A crucial step in working on the canoe has been the design of a cradle. The canoe has to rest on something in the gallery, after all. It is such an important component of the project that it took me months to properly conceptualize and build a prototype. A major breakthrough was stumbling upon a birch bark canoe on display at Kitchener City Hall.
The cradle is designed so that the canoe interior is the focus of the display, which is precisely the design needed for “Myth of the Steersman.” The angle of the canoe also suggests a possible capsizing, which is also an effect I am trying to achieve with the project.
This side view reveals the basic design for the cradle, which provides a surprisingly solid grasp on the canoe. Of course, in a gallery setting, where people are being invited to touch the canoe, we will need a more secure method of tethering the canoe to the cradle.
My first plan was to simply build a prototype based on the photograph above, but with the help of Cheryl York at the City of Kitchener, I managed to get in touch with the designer of the cradle, Mike Proksch. As luck would have it, Mike still had the form he used to design the cradle, and he was generous enough to lend it to me. This led to the easy creation of a prototype, with a slightly different angle.
After months of agonizing, it all came down to a 2×4 and a half-sheet of plywood. Thanks, Mike! Of course, the final version will have to stand 18 inches taller, look a whole lot prettier than this prototype, and include a storage box for the computers that make the project work. But Mike’s canoe cradle was a gigantic step.