Inflatable master had ‘whale’ of a time at Beakerhead

Mixed media artist Luke Egan landed in Calgary from the United Kingdom to collaborate with ACAD and SAIT as a part of this year’s Beakerhead on Sept. 13, 2017.

Egan, also known as Filthy Luker, placed a rocketship and paintbrush pop-up project just by the traffic corridor shared between SAIT and ACAD’s C-train platform.

“Both schools have the arts and science programs, so the connection between the rocket and paintbrush represents that,” he said.

There’s a meaning behind the rocket placed at ACAD, he said.

“The rocket represents ceasing hate and the handprint on the centre symbolizes love and anti-violence.”

Egan and has dedicated his work in the U.K. to make inflatable sculptures with his partner, Pete Estrellas since the early 1990’s.

The two run an inflatable design company called Designs in Air, and have produced numerous projects worldwide.

Originally made for the Paralympic Opening Ceremony in 2012, a life-sized inflatable sperm whale, Spunky, made a comeback in Beakerhead’s night parade on Sept. 16.

“Spunky is covered in thousands of lights. It sparkles all over it’s body, which is why I decided to showcase it at night,” said Egan.

“Filthy Luke described it as life-sized on Facebook, but I say it was a juvenile size,” said Brittany Nguyen, one of the many people to encounter the inflatable.

“When people think of art, they usually think paintings, but Luke expresses his art and expressions with his sculptures.” – Brittany Nguyen

Jose Villela, another audience member, said that Spunky reminded him of the stars.

“They showed it during the night, so from far away the lights beaming from the whale looked like the stars,” he said.

One of the volunteers, Ted Scharff, who helped set up Serpent Mother and Spunky, said the inflatable was lighter than it looks.

“Because the whale was full of air, it was easy to carry around despite its large size.”

During Scharff’s time volunteering at Beakerhead, he said the whale and Serpent Mother were the biggest attractions.

When Egan and Estrellas are not designing new inflatables, they showcase their art on the street, creating a humourous atmosphere.

The two started out in a small studio in Bristol, U.K., and received requests from nightclubs, festivals and outdoor events, and eventually went international with Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival.

The new business that was started by scratch, but Egan and Estrellas didn’t make much money.

Egan said they couldn’t make stuff and manage the business at the same time, so they hired a few friends made it a proper business.

The progress of designing inflatables are multiple trial and errors and is quite stressful because of experiments with

Egan said designing inflatables is a trial and error process and is quite stressful because of experiments with different shapes, forms and functions.

The materials are planned out with 3D design software to create more complex inflatable sculptures and objects with the help of his team of seamstresses and technicians.

The materials and fabrics Egan uses for his inflatables are nylon, polyester, and other materials used in kites.

“Inflatables travel really well, they deflate so you can pack them into small trucks and planes,” said Egan.

Egan may come back to Beakerhead next year but it’s still too early to announce it.

“Around late November is when Beakerhead contacts the artists and scientists for next year’s event,” said Mary-Anne Moser, the head of sponsorships and donations at Beakerhead.

“It’s still too early to say, but we hope to see even bigger and bolder creations with Luke Egan.”

About Thao Bui 3 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Thao Bui worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2017-18 academic year.