In a Newcastle art studio throughout July, a multi-talented team of professionals undertook an ambitious chocolate sculpture project. A collaboration between chocolatier Dean Gibson, industrial designer Jon Pryer and videographer Shane Williams from Five Spice Creative, the 150kg moving sculpture, Iron Shark, sets a world record for the most moving pieces in a chocolate sculpture and the largest kinetic chocolate sculpture of an animal ever created in the world.
Every cog, screw, shaft and fin were engineered from chocolate using chainsaws, lathes, a CNC cutter and other tools treated with food-grade oils. The team spent months planning, designing, building 3D models and refining the construction methodology so that the end product came together seamlessly.
The Iron Shark is the Imagineering of a 19th-century submarine in the style of the science fiction of Jules Verne, Edgar Allan Poe and H. G. Wells. This chocolate time machine takes us back to a world where steam was the new punk and the Nautilus roamed the imagination.
Dean Gibson told Baking Business that over the course of the month he and Jon worked 10-12-hour days.
“I had one day off for my father’s birthday, but Jon didn’t take a day off,” Dean said.
“It was hard work but just super fun.”
In the lead up to the construction, Dean said he ensured he was “chocolate fit” through swimming and walking.
“It sounds funny, I know, but it’s super physical,” he explained.
“The slabs of chocolate that I had to cast and set for john to CNC route, each one of those is about 12kg, and I think I must have done 50 or 60 of those, easily—maybe more.”
Fortunately, there was no shortage of help throughout the month, with a different student every day assisting and gaining completely unique skills and experiences they couldn’t get anywhere else.
This is the team’s third such project, so they knew what they were getting into and had the entire thing planned to the last, minute detail.
“The outcome that we wanted with this project was to be able to take this concept anywhere in the world,” Dean said.
“With me working with Jon, now that we’ve got all the plans drawn and in a CAD file, we can pretty much recut and do this again anywhere, really.
“The difference between Iron Shark and the other projects we’ve done is that we do want to do Iron Shark again, somewhere else in a live situation. I think we can get that down to about two weeks of live show. If you see the background, we themed it, we had wallpaper, smoke, lights, sound, the pinging and alerts. Shane did a lot of work on the theming and lighting of the kitchen, so it did look like we were in the belly of a submarine.”
If it sounds like something fit for TV, that is certainly a possibility they are open to, should the opportunity arise.
“It’s so interesting, and it’s a great act. Everybody who has engaged with us and had a look has been amazed,” he said.
“Industry want this—everybody that we connected with to sponsor Iron Shark, no one said ‘no’. We sent our pitch, and everybody loved the idea and wanted to be involved, and could see the potential for their marketing dollars.”
The chocolate used was 58 per cent dark chocolate from sponsor Irca, which Dean said was impressive to work with. And the best part? You can try it!
“We made an Iron Shark chocolate bar from the same chocolate we’re using on the piece,” Dean said.
“People always ask, ‘Can you eat it?’ and this time you can buy the chocolate bar and help fund the project as well.”
The four-week construction of the Iron Shark was live-streamed throughout July, and The Creator Incubator space open to visitors to watch the progress. The project has been a collaboration of industry professionals to design, install and theme the working space and make the project a living art installation.
Watch this space for future chocolate-meets-art projects from this talented crew!