The Story of Trixie!

[Update 3/16/2012: “The Story of Trixie” has come full circle, as the blog where we got her inspiration has posted about her 🙂 See the epilogue after you read this post.]


Trixie in her natural habitat, the ‘Deepistan National Parklet (& in front of our temporary construction mural by Adrian Cotter.)

When I started my front-of-home renovation project, my architect Jane Martin surprised me by asking if I was interested in doing a parklet. The irony was that though I spend plenty of time involved in issues related to urban spaces & livability (and thus I run in parklet-y circles), the thought never occurred to me! Luckily, it did to Jane & I immediately loved the idea.

Months later, as the parklet project was really making progress, Jane proposed doing a “succulent sculpture” for it. And since she was so dead-on about the parklet, I immediately said sure! I thought “Ummm – a what?” Jane excitedly explained that our parklet needed an artistic focus & that it should be plant based. At that point, seeing her vision completely, I said “sure!” I said “Ummm – hmm” & started trying to figure out how to say “no” to something she was so enthused about.

Sensing my skepticism, she showed me small models of vague blobby shapes & and I said “I don’t get it.”

Resolutely, she then showed me one of her succulent sculptures: a large mass of succulents cleverly and attractively agglomerated into a hanging sphere a large vague blobby shape made out of plants. She loved it, so I went with “It’s very nice.”

As I explained to her that I just wasn’t all that excited about a giant blob of succulents or the cost, she asked “well, what shapes do you like?”  Immediately, I said “animals!”1 and Jane said “we can do animals!”.  Finally we were getting somewhere.

I pretty quickly thought “dinosaur!” but couldn’t think of any that would look good as rounded blob of succulent plants other than my least favorite types, the big, boring, sauropods (think “brontosaurus”).2

Giving up on that, the work of Benny Bufano came to mind, as he’s very popular in the San Francisco Bay Area:

Bear and Cubs

Bufano “Bear & Cubs” Sculpture in Fremont, CA
I tried to imagine a Bufano-like design that would look good for one of my favorite animals (gorillas, killer whales, elephants, ravens, etc.) but couldn’t, probably because I’m not actually a world-class sculptor.


Thus, I turned to my friends for answers & the consensus was: “Dinosaur! Duh! You LOVE dinosaurs!”.


My Deepasaurus 2006 Halloween Costume
Halloween 2006: Deepasaurus My Glamosaur 2009 Halloween Costume
Halloween 2009: Glamosaur
I patiently assured them an interesting dino-shape couldn’t be done well as a “succulent sculpture.”


Then, one day, while perusing my favorite dino blog, I saw this:
Snow triceratops

Wim en Annelien provided inspiration from Belgium (thanks to the Smithsonian’s excellent “Dinosaur Tracking” blog)
Boom!  Immediate win!!:


  • Serious cuteness
  • Soft lines, easy for rounded blobby forms
  • Triceratops was my childhood favorite & is still right up there for me.
  • Jane liked it
  • the pro-pelican lobby (my GF, Kimberly) was even excited.

It was on.

Soon thereafter, we made a small model out of clay.Clay1

Clay Model by Me & Adrian Cotter, Deepistan’s Artist-In-Residence
From there, the model was sent to a metal worker to make the frame:



Mastermind Jane Martin, and Chief Deepistan National Parklet Ranger Kimberly Conley


After that, Jane began making it real: she added a mesh skin, filled it with a mixed dirt & plant matter substrate & then began plugging in all the wee plants.


Frame + Mesh



Adding substrate
TrixieNoPlantsTrixie pre-plants
AddingPlantsAdding the wee plants


After about three weeks, we had her moved to her habitat in the parklet! I had always wanted a real live dinosaur of my very own & now I had one :-)!!
After that, it was all over except waiting for her horns to grow in & picking a name (thanks Nadine Mellor!)

Trixie with her recycled redwood horns…
“Yay!” to my architect, Jane, pushing to make this all happen! “Booo!” to all the passers-by who think Trixie is a rhino.



[Epilogue 3/16/2012: “The Story of Trixie” has come full circle, as the Smithsonian’s “Dinosaur Tracking” blog ,where we got her inspiration, has posted about her 🙂 Click here for the post. We <3 Dinosaur Tracking]


1.In hindsight, it’s surprising that my favorite shape, “girl,” was never even considered, but probably because it has been done to death in sculpture 🙂↩

2.Yes, I know they are really “apatosaurs” you pedants.↩



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