Introduction: Trends in Water Use - Data Sculpture Process Book

TRENDS IN WATER USE is a data sculpture that visualizes national water consumption statistics in the United States over 50 years, from 1950 - 2000. The width of the canyon walls is determined by how much water was consumed and each river or tributary represents a specific category of water use based on the USGS report; Thermoelectric Power, Irrigation, Industrial, Public Supply, Domestic, and Mining/Aquaculture/Livestock/Rural (combined). The shape of the canyon as seen from above is derived from a map of the Colorado River in its entirety and it’s main tributary, the Green River, as well as three smaller tributaries - accounting for all water (fresh and saline) withdrawn in the United States each day: 408,000 million gallons.

This Instructable documents the process of design and fabrication of this sculpture, created by Adrien Segal in 2011.

Step 1: USGS Report : Data Source for Water Consumption Statistics

Step 2: Water Consumption Statistics in the US

This is a page directly out of the USGS report that shows the different categorical uses of water in the United States, as well as the percentage of total water consumed in the year 2000. Roughly 47% of all water consumed (fresh and saline) is used for thermoelectric power (48%), followed by irrigation (34%), pubic supply (11%), industry (5%), and aquaculture / mining / domestic use / livestock (2%).

Step 3: Table of Data

This table lists the different categorical uses and the amounts used dating back to 1950 in 5 year increments. The highlighted green rows of the table are measurements I used to drive the form of the sculpture. The elevation drawing shows that the widths of the canyon walls are determined by the actual amount of water used. The vertical axis is Time (1950-2000) and the horizontal is Water Use Levels, measured in 1000 million gallons per day.

Step 4: Categorical Uses Assigned to River Tributaries

These images show that the shape of the sculpture from a birds-eye view was derived from a map of the Colorado River and it's tributaries from source to the ocean. Each section of the river was assigned a category of use - the Colorado River represents Thermoelectric Power. The Green River, the Colorado's main tributary, represents Irrigation, and the three smaller tributaries represent the Industrial, Domestic, and remaining categorical water uses.

Step 5: Concept Design and Modeling

Design sketching is an important part of my process, taking a rough idea of what forms and shapes will be derived from the data and translating that into a three-dimensional concept that tells the story through physical engagement. I will then create a model that is true to the data in order to problem solve scale, proportion, materials, and methods for fabrication. Shown is a 1/4 scale model made from MDF.

Step 6: Data Translation Into Form

The process of translating data from numbers into forms is complex. This imagery shows a computer model of the final sculpture built with layers of sheet material. The parts are then extracted from the model and can be accurately cut.

Step 7: Cutting the Parts

For a full description of the fabrication processes I explored in making this piece, visit this blog post:

The parts were not cut with a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine. Why not?

If you have ever programmed a CNC router or other tool, you would know that it takes quite a bit of time on a computer. In this case, I am not mass-producing the finished sculpture, and don't need to make multiples. It does not matter if the edges of the parts are smooth and perfect because they will be shaped later in the fabrication process. I attempted to water jet cut some of the parts at Autodesk's Pier 9 Workshop(shown in the photo) and had multi-day set-backs due to machine maintenance issues.

Ultimately, it takes the same amount of cut time (and significantly less resources and programming) to cut the parts on a bandsaw by hand. And its way more satisfying to do it yourself than to watch a machine run. Once the parts are cut, I stack laminate and glue them into solid shapes that are ready to be carved.

See my instructable titled "6 Tips for Cutting Complex Curves on a Bandsaw" if you want to see how I cut the parts:

Step 8: Shaping

Once the pieces are glued into solid stacks, the shaping begins. I have several specialty tools made for removing material - a 4 1/2" angle grinder with an aggressive grinding attachment called the "Holey Gallahad", a 2" Arbortech mini grinder with several different attachments for shaping tighter curved areas, and finally a pneumatic die grinder with different shapes of carbide burr attachments for detail carving.

Step 9: Sanding

Once shaped, all surfaces are sanded by hand to a smooth surface, before being coated with a protective finish.

Step 10: Tributary Detail

Step 11: Finished Sculpture With Steel Base

The three separate plywood parts are all attached to a sheet steel base cut precisely to shape on a water jet cutter. They are securely bolted to the base of the table.

Step 12: Detail From Above

Step 13: Gallery Installation

Step 14: Artist Statement

Investigating places where humans and nature overlap, I create art as a means of inquiry, to challenge our understanding of the natural world and our complex and evolving relationship with the environment.

Taking an interdisciplinary approach that integrates scientific research, data visualization, aesthetic interpretation, and materiality, my work seeks to reconcile scientific conventions of reason and fact with an intuitive sensory experience. My design method begins with extensive research, collection, and analysis of information. I interpret the complexity of natural systems by translating scientific data into lines, shapes, forms, and materials to reveal trends, patterns, processes, and relationships as three-dimensional sculptures.

Starting with data as a conceptual basis, I seek to reimagine scientific inquiry as aesthetically engaging objects that reveal the unseen, the transcendent, and the poetic. My work is intended to affectively engage viewers by evoking feelings of wonder, curiosity, and consciousness about the natural world, while creating a place for contemplation about the landscape and our inherent connection to it.

Step 15: BIO

Adrien Segal received a BFA in Furniture Design from California College of the Arts in 2007. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums, and is published in several books and academic journals, including Gestaltin’s Data Flow Series, Boom: A Journal of California, and Conservation Magazine, a University of Washington publication. Adrien has held Artist Residencies at the Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland, The Lucid Arts Foundation in Northern California, the Bunnell Street Art Center in Homer, Alaska, and at Autodesk’s Pier 9 Workshop in San Francisco. In addition to teaching, she pursues a creative practice out of her studio on the former Naval Base in Alameda, CA.

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