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Aspen Words Literary Prize trophy made local at Anderson Ranch

Apr 9, 2018

On Tuesday, the winner of the inaugural Aspen Words Literary Prize will be announced at a ceremony in New York City. The prize is $35,000. It also comes with a trophy, which was commissioned by one of the studio coordinators at Anderson Ranch Arts Center.

When The Aspen Institute approached the Ranch to see if there would be anyone interested in creating a trophy for the Aspen Words Literary Prize, sculpture studio coordinator Michael Lorsung lept at the chance. “This isn't sort of typically part of my studio practice, designing awards and that sort of thing,” said Lorsung.

He knew the design look had to be special—so he went digital, having a computer tell a machine what to do. He started with choosing one of the mid-layer, a material called corian.

“It’s actually a countertop material,” he said. “It’s a material that’s used as a substitute for granite because it’s really dense, it’s super durable, and it’s a really easy material to machine.”

The digital rendering is brought to fruition by the CNC Router Machine. CNC stands for computer numerical control. It’s basically a 3D printer, except reductive. It uses the same kind of computer numerically controlled technology to position itself as it makes cuts into the corian.

“It doesn't know what's under it, it doesn't understand how thick the material is,” Lorsung said. “I can make this form 100 times if I want to and it’ll do the same thing every time.”

After a few rounds, it cuts the corian layer into a perfect circle. In the end, the trophy will look like a book. Lorsung said it’s important for artists to embrace this kind of technology.

The trophy will be presented to the Aspen Words Literary Prize recipient Tuesday.