Here are all the Church of Ceiling Cat photos I know of. I was planning to take more on Sunday night, but we ended up taking everything down on Sunday morning.

My original idea was to produce a Really Tall Dome. When I realized how much effort and metal that would take, I scaled back my plans to be a somewhat tall dome.

The trick to producing a tall geodesic dome is to go elliptical. Most domes are based on a sphere, which means they’re roughly half as tall as they are wide (the exact ratio depends on the frequency of dome you’re building and where you truncate it.) Mine was a 2v class 1 icosahedron (all of which is pretty standard for a small dome at Burning Man) except based on an ellipse of eccentricity 2. It was 15.5 feet tall and 15.5 feet wide.

I built the dome out of 18 20′ pieces of 3/4" galvanized structural steel tubing and 6 10′ pieces of 3/4" EMT. I didn’t realize that the T in "EMT" actually stands for "pipe". A tube, by definition, is measured by its outer diameter. So 3/4" tube is 3/4" on the outside and something less on the inside and something more on the outside. 3/4" pipe, and 3/4" EMT, is 3/4" on the inside. Therefore EMT is pipe. So I ended up with some struts that were fatter than others, slightly less strong, but more rigid. Oh well.

The top of the dome had cat ears (analogous to the cross on Christian churches), and was covered with a parachute for wind and weather protection. I also cut some cat eyes out of cardboard and installed colour-changing LED spotlights behind them.

Inside this dome I built an actual drop ceiling, which took one box of 2′ x 4′ office ceiling tiles cut to fairly odd shapes. I left a 4′ x 4′ hole in the middle, and installed a fluorescent fixture over it.

From the hole hung Ceiling Cat Himself. He was made from 2 4′ x 8′ sheets of white coroplast painted with various colours of Pebeo Vitrea. To paint Him, I projected the Papercraft Ceiling Cat onto the coroplast, 7′ 3" wide. This resulted in a 4′ wide cat when folded.

All in all, it was a fun art project and I’m glad it came together. It was a lot of work in the week before Burning Man (I flew down early and built everything in San Francisco rather than ship hundreds of pounds of metal) and a lot of work getting it assembled on the playa, but it was enjoyable work. I’m not sure very many people understood what it was (I neglected to put up a sign) but really, who can’t appreciate a 4′ tall glowing Cat hanging from a Ceiling in the middle of the desert?

We were going to put a mattress in the dome so people could hang out in comfort, but that fell through. Nevertheless, the dome was put to good use by random burners. Among other things Ceiling Cat got to Watch:

  • On Wednesday night, a juggler showed up – he didn’t want to juggle outdoors, and the Ceiling was tall enough for him.
  • On Friday, the Church acquired its first organist. Some guy showed up with a deck chair and a synthesizer and was playing ambient music. Sadly he had fallen asleep by the time I stopped by to talk to him.
  • Caturday evening, I walked by and saw 4 people standing under the glowing Cat, hugging.

So now what? The dome and cover are in storage in San Francisco. I’ll think of a use for them by next year – probably a deep playa art project with cool lights. Ceiling Cat himself has been carefully folded and packaged and is now visiting jbailey and auzure_skies‘s apartment in Mountain View. Hopefully He’ll make it to Montréal soon!