The “Welcome to Mystery” Gala and Auction promised mystery, and it was delivered as a beautiful model of a steampunk airship – now resident at Falling Rivers Gallery. Measuring eight feet long, over three feet wide, and around eight feet tall, it is the largest known steampunk airship model in existence.
Designed and built by local artist Ed Lipe and based on significant input from a design committee, the airship was constructed to celebrate and recognize the artists, patrons and donors that support Falling Rivers Gallery and the Stanly Arts Guild and keep the visual arts alive in Stanly County.
The Planning Phase
Planning for the airship and the Gala began in December 2016, and a prototype airship was delivered to the committee in early 2017 to help understand the size and scale of the vessel, as well as to understand the building challenges for creating a complex hull at such a small scale. This was the first ship hull that Lipe had ever constructed, so there was quite a learning curve.
The Building Phase
The final basic hull design was completed on paper in April, and work started on the ship in earnest shortly thereafter. Multiple trips to the local hardware store were needed as the components were identified and incorporated
The design was tweaked in places as the final form came to life and the cabin was tailored to blend with the hull shape.
However, the balloon portion of the ship was getting a late start, so a “quick” solution was developed – to use large exercise balls as the main component, capturing them in a frame that matched the ship materials. Once a design was chosen, the balloon structure came together quickly – which was good because it was completed only days before the party.
Final assembly of the airship in the gallery began on Thursday, June 15th, with the Gala planned for the upcoming Saturday. The balloons were installed and hoisted into position on Thursday, the ship was brought in and mounted on Friday, and the final touches were made Saturday morning before the Gala that evening.
Steampunk Airship Features
The Gala attendees all enjoyed the airship “mystery”, and all its great features, including button-tufted upholstery, a bubbling engine, a working propeller and running lights on the balloon.