Red Crowned Crane

Jayden Liu
9 min readMar 12, 2021


Feb 25th,

Red Crowned Crane is one of the few endangered species in the Manchuria region of North Eastern China, where I grew up. This specific species have only been sighted in the triangular region formed by Manchuria, Russia, Japan, and the Korean Peninsula. The bird has a history of being deified by witnesses for its distinct color-way, its red patch on its head, and its graceful stance. And for that reason, it is featured in a lot of folk lores and arts in the regions that they are spotted in. I have also incorporated the deified perspective and its symbolisms into the short story.

To learn more about the bird, I googled and gathered their qualities and properties and did a few sketches to capture the essence of their stances and forms.

One of the more interesting facts about the bird that I’ve gathered and seen is the mating rituals that they have: two birds do a dance that involves them flapping their wings and leaping into the air gracefully. Complemented by the white plain covered by snow, the dance is quite fantastic and mesmerising, which made me appreciate nature’s magic even more.

March 2rd,

Before i started making the model itself, I searched up a few anatomic illustration of the bird to better educate myself of the structure behind their forms. I was amazed at how they are so far different from the primates and mammals that we are more familiar with. by the work of nature, their skinny legs and wide talons supports what can only be perceived as a much more heavier upper body. What’s more important, by looking at the anatomic illustrations, I have realized the fact that their rib cage takes up and supports the majority of their body and that their wings are three-fold. From there, I dissected a sideview photograph of cranes to further analyze their proportions and how they look with all their muscles and feathers.

I then divided their body parts into simpler shapes and decided to make each of them individually and assemble them together in the end.

To start, I decided to make the torso first, because it is the largest body part of the animal, it is connected the all the other parts of the animal, and that it is an integral factor in the form of the animal. I have a fabric softener bottle and a laundry detergent bottle that I thought was perfect for the form of the animal, but the difficult part was to take the best from both bottles and piece together one torso that is accurate. While I think I did have some of the more perfect materials to begin with, my first shot at making the torso was honestly disastrous. It was my very first time cutting plastic so it took me a minute to get used to it and it was very hard to visualize how will the pieces come together to make one one form.

My first attempt at making a plastic model was not successful but I got a taste of how plastics cut. For my next model, I will improve the form of the torso and the neck and just add more body parts to the torso.

Feb 4th,

I first thing I did this time was to fix the form of the torso. I utilized the two pieces of plastic more effectively by making one the underbelly and the other the spinal structure. So when connected, the form looks more coherent and balanced. The harder bottom parts of both bottles will connect between the neck and the rib-cage indicating the end of the neck and the beginning of the torso, which also works well with the bird’s anatomy as it is exactly where its chest plate is connected to the spine.

Next up, I designed a new neck for the bird. Instead of stacking the k-pods seamlessly on top of each other, I decided to connect and manipulate it with a plastic string so that it would create a curve that would seem coherent and natural.

Next, i began working on the legs. Looking at the anatomic depictions, I learnt that like human legs, crane legs also have a knee and an ankle. However, their ankles are located in the middle of their visible legs, which i had mistaken for knees, and their knees are actually concealed at the end of the visible parts of their legs next to-their torsos. And their thighs runs horizontally into their tails and is covered by their wings when they stand. although I wanted to retain as much of its features as possible, I did not think the addition of the thighs add to the form of the animals to the model, especially when it is standing. Therefore, I did not include the thighs in my design.

I thought the thinness and cylindrical form of the Crane legs resemble plastic straws. It also helps that the straws fold quite easily and it bounces back to original place when pressure is no longer applied. To add a little more complexity to the straw and indicate the position of the ankles I added rubber bands to the bird’s ankles. I never intended for the model to stand nor am I capable of making it stand, but if it were able to stand, then the rubber bands would also be helpful to alleviate the weight and help the legs bounce back when pressure ceases. I did not find fitting plastic for the talons but I figured that the blade of plastic utensils might work as they roughly resemble the curve and size of the bird’s feet. Unlike the other parts of the body, where I avoided using too much adhesives, I had to use a lot of adhesive to connect the talons to the legs.

For my next iteration, I would need to find the perfect waste for the bird’s head and give it an interactive set of wings and finally put all the parts together.

March 9,

My weekend started with me trying to find the perfect ovoid for the head of my model. It is an unconventional shape that would prove to be difficult to piece together without using an existing ovoid of the perfect size. Lucky enough, we all know an item that is perfect for the shape that I’m finding- the kinder egg. I had to go and get a kinder egg for this project because the other plastics that I’m find is not quite descriptive of the shape of the Crane’s head. Although I was skeptical of how the packaging would work as a head, as it is too round and has distracting colors, it worked quite well on the model and the abstraction of form in this case is quite accurate and compelling.

While the kinder egg purchase had worked in my favor, the wings are less intuitive to make. I wanted to keep the three-fold structures of its wings in my design but figuring out how to fold and store the wings was a challenge. I kept the proportion of the crane’s wing and divided the wings into three parts, each of which i attach a few blades representing the feathers, following the patterns of the animal’s wings. To enable movements of the joints I used thumb tacks to connect the wings and to connect the wings to the torso. So i can move the entirety of the wings away and toward the body with the thumb tack attached to the top of the rig cage and i can rotate the parts of the wings to stack them and stored on the side of its body. Although it does not represents the actually mechanics of a bird’s wing, but I thought it is the best can do to both preserve the basic structure of the wings and be able to spread it out mimicking that of the crane.

I also made some minor changes to the neck by adding another layer on top of the neck so that it resembles the change in width of the neck.

After I’ve made all the body part it was time for assembly. I thought the model turned out pretty well all things considered but there were some major problems as well. My working process was all about finding the accurate forms to represent each body parts, which left me little time for assembly and to focus on the cohesiveness and practicality of the entire model. Therefore, the end product is quite fragile, not stable, and a little wonky. But I thought that if i did not pay as much attention to each body parts, i would not have as strong a representation of the form of the animals. However, the problems could be addressed if I were given more time to work on my model. I would have given it a pairs of stabler legs and spend more time designing the connectivity between each body parts.

In conclusion, i thought the project is really fun but very challenging as well. The moments where I found the right piece of plastic or figure out a way to connect or maneuver a certain joints were priceless. Cutting curved plastic surfaces really took some time to getting used to, and figuring out a way to connect certain parts were frustrating. But I’ve also learnt the limitless potential of materials that are considered waste. It is incredible how the class had transformed what they have discarded into beautiful models of animals.

Mar 23rd,