The Speaking Spokes idea is five days old. Not quite old enough to stand up. But old enough to be pulling open cupboards and having opinions. So here I present what I have come up with so far, a wobbly working towards creation. An idea that hopes to combine interaction and projection mapping, with poems, a bicycle wheel and two wooden hands. Something that is to be “ready” in five weeks’ time. I’m curious myself as to what it will look like.

And I’m excited about this idea.

A Wheel is a Big Idea   

Hieronymous Bosch -The Garden of Earthly Delights

                                                                                                                                              What I like about using a bicycle wheel from my garden, is not just that I feel vindicated for preferring clutter (I bet Hieronymus Bosch didn’t have Marie Condo style living quarters) and repurposing (what a horrible word), but because a Wheel is both a practical device for moving – and – a big multi-layered symbol that has meanings across many different cultures. I love things with multitudes of meaning. More to play with. Plus, these multitudes can be accommodated in one single device, which gives me an unaccountable satisfaction.





Symbol of the Sun to a Rack for Torture                                                                                                       

Poem Possibilities

The Wheel – symbol for change and its inevitability, repetition, cycles of the seasons, the circle of totality, cosmic whole, time and space, a place to be tortured (on a rack), Vitruvian man, stuck in a rut, the spinning wheel, potter’s wheel, millstone, wheel of fortune, wheel of life, Hindu and Buddhist symbol, with the stable centre and the spokes the spokes of wisdom, Egyptian symbol of the sun, shape of the car industry in Coventry…. There’s a lot in a wheel.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                


Resemblances and Echoes                                                                                                                               


And then there are resemblances and echoes – with the wheel being a circle and all the meanings that are attached to the circle (everything and nothing, wholeness, the sun, the moon, earth, mandala, rose window….). And then all visual echoes in the shape of the circle: from jammy dodgers to the big wheel, eyes, smiley emoticons and fried eggs….There’s a huge amount in a wheel. And then there’s the poetry echoes …e.g. in TS Eliot…. And the word associations: wheelies and wheelie bins…..



This Inclination                                                                                                                                                                                 

Left to my own devices, when I don’t have to consider what other people might want/need/like, my inclination is to find out more about the world and try to make sense of it/remake it creatively. When I’m excited by an idea (as in the Wheel) lots of poems tend to arrive. This makes me happy. Because it gives me a buzz. And whether the poem is good or not so good it doesn’t matter, because the buzz does not discriminate. It gives me a real excitement seeing words come together in poems in unexpected ways (it’s nothing like writing a blog) and then seeing the world differently, and then having images suggested by the words that I can then do something with, as in draw, Photoshop, animate, make.

About 14 Haikus                                                                                                                                                        

Looking at the debris around me, I think I’ve written about 14 short poems (mainly Haikus) in the last two days. I can’t tell yet whether they are useable or not. Too soon for the cold blue eye to kick in. But I do know I’ll have enough to make something with. I’ve written up some notes with very early stage ideas possibilities for images connected with these poems. (I’ve included some in the notes here).

What Will be in the Wheel?                                                                                                                          

Right now I’m thinking the wheel will be a projection stage for showing the poems and moving images. (Though I might have the poems appearing outside the wheel…will have to see what things look like when projected).  There will be moving lips in the hub of the wheel (inspired by the Beckett Not I Performance by Billie Whitelaw, which is mesmerising – and some projection experiments I did a few weeks ago using plaster cast lips.) The spokes I hope will be coloured by projection mapping with animation to look as if the words are being spoken out of the hub of the moving mouth. And images in the wheel will connect with the poems.   

I mentioned the Wheel idea a few days ago to Antonio Roberts, and consequently we spent a mentor session going through Inkscape possibilities for making wheel shapes, and then seeing how this wheel image could be animated in Synfig. That was very useful – and it is also increasing my Inkscape skills, particularly as Antonio very helpfully sent a screen video recording so I could go through things afterwards. I’ve also been experimenting with using text and image together for Haikus and this is a good base to move from (e.g. This Spencer poem visual).

Wheel image demo on Inkscape with Antonio Roberts

How the Hand will Fit in with the Wheel                                                                                                                           

Laser cut hands made at Juneau Projects workshop

Feeling chuffed about making the laser cut hand. Photo by Emma Lannie

Wanting to incorporate the Arduino technology to bring in an interactive aspect – and laser cutting, because that is a good thing to know about, I thought, I know, I’ll have a hand. Then I thought two hands. (Most of us need hands to ride a bike – so there’s that connection). Now I’m thinking, I’ll do enough stuff for one hand and if there’s time I’ll do the other one. Having a hand would connect the wheel content with a person. Touching a finger would trigger a poem and the images associated with the poem. Each finger would trigger a different poem (hopefully sound and image together).

So – five poems for five fingers, or ten for ten.



I did think of using motion sensitive technology. Now I’m thinking maybe just the touch sensitive technology. I need to speak to Nikki Pugh about the practicalities and what the options are and still give myself time to order and get hold of any specific tech kit. There isn’t long. I can’t hang about. In the mean-time I can be developing the content.

Lips as Intermission                                                                                                                                                                     

The lips would be the “intermission” image in the wheel hub, the indicator that some words will be spoken by the spokes, perhaps preceded by the animation similar to the one made as an example by Antonio in the session. Then there will be the changing channels for the poems with the fingers. (I do love this idea).

I’m finding it pretty amazing that I’m thinking of making something with an Arduino and projection mapping. Two things I knew nothing about only a couple of months ago.  As the Wheel says, “Things Change!”.  If it works, or even if it partly works, I will be mightily pleased.   


Mary Courtney

Juneau Projects

Antonio Roberts

Nikki Pugh

Free Open Source Software Used

Gifmaker – for making short gif video clips

Shotcut – for making longer and higher resolution videos

Synfig – for 2D animation

Inkscape – for making vector images and drawings, including those ready to make into laser cut objects

MapMap – for projection mapping