Butterfly Asteroid is the story of the transcendence of nature depicted through the meeting of the Limenitis Arthemis Butterfly and the Itokawa Asteroid (25143). At first glance, we may consider the clear contrast in size, scale and life form among these two things, however, in fact, they share a long narrative. The asteroid and the butterfly are characterized by flight and while the life history of these objects differ, their patterns of flight are both the result of a metamorphosis, the asteroid, the oldest remnant dislodged in the making of our solar system and the butterfly from caterpillar to a fine armature engineered for levitation. These subjects also have a known repeated journey in space and time, the butterfly with its annual migration and the asteroid with its predicable orbit.
The materials used to make the butterfly and the asteroid also carry a story of transformation. The wings are made from quarter sawn steamed beech veneer, selected for its pinkish warm tone and rice size, cinnamon colored grain. Starting at twenty thousandth of an inch thick, the fine relief is a product of laser engraving on both sides, reducing the veneer to the state of translucency. Backlit by the asteroid, the glowing beech grain reinvents itself as a luminous wing. The butterflies’ solid bronze bodies, a product of a series of steps, starting with 3D scanning of a real Limenitis Arthemis body and ending with a traditional lost wax technique, hold the fine wings and connect to the asteroid.
Here, the bronze’s strength, detail and color, realized through craft of its maker,yields a body of one to one scale, remaking nature’s fine structure in metal permanence. In order to maintain the exact to scale model of Itokawa (25143), fiberglass was placed in square patches over Styrofoam, sculpted by a CNC router from a 3D scan of the asteroid. The foam removed, the light inside the remaining thin asteroid shell penetrates the built up layers of fibers, illuminating the cracks, crevices and craters disseminated by the fibers, rendering a glowing cosmic moon.
Butterfly Asteroid results from a hybrid of digital and hand crafted techniques. As the rise of the internet revolution made the world “flat” and connected us, the advance of digital capturing and making tools has made the world “vertical” and returned us to an era of the “master builder” whereas the author can have a more direct influence on the design build process. The fluidity of the digital design to production methods can yield singular products of the finest scale and detail not otherwise possible through the time and cost of traditional fabrication techniques. While the new era of design gives the author more artistic license, it is the makers that define the ultimate craft, with both a knowledge of new machinery and production as well as traditional making methods past over generations. It is the marriage of the new craft and the old craft that defines Butterfly Asteroid.