A Hotel for Birds

JONAH HAMMEN

As we approach the end of another school year, art & design students across the board are scrambling to finish the ten or so final projects assigned just before the semester’s conclusion. From giant animals made of cardboard to course portfolios, anything and everything extravagant is being crammed into this terminal month. Despite the incredible stress, however, some people just can’t help themselves and decide to go all out on their projects anyway, regardless of their current workload.

This passionate attitude toward creating exactly belongs to comics & sequential arts student, Johnathan Raschke. Amidst his many other pieces in progress, Raschke is well on his way to constructing a very for his 3D Design course. The original project was to craft a birdhouse out of wood and create a bird character to go along with it, the animal’s personality mimicking the appearance of their home. Students wrote a number of personality and occupational traits to begin and then had several randomly assigned to them. Of the ten or so traits Raschke received, ‘chases children’ was the one that stood out to him especially.

“I initially thought about having it be a narcissistic bird ‘cause one of the other traits was ‘stares at itself in the mirror,’ but then I had a better idea. I’m actually going to have a family of birds who run this hotel; they were known for doing witchcraft and, as the story goes, the villagers wanted to put an end to it and interrupted one of their rituals, resulting in a curse being set on the entire hotel. No one can leave, even the family who runs it. It’s kinda like Hotel California!” Raschke went on to describe how he also chose the ‘chases children’ trait, which he gradually morphed into giving his family of birds a cannibalistic edge. Seeing as they can’t leave either, they lure unsuspecting birds into the hotel and feast on them for sustenance.

With his story and characters set in place, Raschke set to work at making the complicated hotel structure a reality. He first roughly sized out each house, crafting an octopus-esque design in which six mini hotel rooms branch off from a larger, central reception desk. He worked out all the necessary measurements and created a to-scale cardboard replica of his design. Now, in his final two weeks, he’ll have to craft all his plans out of wood and prepare it for display.

“The most difficult part will be figuring out the angles of the hexagonal shapes that make up each room. That and figuring out how to suspend it in the air so the bridges translate…and it doesn’t fall apart.” Raschke said all of this with just as much worry as he did enthusiasm. He wouldn’t have it any other way because, “I’m me.” And that tirelessly hard-working sentiment, whether you agree that it’s healthy or not, seems to be held by many Art & Design students; it’s part of the reason why you see a life-size camel made of cardboard on the second floor of the applied arts building or why a costume decorated in hundreds of individually-cut straws flaunted its way down the runway in the recent Fashion Without Fabric show. It’s the reason both faculty and fellow students here at University of Wisconsin-Stout can feel excited for what colorful, painstaking, complex, and bizarre works of passion will come out of next year’s artists.

Until then, I suppose!