Why Go Solar?

Flies in Garden

Flies in Garden

Once in awhile, someone asks me: How did you ever come up with the idea of making a giant solar-powered acrylic dragonfly? Well, like many artists, I’m not sure. It just came into my head!

Recently though, I was fortunate to have the garden editor of Cleveland’s The Plain-Dealer ask me this question. Wow! I had to come up with something better than “It just came into my head!”

So I thought about it, and here is what I said:

I’m a self-taught artist. I’ve been a hang glider pilot since I was 20. I’m 61. In my mid-20s, I began making balanced wire sculptures that moved in the wind. I used some of the principles I picked up building hang gliders (in the early 70s, you had to make your own!). I also enjoyed several years in Florida, where I sailed, snorkeled and swam. Inspired by flight and wind, my themes in my sculptural work tend toward natural creatures that fly or swim.

My booth!

My booth!

About 15 year ago, I began adding stained glass to my pieces. I love the bright color, and the way light moves through the glass, and it doesn’t fade and its waterproof, so I can use it outdoors.

As a result of these techniques, all of my sculptures are movable, waterproof and rust-proof — so they can all be displayed outdoors.

Dragonflies were one of my first sculptures. They are amazing aerialists: They fly straight up or down, backwards, stop and hover and make hairpin turns — at their full speed of 30mph, or in slow motion. They’re also structurally intriguing and brightly colored.

Dark blue stained glass dragonfly

Dark blue stained glass, copper, solder and glass gem dragonfly. 8″ x 8″ x 1″

For years, I have been making a popular 8” stained-glass-and-brass dragonfly that sets on a 3-foot pole, and moves in a breeze in the garden.

For years, I have also placed candle-holders behind my larger pieces for a “dancing light” effect.

And, for years, I have been stringing LED lights behind my larger pieces, also to create that “dancing light” effect.

So about five years ago, when I saw solar rope lights appearing in stores, I thought “cool, no power cord! My sculptures could go anywhere they want to go!” And, of course, “they look like eyes!”

Over the past three years, I’ve been adapting my small dragonfly sculpture to a larger scale.

Peering at the giant dragonflies

Giant dragonflies attract lots of attention at Artsplosure in Raleigh, NC, May 2013

First, I found a source of fade-proof, fluorescent acrylic for the wings, and began making them, on a band saw, by hand, using a pattern of my own design.

Then, every year, I refined the pattern. This winter, I redrew the wing shape to be more elegant and accurate, curled the tail, etched the wings, and experimented with different ways to string the rope lights — for maximum beauty and colorful blinking effect.

This spring, I unveiled this, I think final and best, design at juried art shows in the Southeast and Midwest.

Solar Fish At Night

Solar Fish At Night

Now, I have solar acrylic dragonflies and butterflies, a new 8-foot-wide solar dragonfly, and a new 6-foot-wide solar fish. These dragonflies and butterflies will maintain their beautiful color for many years (click here for more information and pictures).

I’m delighted to see that so many people have enjoyed them. And I have been really excited by customers from past years stopping by the booth and saying “I love my dragonfly!”

Here’s more information about the dragonflies, butterflies, and other solar creatures I have made, or might make, in the future:

They are made of fade-resistant acrylic (top quality), non-rusting metals such as aluminum and stainless steel, and the LED lights are rated up to at least 20,000 hours.

Fluorescent pink dragonfly, solar powered, 4' x 4' x 4'

Fluorescent pink dragonfly, solar powered, 4′ x 4′ x 4′

They can be used on decks, in lawns or flower beds, or hung on a wall, or hung from a tree! (The pole that holds them up is very easily removed.)

The dragonflies come in dark and medium blue, purple, fluorescent green, fluorescent pink, fluorescent orange, emerald green, red, amber and yellow.

Hardly any installation and almost no maintenance, other than perhaps replacing their rechargeable batteries, every two or three-ish years, is required.

To install, pound a piece of rebar, about 2 feet long, into the ground as deep as possible. Set the hollow steel pole we provide over it. Using a block of wood to protect the top of the pole, pound the steel pole into the ground, as deep as possible. Pulling the rope lights and decorative acrylic pieces aside, place the bolt we provide through the hole in the tail, and set the bolt into the top of the hollow pole. Turn on the lights (located beneath the “eyes”) and you’re good to go!

I charge $165. A $20 hanging kit to hang the dragonfly from a flagpole or tree, can be added to your order, at your request.

Most days, we also offer nearly 24-7 customer service by phone, email or skype, to talk you through assembly and installation, or answer questions or concerns.

Pink and green fluorescent solar dragonflies in the garden, 4' x 4' x 4'

Pink and green fluorescent solar dragonflies in the garden, 4′ x 4′ x 4′

They truly are a unique, low-maintenance addition to a garden – colorful and delightful!