Talk to the Mushrooms

Making Festival Art

When I was approached asking if I could create an LED art for Lumaterra festival, I immediately got to work brainstorming ideas. As the event is set in the forest, I envisioned an area of mushrooms that would shimmer with light when you talk to them.

The end result was extremely close to the original pitch, on budget, and on time.

Passers by loved stopping to talk to the mushrooms and giggle as the forest floor lit up to the sounds of their voices!

Check out more of my art, or ask me something. I'd love to hear from you.

The Pitch

I know you love a good slideshow just as much as I do, so here's my intial pitch for the project to the Lumaterra organisers that outlined the vision and material costs for the piece.

Talk to the mushrooms

Tech Stuff

ESP32-based controller running Moon Modules for the LED control

Adafruit ESP32, PDM digital mic, and IR motion sensor in the big mushroom to control everything. While nobody is around the mushrooms would play patterns to get people's attention, then when the motion sensor was triggered, the lights on the floor mushrooms would turn off and start being reactive to sound.

Sound data is sent from the big mushroom controller to the floor mushroom controller and processed to make the waves of patterns.

The LEDs are mapped using a camera to record a test sequence from a laptop into xLights, then through a custom conversion script for Moon Modules. This setup ended up being overkill for the final install, but could be done to provide things like concentric circles or other geometric patterns in the mushrooms.


The caps

The 3D printed caps did not scale up nicely and took forever to print. I ended up abandoning the idea, buying a few sets of the LED strings that had originally inspired the idea and pulled all the caps off them. I then needed to engineer a way to get the caps to fit onto the much larger addressable LEDs. Eventually I landed on the idea of heating a piece of vinyl tubing and stretching that to hold each cap in place.


Having a long string of 12" nails turned out to be quite the pointy tangle nightmare. I was able to carefully lay them into the box so they were zig-zagged back and forth which made for easier setup in the dark, bug-filled forest.

3D printed caps would have added some fun variation, but were more work than the benefits to the piece.

In Progresss