Cable Tie Cacti

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Introduction: Cable Tie Cacti

This is from a series of work I did several years ago in Los Angeles. Unfortunately I have no assembly photos but I just had to put this in for the Cable Tie Challenge and there's only a few hours left so verbal directions will have to do. Fortunately, it's pretty straight forward.

Step 1: Start With the Center

For any basket makers out there this is simply a coiled basket but with garden hose and cable ties instead of grasses and sinew.
  1. For my center piece to start the basket I used a SS drain plate. The tabs on the bottom I bent outward in the middle to form a hook to hold the first row of garden hose.
  2. Pull an end of the hose from the center of the coil and lay it flat against the cutting board.  
  3. With a SHARP knife or shears, cut the end off the hose at a shallow angle, about 20°, such that the pointed end is on the inside of the natural curve of the hose.
  4. With the point starting at one of the slots in the drain, wrap the hose around once and start around the second time to the outside of the first row.
  5. Fit a cable tie down through the second slot and secure it around both layers of hose so that the end of the tie points outward on the bottom and gently snug but do not tighten at this point.
  6. Keeping the first coil tight, repeat this every other slot 2 or 3 more places. This should give you control of the coils.
  7. Recheck and snug up the first row and tighten the ties in the order you started with but not so tight that you flatten out the coils of hose.
  8. Add ties to the skipped slots and continue around and around building up coils each lashed down to the coil before it. Normally, if you placed the tie on the same side of the tie in the previous row, you would end up with a spiraling pattern of ties. For the cactus, if you look closely you can see that I alternated back and forth to keep the rows of "spines" vertical and perpendicular to the center.
  9. Periodically check to be sure your rows stat evenly spaced.

Step 2: Shaping

  1. Keep the base flat until you get to the size where you want to start shaping your sides up. If you want a tall shape you'll want a square corner for stability but if you want a a short barrel shape like this one a rounded corner will look more natural.
  2. As you start building your coils up, keep the ends of the ties horizontal until they are perpendicular to the surface of your construction and continue as such to the end.
  3. Carefully watch the position of each row in relation to the last. This is what will determine your shape. It's not as easy as it might look from the pieced below but I've had lots of practice AND I'm naturally fussy about such things. If you look closely at the tall one below, you'll see I'm still not perfect yet.
  4. When you reach your final lap, try to make the end at the same point on the circle as your start. Taper the end like you did the start so as to make a smooth transition. 
  5. You'll probably want to trim the end of the last tie or two where the hose tapers down. Since it will be encircling a smaller bundle, the end will be slightly longer than the surrounding ties if you don't
  6. You could be done here...or... 

Step 3: Add Flowers?

... you could add flowers! But, be aware that this part is tricky and requires a little tool making and finesse. 
  1. I used valve handles I got from HD for the flowers. 
  2. Cut a section of leftover hose for the stem and cut a rounded notch to match the shape of the hose where it will be attached.
  3. My valve handles had a roughly 1/4" square hole in the middle. too attach these "flowers" take a longer cable tie and feed it between two coils from the inside out where you want the flower. Run it through the "stem" section and through the center of the "flower".  So it won't simply pull back through, you'll need to run it through a bead or around a peg, that's larger than the hole and then back through the hole and the stem and into the basket on the other side of the section of coil you're mounting it to.
  4. Connect the cable tie inside and carefully tighten it up. You may have to wiggle the flower assembly back and forth a little to get everything to shift and tighten up.
  5. Repeat as desired.

Step 4: Cool, Clear, Water...

These cactus, are work I did in 2004 before I left Los Angeles. Water is becoming a huge issue in the western US as it is in many places around the globe. I felt the use of garden hose with the iconic image of the cactus set up a very powerful conversation between form and material that addresses many issues of water waste and conservation. Cactus is of course a strong symbol of both lack of water and careful water conservation at the same time. The spines even speak to the rather prickly and defensive nature of the topic. On the materials side the garden hose speaks to the rampant waste of water by resorts and home owners by trying to impose lawns on the very environment the cactus comes from. The valve handles represent the many choices to conserve or waste that we all make every day. As a little bonus surprise, when you look straight down into the cactus you find a drain at it's center that reminds us that scarce and valuable water is getting away from us and going down the drain on a daily basis. To drive the point home I installed these pieces on dead sod.

Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that if it dies in the gallery without any sun, it doesn't turn brown! So throughout the exhibit, one knew the grass was supposed to be dead. :-\  

Oh well, live and learn. ;-)

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    44 Comments

    It's not nice to encourage people to rip off an artists designs and sell them.

    I wish I could have been at your exhibition. It looks fantastic!

    Oh, my gosh, how cute is this!

    My mum is a professional gardener and even she thought it was a cactus from afar.

    You can buy them in stores. ;-) Look them up on the internet or from electronics parts distributors. I get them in bags of 1000. I think one bag should cover something this size.

    Wow thats only 1000! I would think it would be over 5000.

    Counting the rings and multiplying by 32 ties per circuit, I'd guess this one uses about 800.

    Thank you so much, I will definately make one of those for my girlfriend as a christmas present :D

    someone has tooooo much time on theirhands

    Interesting artistic message, interesting medium. Glad to hear that these sold well.

    Absolutely Brilliant, love them all.

    These are amazing, could they be made into a bird box to be mounted on a wall?

    1 reply

    Yes, but as I mentioned in another reply, the white cable ties and even the hose won't last forever outside. This is really just basic coiled basket construction and you can build up almost any shape you can imagine. Try googling "coiled basket directions" to see how it works.

    These are totally awesome and I especially like the faucet handle flowers! Would have liked to see a few more pictures of the interim steps, but I love the outcome!

    1 reply

    Unfortunately these were projects that were finished and sold several years ago. I learned of the zip tie contest just a few hours before it was to end and had no time to create a new piece to show individual steps. I was as thorough as I could be with the verbal directions. There are a few clarifications in the comments but I think a skilled builder should be able to create a cactus from what I wrote.

    For the small cacti, how long of a hose did you use per level?

    1 reply

    Multiply the average diameter by pi (3.14) and then by the number of coils. I use 50' hoses. That will make a small one with leftover and the large barrel above used 2. If you finish one and need to start another, cut the end square on both the end and the new one so you don't have a gap. Make the joint at a place where it will be covered by a tie and don't pull it too tight. I rolled up some scrap 35mm film about a foot or two long and slipped it inside the joint to back up and support it.