MFA Project

During my first semester of my MFA studies I designed and fabricated Mija, the printing trike. After months of studying signage I wanted to create a rudimentary way for a child to print a message on a large surface. After researching and testing larger devices, I decided to use a custom printing cylinder which would leave a word on the ground as the cylinder rolled.

I immediately thought that a modified tricycle frame would be the best device to support this mechanism. I searched Craigslist for a few days until I found a metal Radio Flyer trike frame for $10.00. I quickly drove a few towns over and got the trike. As I was packing the trike in my car, the seller, clearly a father, asked if the trike was for my son. Without thinking of the nostalgic angle, I responded “No, it’s for a school project. I’m going to cut it up and redesign the frame.” I think I really disappointed the guy and crushed his hopes that his son’s trike would live on as a children’s toy.


I decided to print “mija” with the trike, Spanish slang for “daughter.” Initially, I wanted the trike to look as original as possible, so it looked store bought, but after thinking it through, I chose to strip the original Radio Flyer paint and graphics and go with a completely custom paint job.

Once the frame was customized to fit the rear printing canister, I decided to use a cotton candy pink paint after multiple coats of primer. Then I applied a glitter aerosol and a clear gloss to seal it all in. I wanted the bike to look clean and custom while adopting the classic Hispanic low-rider paint job that Wikipedia describes as featuring “expensive custom paint jobs that consist of several thin layers of different colors, metal oxide flake or pearl flake, clear coat, metal leaf.” I wanted the custom fabricated trike frame to reflect the Hispanic reference of “mija” that it stamps on the ground as it is pedaled by a child.

I toyed with the final material that I would use to print “mija”. Originally I settled on cornmeal but I wasn’t satisfied with the texture so I decided to test it with sand in the canister. Both worked, but sand seemed better suited to be on the pavement. The “mija” stencil, which is composed of 278 holes, is a hand written style font that was modified by tracing and adjusting the letter heights to compensate for the extended face of the rolling 6” PVC tube.