{ Category Archives: Spinnradl }

Spinnradl Video

Spinnradl Video, shot and edited by J Miles Wolf

Here is a short video showing our Spinnradl sculptures in action in Cincinnati. The video features two songs on two nearly identical sculptures, sited about a block apart from each other along Pendleton Street. The songs are played by turning a crank, which spins a large cylinder that triggers an analog music box. Turning the crank also powers a pulsing, radial Moire animation on either end of the sculpture’s housing. Each song lasts about thirty seconds when spun at the optimal speed, and repeats as long as the crank is continually turned.

The first song featured is a German folk dance called Spinnradl (spinning wheel), where dancers traditionally make star patterns in groups of three. The song would have been familiar to the German immigrants who built the Pendleton neighborhood and lived and worked there in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. The second song is a ragtime composed in Cincinnati during the height of ragtime’s popularity. The song was composed to play on board steamboats that ferried passengers along a canal that once bordered the ‘Over-the Rhine’ neighborhood.

To learn more about the development of Spinnradl, please click here and scroll down.

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Spinnradl: Final Assembly and Installation

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Verdin and Reuge work together to mount the music box.

In many ways, Spinnradl has been our most challenging and rewarding project to date. All of our projects as Wowhaus involve a degree of collaboration, but Spinnradl has been the most collaborative on several levels. All of our projects involve a degree of community engagement, artisanry and technical innovation, but Spinnradl sets a new bar on all fronts. We are very grateful to Artworks Cincinnati for inviting us to realize such a robust project and for supporting us so thoughtfully throughout the process over the past year and a half.

I spent the week before last working with the talented crew at the Verdin Company in Cincinnati, assembling and installing the sculptures. We hired Verdin to engineer and fabricate the sculpture’s housing and internal gearing. Verdin has been making clocks and bells in Cincinnati since 1842, and we designed the sculptures around their manufacturing capabilities, knowing that their presence in the Pendleton neighborhood would lead to obvious synergies. Verdin was also responsible for installation, and for coordination with other manufacturers who we had hired to fabricate other components. Indeed, one of the subtexts of the project has been working in collaboration with traditional, craft-based manufacturers, each over 100 years old.

Everything fit together perfectly.

Everything fit together perfectly.

I originally contacted Swiss-based Reuge, the world’s premier music box manufacturer, seeking consultation on building such a large music box. They loved the project and immediately offered to engineer and construct the music-making components at cost. Reuge collaborated with Verdin across the Atlantic, across languages and systems of measurement to produce the music boxes housed within the sculptures. The three engineers who designed and built the components traveled to Cincinnati to assist with assembly and installation. I acted as translator when necessary, dusting off my French as best I could. It helped that I had met two of the engineers when I traveled to Switzerland at the beginning phases of the project.


Drawing on extensive community outreach and research into the history of the neighborhood, Ene designed the ceramic tiles mounted quilt-like to the sculpture’s exterior panels. Rookwood Pottery hand-carved the designs into relief on the tiles, creating custom glazes according to our color specifications. Rookwood has been making high quality Arts and Crafts inspired ceramics in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood since 1880, and it was very satisfying having them work collaboratively with Verdin for the first time.

I will be writing more about the stories behind the sculptures themselves soon. I should have a video clip and images from the dedication ceremony available to share as well. Meanwhile, click here to read an excellent article announcing the Spinnradl dedication, with info about the community engagement process, or click here and scroll down to read my previous posts. You can also see a slide show from the dedication ceremony by clicking here.


Team Reuge traveled from Switzerland.

Team Reuge traveled from Switzerland.



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Spinnradl Update

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2 custom music boxes with 20″ D drums, made in Switzerland by Reuge (phote: Reuge)

Next week I travel to Cincinnati to supervise the assembly and installation of our Spinnradl sculptures, which were commissioned last year by Artworks Cincinnati.  It’s very exciting to see all of the pieces falling into place. I can hardly believe what we’ve all accomplished over the past year, and can’t wait to see the sculptures installed along Pendleton Street. The most challenging and rewarding part of the project has been working collaboratively in designing and fabricating the components with several highly skilled manufacturers, three of which are well over one hundred years old, and two of which are based in Cincinnati. Here is a glimpse of some of the components comprising the sculpture, with links to the companies who made them: (click here to read about the development of Spinnrald by wowhaus)


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(photo: Reuge)

The two music boxes, one for each of two sculptures, each play a different 30 second melody. Made and engineered by REUGE in collaboration with Nicolas Court, Jean-Michel Bolens, Cyril Glauser; Sainte-Croix  –  Switzerland, July 2014

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(photo: Verdin)

The two housings for the Spinnradl sculptures, including all interior gearing, were engineered and made by the Verdin Company in Cincinnati; Jack Klosterman, Tim Verdin, Tim Weitlauf and Larry Flores. Verdin will also install the sculptures.



(photo: Verdin)

The tiles were custom made in Cincinnati by Rookwood Pottery, based upon Ene’s designs, which were inspired by dialogue with the community and research into the history of the neighborhood.



(photo: KVO Industries) 

The 30″ D ceramic-enamel spinning dials for the radial Moire animations were made in California by KVO Industries, from patterns generated by Matthew Hausman.

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Research in Rome


Anna Falchi by the Trevi Fountain while shooting La Dolce Vita

I’m very excited for my trip to Rome tomorrow. I’ve never been, but have a dreamlike sense of the city from cinema and art history. There is so much to see, it’s dazzling. My well-traveled friends say just walk, get lost, lose an evening to Trastevere. I have a list of specific sculptures and buildings to see in Rome related to our Makkeweks Project, and another list for Milan, but I’m hoping to stumble upon my destinations by hazard. Time is tight, so we’ll see.

I have a meeting in Switzerland, in Sainte Croix, to touch base with Reuge, the music box manufacturer who are making components for our Spinnradl Project in Cincinnati. I’ll take a train from Milan and spend a day working with their engineers on the sound-producing components for our 14’ high kinetic sculptures. It should be interesting to arrive in Switzerland for a technical charette after a ramble through ancient Italy.



Schematic rendering of our Spinnradl sculpture(s) for the City of Cincinnati.

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A1 Travel Grants, Mission Chinese, Sea Monsters

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The best days usually aren’t recognizable as such while they are happening, they just flow whether or not you’re paying attention. We often devote so much mental time and energy laying the groundwork for things to go right that we neglect to notice when they do. I had one of those days yesterday, but was thankfully prepared to enjoy it. It helps when you have interesting dinner plans to look forward to. Knowing a good meal and conversation is in the offing helps to frame how you structure the time leading up to it, especially during the precious few, short sunny days of mid-Autumn.

I was invited to dinner at Mission Chinese in San Francisco by my friend Joseph del Pesco and his old pal Al, to celebrate a generous award they’ve bestowed upon me. The duo founded A1 Travel Grants in 2010 to provide Bay Area artists with modest stipends to fund project-related travel. I’m very honored to have been awarded an A1 Travel Grant to study sculptures and paintings depicting sea monsters in Italy. The study will inform the Makkeweks sculpture I’m preparing to make for the City of Oakland this Spring. I’ll begin in Rome, make my way up to Milan, then take a train to Geneva to touch base with Reuge, the Swiss music box manufacturuer who are building the musical components for our Spinnradl project in Cincinnati.


Diagram drawn by Joseph del Pesco over dinner at Mission Chinese. 

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Proof of Concept


Whether the intended outcome is a new sculpture, furniture design or product idea, I often begin the ‘Proof of Concept’ phase with a stroll through the salvage yards. My absolute favorite is Maselli & Sons in Petaluma, CA. With over seven acres of neatly organized machine parts, scrap metal, salvaged tools, motors and hardware, it’s easy to find what you’re looking for, and even easier to find what you had no idea existed but could not do without.


For me, Proof of Concept involves building a working model, with the goal of establishing an idea’s feasibility. Demonstrating Proof of Concept, however schematic in form, makes it much easier to proceed with cost estimates and material requirements, the next steps in planning a production when collaborating with fabricators and engineers. It also often leads to a better idea or technique than originally conceived.


For Spinnradl, I need to prove that a hand-cranked, acoustic music box will produce a decent sound when rendered on a monumental scale. Once I know the components that produce the sound, it’s relatively straightforward to make a repeating melody. For my first experiment I found parts to make a large scale, tuned ‘comb’ of hardened steel, like a giant kalimba. Next I’ll play with how best to amplify the sound by making an integral resonating box.


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Concept rendering of Spinnradl in situ on Pendleton Street in Cincinnati

Ene presented our concept for a series of public street sculptures to the key stakeholders in the City of Cincinnati yesterday. Our ‘Spinnradl’ concept was very enthusiastically received and we have the go-ahead to proceed with a final design. Here is a little archive of the key components comprising the sculptures, beginning with the original narrative I wrote to contextualize our proposal:

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