Electric Naga – LED performance costume & wearable electronics

Its hard for me to begin to describe this piece or where it fits in my practice its a “side project”. For years  I believed I had to keep my multidisciplinary arts practice divided – I don’t know why  I kept my design/ computer geek separate from my persona as a dancer and props manipulator (flow or fire artist) and my fine arts practice well away from both.

But she called out to be made anyhow.

I have always drawn characters from myth and legend the naga is no different. Nagas are part snake part human, they crop up all over East Asia , in Thailand and India and can often be seen at temple gates as guardian spirits.

initial drawings

I always start with drawings, initial concept art : theses wereelectric naga pretty rough and were followed by the first attempt at the mask.

electric naga






naga prototype1The first attempt at the mask was in fact an epic failure allow quite beautiful it was just to large to wear and didn’t address the need to stay on my head. Though I did like that it was made out of cardboard. The nose was too long to be manageable and on the whole it was far to fragile to cope with being used in a performance after breaking it a few times  I changed the base so  i had something that would firmly attach to my head. A friend suggested I use a foot ball helmet so I started again.

Naga head
Mask #2 was much better  made on a foam base decorated or rather encrusted with post consumer was1424504_10151815578222219_1238728294_nte, keyboard elements broken electronic components , spoons, forks and wire. I made the eyes so they could glow or light up. And returned to drawing as I had to work out the rest of the costume.


The fans

1467209_10151815868942219_405893642_nI use fire fans frequently as a fire entertainer but I wanted some glow version of fans to use in inside performances where fire is not an option there were none available to buy so i figured I would make my own. prototype #1 was cobbled together from coat hangers and el wire they are good light but a bit wonky. After the first performance I decided they were not nearly bright enough and moved towards led fans though that was a steep learning curve.

I did get some amazing  photos of these in action though. (photos by sand hall)


DSC07705 DSC07708




 Experimenting with LEDs and flora

The second fans were created out of perspex – I quickly sketched up a vector drawing in illustrator and got theses cnc cut by a local shop, however clear perspex isnt so good and I wanted a pattern on the fans so I cut  (by hand) stencils and had them sandblasted to provide diffuse light.
1907574_10151985726182219_192340938_n 1920418_255019611334468_1969870596_n






I used  data driven leds I bought from the lovely folks at http://www.adafruit.com they have great tutorials which helped me navigate through what i needed to power, programe and set up the fans. 10387691_10152207804827219_1048274277088351195_n

It took some learning here’s a photo of testing the LED’s  running of the flora, the flora is a tiny little  microchip which you can program  to run the led strips in certain ways. To be honest the possibility’s with theses are endless I had to keep it simple to make it achievable to me.  I found all I really needed was :




  • The strip of leds
  • flora
  • mini lipo recharge unit
  • a switch
  • lipo (lithium battery)

I put them in a case to protect them and soldered them up- programmed them to do a colour change on a random number <256 and  they were ready.

Here is  a video of the performance

This project has taken over a year I realized that I had no income coming from it at all yet I had dedicated hours to making it , prototyping and performing it so I produced a t-shirt to help pay for my  “naga” habit.