Nashville Children’s Theatre

Dragon Project

Putting Eli in her new home.

Standing Tall at the NCT

I will use this page to show the progress of the dragon sculpture.

First Stage- Preparing the studio for the Dragon

*Developing new tools to prepare the massive solid steel bars that make up the structure of the dragon.

( I have nicknamed the dragon “Eli”)

*Preparing a system to hold the giant perch the dragon will be on. Eli will be built horizontally but be installed vertically.

Dragon Dimensions

Sculpture Height- 22 feet

Dragon Length- 30 feet

Below is the first drawing of Eli the dragon. I read extensively about dragons and their incarnations. One book that was referred to me by the Nashville Children’s Theater was “The Reluctant Dragon” by Kenneth Grahame. The attitude of the dragon in that book was the same as their mascot dragon. The book told the story of a dragon who liked to write poetry and take naps, a fierce looking dragon with a gentle heart. Eli has the same relaxed attitude.

I wanted my dragon to break barriers of culture and gender. Eli embodies the stereotypes of both a man and a woman. Eli is fierce yet nurturing, beautiful and strong, scary and inviting. I heard the children who helped pick this the dragon liked Eli because of the realness in being a dragon. They were at first a little scared for the child in her grasp but also excited about the sculpture.

Eli invokes a sense of adventure in her perched pose. She will ride 22′ tall into the Nashville city skyline.

I wanted Eli to represent many cultures. This is a picture of a multi-cultured dragon. The ridge scale is swirled like that of a Eastern Dragon, yet the body is more voluptuous like that of a Western Dragon. The square scales I imagined to also be more of a western type dragon. The mask Eli is wearing represents the theater as it has been the symbol of that from antiquity. The mask is in a style that is uniquely mine. Being a world traveler and researcher of foreign culture it is representative of the many places i have been and the people and cultures that have influenced me.


The child in the Eli’s hand is holding a crystal.This is part of the mystery…


The Burning Art Studio is in constant motion. The main support beam has been brought in and cut to size. The main branches are fabricated and ready to install. I have been working on parts of the dragon such as the wings shown below.

The wings are made identical by cutting them out together, here i clamped two 10 gauge pieces of sheet metal together and have begun the plasma cutting. The wings will be bordered with 3/4” round stock forged to make the swirls at the wing tips.

A problem which i encountered was with the bending of the main support frame of the dragon. Everything i do is overcompensated for to last seven lifetimes. True to form I decided to make the main frame 3” solid round stock. I special ordered 4 pieces and found when they arrived that they weighed about 600 pounds a piece! I drew up designs for a huge jig and forge, acquired fire bricks to make it. I still had the problem of lifting this piece of metal, not only lifting it but doing that when it is red-hot. I decided to look for other options. My friend who works at the local metal recycling place suggested I use a car crusher, i seriously contemplated that but it would take coordination with the local red-necks and at least a day or two to develop the proper jigs. Finally my friend at Bristol Galvanizing suggested having it bent at Bristol bolts and screws. They have huge hydraulic machines to bend even this size stock. I drew up a blueprint for my major bends and they said they could do it. Phew… I still have some major bending of 1 1/2” stock to fill in the frame to support the skin, but at least the dangerously heavy material will be made safely.


Now it is time for the fun stuff. The main components of the skeleton have been attached and I am ready to sculpt the body shape of the dragon.

The spine is made of 3” solid round mild steel. This section weighs about 500 pounds. It is the main support for the body weight, which is also offset by the arms and legs being attached to the tree limbs. Careful attention was made to ensure the welds are strong enough.

The first supports of the arms and legs have been attached.

The little dragon model of Eli stands watch as the branches of the perch are set into place.

The skeleton or frame of the dragon looks kind of like a jungle gym. The frame mimics the muscle skeleton of the dragon not just the bones. Large pieces of metal will be laid over this skeleton to form the body.

There are many detailed components of the dragon. This is the end of the tail. The function of the this piece is to help the dragon balance when climbing, act as a rudder when swimming, as protection and a weapon.

The first detail added to the dragon is in the underscales of the tail. My assistant Khris (aka Chaos) has been working hard cutting out each one to fit. This particular part of the tail is slightly raised from the perch. I wanted Eli to show movement.

Have you ever seen a snake move up a tree? Part of it ripples up as it moves forward. In the sculpture this is that part. It is important to me that Eli is animated to assume motion. I want her to look alive!

Chaos is fitting each underscale to fit.


Eli says “Where is the mustard?”

The tail wrapping around the tree.

Eli loves kittens!

The body is scaled except for the top of the neck and the legs.The hands have all their components and the swirly wave-like ridge spine is complete. The legs and belly scales will be on soon.

*Notice kitten on branch. No kittens were hurt in the making of this project. Although, one did show up in front of my place and took to using this dragon as a playground. Thus is the nature of this dragon.

Galvanizing the sculpture insures it will last. It bonds zinc with the steel to give it a coating that will not chip. The pool above is a 850 degree kettle of molten zinc. Nothing like this, to my knowledge, has ever been done before. The fabrication had to allow the zinc to flow through and the air to escape, there was a chance that this may have exploded. The people at Bristol Galvanizing were excited about the challenge of doing this sculpture.

It was a Dragon day at the spa. She sat in a bath for a couple hours, was rinsed, had a mud bath ( flux dip) and a hot zinc dip (galvanizing) after which a half dozen people wiped up any drips and detailed the zinc coating.


Eli says “ahhhhhhhhhh”