at the bow, because of the somewhat messy job I did, took quite a bit of work. I grinded, chiseled and sanded as much as I could and it will still need a cap.

A finished boat! All that's left to do is detailing,
the frame support for the row machine
and mechanism.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

We had a very good committee meeting yesterday. Though not much progress was made on the mechanism, there has been with the LEDs and photos and, of course, the boat itself. I’ve got the title and will probably add a subtitle to it once I get a better idea of what the photos will look like. The flooring is being eliminated which will give me more resources on the budget to work with. Especially if I will go with the suggestions and use the longer light strips which are twice the price.

Radek helped me set up and with just the vellum paper for the photos it looked quite appealing. There will be two different types of LED strips to differentiate the images and color of the light. The whiter, shorter strip will be the on the circuits that will come from the boat. Still not clear on how the images will be shot, though. Something to think about over the break. The longer strips tend to have a bluish luminosity. These will illuminate the city of Phoenix and will be powered by A/C power. I think the blue is interesting—it represents both an emotional blueness with a sense of virtual water. I think the shorter strips may be of the Salt River. Flowing? Dry?

Testing the walls with the LED strips and photos on vellum. The spacing and wiring will be refined as will the mounting system.

Here's a closeup with the overhead lights off. With close to 60 strips running along two 40ft walls it won't seem so dark.

Long days in the shop but the boat is almost ready to be moved. The planking went really well and surprisingly quick. Just a bit of soaking and they were pliable enough to lap on. I let them sit overnight for the most part but when time started to get short I glued and stapled as soon as they looked dried. Here’s some process pics. My hands hurt from all the clamping. A lot of on and off, then on again. I used Gorilla glue (mainly for strength) and a compressor stapler and bradnailer.

Ready to be turned and moved.

Almost done, the last lap is added.

The laps get added while wet and as they dry they take shape. The clamps are then loosened, glue is run along the lap joint, clamps tightened again, and finally the joints stapled. This allows me to remove the clamps after an hour so I can add another lap. Once the boat is turned right side up the staples will be removed before sanding.

One thing I’ve discovered about boat making…it’s all about the timing (like everything else in life!). You cannot rush even with a simple design. I rushed the soaking of some planks and put more than two in the pipe. Big mistake. They expanded and wedged. I couldn’t get them out. Finally, I resorted to cutting the pipe. So back I went to the hardware store to buy more. I also discovered you can’t cheat your way out of trued corners.

Lapstrake boat-making
requiring a lot of clamps.

Finally, planking begins!

Some delays. After laying out the planks I discover I will run out of wood for the laps/hull sides. I cave and buy hardwood (maple and oak). What a heartbreak but necessary. I have a week to finish the hull form. The framing will get done later. I’m still recovering from Sunday’s long day in the shop. If I was a better woodworker I would’ve been more careful with my jigsaw to cut straighter lines on the bottom. I spent 6 hours planing the edges of the bottom when I realized the planks would not fit flush against wobbly edges. Painful work. My body was so sore the next day I could barely move. But I got it done and it looks beautiful!

The boards that will make the bottom are ready to cut from the pattern. They were connected simply with dowels and wood glue. Since this boat will not see water I didn't think it necessary to use waterproof glue.

Pleased with the progress on the boat thus far. I’m having great luck as the wood situation and planking conundrum has worked itself out. The bottom boards have almost been laminated. By Sunday I’ll have all the pieces glued, the bottom plan drawn out and cut. The planks look beautiful! They were cut down, planed and grooved with lap joints by David at Woodworker’s Source. I’m so thrilled that all the material for the boat is from old furniture. Though, I must admit, doing it this way is costly but it keeps someone employed without using additional natural resources. The energy for planing and cutting the joints would be incurred anyway for new materials. Now I understand why restoration is so expensive. It’s labor intensive. I just hope the planks will bend as I anticipate. I will soak them in a 10 ft PVC pipe overnight.

Everything else is at a standstill as I can only think about the boat right now, with the exception of a title for the project. I’ve decided on Emergy. Though the definition of the word is still a ‘work-in-progress’ by the experts, I feel it represents this project very closely and I like it’s poetic sound. It is a contraction of the words embodied energy. Read more about Emergy here. I think the most simplified definition is this:

“Emergy is the available energy of any kind [including human?] previously used both directly and indirectly to make another form of energy, product or service.”

The days fly by and I’m not much closer to really starting the boat. The forms took much adjusting and the stations on the ladder needed to be repositioned. I managed after three tries, to draw the curve of the stem at the bow. I sanded and cut a board that had a curved side. I figured why not go with that instead of cutting another plank. I’m tormented about the bottom. Should I laminate the found pieces – I have just enough - or should I just buy a piece of plywood, cut it and be done with it? Ply is so much easier but I have all this free wood. I’ll sand the boards. If it seems to take too long I’ll buy ply. If the hull sides can be glued and nailed by the 5th I’ll be happy. I pray the planks bend easily.

Here’s a pic of the ladder framing and some of the forms.

Sometime last week while talking to Tony Perez in his office a fella walked into the woodshop and asked if anyone needed some hardwood. He was clearing off an estate he’d purchased and was on his way to the dump to get rid of some old wood. I said I was interested and was it by chance planks. I couldn’t believe the serendipity of the moment! Not only were they terrific hardwoods but they were boards and planks from furniture that had been taken apart. I now had the wood for my boat!

Started the ladder framing that the boat will get built on. Ellie Richardson offered to share her studio space in the woodshop with me. She’s a new grad student. Her work is unconventional where wood is concerned. Very minimalist, about form and color. I’m very appreciative of the space offered up. I couldn’t make the boat otherwise. I still haven’t decided what the material of the boat should be. It’s driving me crazy now. I’ve got less than one month to make this boat and I don’t know what to make it out of! It’s important to the integrity of the project to choose material that speaks directly to the context of the work, i.e. it must reflect the idea of sustainability. I’m looking into the possibility of scavenged wood and having it milled.

There’s been substantial progress since the last entry. Today I made the decision that two-thirds of the light strips will run off of A/C power as it has become evident that there is no way I will generate that much current (8 amps) needed to light 70 LED strips. It has immensely simplified and eradicated the high current problem. The other one-third will be directly controlled by the boat. I decided to reduce the number of strips and break the system up into 3 circuits per wall without necessarily compromising the aesthetic I’m after. I have been working with a fella named Radek Roucka on the circuitry. He’s been a really big help in figuring out the math; how much wattage and current will be needed to light the strips, etc. Still not sure how the lights will be arranged nor do I know how the image will get photographed. Having the curved walls (panels from another grad student’s show) helps to visualize how the strips will look.

Finally the boat construction is getting started. I’ll have the ladder assembled this week and seriously consider the materials I’ll use. I’m still unsure. Like the mechanism and the lights it will have to be kept simple in its design. So much work is still needed to be done in order to have the prototype working properly.

Here’s a pic of the initial prototype of the mechanism. It’s made from a used rowing machine and bicycle parts. I did have to purchase new pillow blocks and a steel disc as well as some bike parts, as I couldn’t find what I needed at the salvage place (Apache Reclamation). I did find some parts there, especially the shaft and an old Kodak motor that at least tells me my system works, albeit not to the extent I want it to. It’s evident I will need to gear it. Many thanks to Byron Lahey who helped with this design and guided me through fabrication. Thanks also to Hilary Harp, one of my committee members, who muscled with the lathe very late into the night last spring to help me make the necessary modifications to bring the metric measurements of the bike parts and the US measurements of the row machine parts together.


Nothing has moved forward. I’m not clear on the boat material. Plywood? Hardwood? Basswood? I will make some plans and have them lofted (scaled) at the printers. Where I will build is also not clear. I’m working something out with Tom Eckert in the woodshop here at ASU. Still keeping my eyes open for a used boat. That would be the most sustainable but I’m not very hopeful.

Finding a used wooden boat is proving immensely difficult in Arizona. They just don’t live long in this intense heat and sun. No kidding. Why is there any need for a boat in this state anyway?? [We won’t go there right now.] So it looks like I will design it myself based on some designs I researched. I’m going with a flat bottom lapstrake with lap-jointed planks. Bought a couple of books to look at but – wow – they look incredibly complex. I’m excited and apprehensive at the same time.

I’m considering the use of an old, used lapstrake rowboat and refurbish it instead of building one from new materials. The lapstrake has an interesting history and seems perfect for this project. “The lapstrake boat building process is believed to have originated in Scandinavia with the Vikings. The earliest remains of a lapstrake boat is believed to have been built about the year 925 AD . Historians believe that lapstrake boats crossed the Atlantic to Newfoundland, Canada at about the year 1,000 AD.” More on the history of lapstrakes here and here.