About the Artist

Hello!  I'm Kiki.  Someone told me they thought the person who built the Firefall was a guy, so I figured I better clear that up!

Along those lines, I feel the Firefall is very much an expression of femininity -- compare the Firefall to, say, S. R. L., which is gloriously masculine.  I could tell you more about what the Firefall symbolizes to me, but, honestly, I feel that clutters the issue, and I'd rather hear from other people what the Firefall means to them.

My backgrounds in computer programming.  I programmed since I was 13.  But when I got out into the "real world", I didn't really enjoy programming on a team.  I realized that real world programming is more like puzzle-solving, whereas, the kind of programming that I enjoyed most was taking an idea and expressing it in programming language.  I realized that I enjoy building things more than I enjoy fixing things.

From college, I first worked on CD ROM games at a computer animation company.  When the CD ROM division shutdown, I moved into the feature division, working on full-length, computer-generated animated movies.  What I loved most about this time in my career was building 3-D computer models of animated characters.  Again, I love building things.

People tended to accept my art background more readily than my computer background.  When I was younger, it was difficult for me to get respect as a woman in computer science, so I tended to hide my art background.  It's only recently that I've become comfortable admitting that I'm an artist.

The first time I attended Burning Man was in 1998.  I dove right in and joined Pepe's Opera, the Temple of Rudra.  I went out to the Playa two weeks early for a week to work on building the opera stage, and overnight became a hard-core Burner!

As what happens with Burning Man yearlings, my second year I wanted to build a massive art project.

In the summer of 1998, I was on a camping trip with my friend Leslie Picardo.  He brought all the camping equipment, so I did my part and bought the fuel for his camp stove.  But his stove wouldn't light.  We discovered that someone had returned the fuel filled with water.  Disappointed, we emptied his stove out into a paper cup.  Having nothing to do, and nothing to eat, Leslie lit the cup.  The fuel burned down to the level of the water in the cup, and then stopped.  I thought to myself, "that's kinda cool!"  In January 1999, I started doing experiments in my bathtub [it being entirely tiled, and nonflammable.] I wanted to see if I could maintain the flame on a moving stream of water.  I did many experiments, working my way until I completed my first Firefall -- the Ceramic Thing.  I completed it around March, but realized it was way too small for Burning Man!

My original idea for the Cauldron was to have a one tier fountain, about two feet wide at the top, and maybe four feet wide at the bottom.  I wanted it to be like an Italian Piazza fountain, but on fire!  Ideally, I wanted the water to come out of the mouths of lions...

I went to AAA salvage with my friend Loren.  We explored the entire place, but found nothing appropriate.  As we were leaving, I saw this massive stainless-steel bowl on the top of the shelf near the exit.  It was far bigger than I wanted, and I knew if I bought it that I was getting myself into a whole lot of trouble!  The top bowl determines everything else.  If the top bowl is very large, everything else has to be very large too!  I knew I was crazy, but it was so beautiful, and in many ways so perfect -- I felt I had no choice!  So I bought it, and built it into the Cauldron, which is still running today.  There are many more Firefalls in my head than I have time to build!

The thing I'm most proud of about the Firefall, however, and the Cauldron in particular, is the engineering of the whole thing.  For instance, with the Ceramic Thing, I didn't use a pump to pump the fuel.  I used water coming from the water pump to pump the fuel.  With the Cauldron, I'm very proud that it can be disassembled and transported fairly easily.  There are similar engineering details in a neon project I did in college, called ColorSpace.  It is also easy to disassemble and transport.  To most people, these things are not very interesting, but to me, I find them very beautiful.

Be sure to check out my other projects as well!

Here's a page of photos of me and the firefall.