Know Your Ropes

Know Your RopesKnow Your Ropes is a self guided walking tour delineated by a continuous “rope” graphic painted on the sidewalk. This path creatively winds its way through a neighborhood introducing participants to unique often overlooked areas of their community. Along the twists and turns of this “rope” there are a series of mariner knots depicted in the classic “Book of Knots” style. Each of these mariner knots serve as an interactive node, where a participant can access additional information relative to the theme of the route. The objective is to introduce residents to new areas of their community effectively “tying it together”, additionally it offers insight into the unique “gems” each neighborhood has to offer.

My team-mates on this Project were Sean Alexander, Rebeca Solverson, and Anneka Olsen. We were able to secure a “Walkability” grant offered by the health department which partially funded the Know Your Ropes project. My initial plan was to cut all the stencils cut out of eight by four sheets of plywood. Preliminary calculations indicated that a one mile circuit of stenciled rope was going to require spraying an eight foot stencil six hundred sixty times. The challenges of executing a project of this scale suddenly hit me and this particular revelation added a dark and bitter element to the entire project.

One evening I was lamenting my situation over a couple of beers. The thought of being responsible spraying 660 stencils was weighing heavily on my heart. It was at this moment that my drinking companion Dylan Betz floated the concept of a circular stencil. A circular stencil!?! This was the breakthrough I needed. Suddenly building a mechanical stenciling machine was much more attractive than the sum of the entire project. So I set to work engineering the Dylan Betz Unlimited – Rope Machine-.

The final project is so much larger than myself. I couldn’t make this happen without the assistance and expertise Of Sean, Anneka and Rebeca. There were meetings with the city about paint and permitting. Sean’s company AM Independent was responsible for the branding and website. Also the development and programing of the guided tours was something I never would have considered in the original concept. It rounds out the project in in such a way, giving it depth and breath, ant truly marrying it with the community.

The Know Your Ropes visual walking tour system was developed by myself and can be applied to any neighborhood or business district. This system uses temporary marking paint to create imagery and will naturally fade in a couple of months. If you have interest in hosting a visual walking tour in your area please contact Oliver Doriss

Components necessary to execute the Know Your Ropes sidewalk mural.

The installation of the entire mural took two and one half days, consumed 96 cans of paint and is 1.5 miles in length.


The launch party was a tremendous success. Michael Sullivan lead our first hosted walk.

For more information about Know Your Ropes and future scheduled walking tours please visit the official Know Your Ropes website.


The Know Your Ropes visual walking tour system was developed by myself and can be applied to any neighborhood or business district. This system uses temporary marking paint to create imagery and will naturally fade in a couple of months. If you have interest in hosting a visual walking tour in your area please contact Oliver Doriss


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Alpine Panel

Alpine Panel is a seven part installation comprised of cast glass elements that float just off the wall. The milky blue translucency allows light to flow through each piece illuminating an intimate composition of ferns and branches. These botanical vignettes are created through my signature casting process using locally sourced vegetation. Sterling silver accents and iridescent earth tones compliment the chilly glacial blues completing the work. The assembled composition ultimately forms a segmented alpine tree line with the ridge of Mt. Rainier in the distance evoking the same spatial dynamics of our grand North West landscape.

Alpine Panel is part of the Permanent Collection of Mary Bridge Hospital in Tacoma Washington
It is installed in the lobby on the fourth floor of the new Rainier Pavilion



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In the chilly waters of the Thea Foss one may observe a unique phenomenon, an impossible view into the surface of the harbor. The crisp form of FLOW is the embodiment of negative space and speaks through reflection and diffraction. Its rigid form juxtaposed against fluid motions of the water. This piece works seamlessly within the aquatic environment cycling every 45 minutes it is synchronized with the rhythms of the natural world.

FLOW is visible from the promenade in front of the Museum of Glass just in the waters off Dock St. Marina. For me this piece is a proof of concept and I look forward to applying these dynamics in a permanent setting. FLOW is best viewed at an oblique angle.

I really enjoyed the process of creating of this dynamic piece. I have dedicated a significant amount time this year resolving the many complexities of both the fabrication of the acrylic form and the function of the mechanical aspects. FLOW challenged every one of my accumulated creative skills including electrical, acrylic fabrication as well as mathematics for the calculation of water levels, flow and displacement. The installation within the decidedly hostile waters Thea Foss Waterway added additional variables to this already complex project.

Because of the limited budget this project was designed around preexisting equipment and materials available in my community. I also familiarized myself with the laser plotter at FabLab in Tacoma to cut the acrylic components. Another hurtle was my lack of a testing pool and had to call in the help of my friends in the marina for assistance. Lastly I would like to thank the Tacoma Arts Commission for taking a chance on this project. Without the help of this organization I would never have embarked upon this fantastic voyage. -Oliver Doriss

FLOW is on display from September 6th to October 6th it cycles every 45 minutes and is illuminated for night time viewing.

This piece was realized through support, funding and donations from the following entities.TAC-logo-vector-file
Special Thanks to:

-Tacoma Arts Commission
-Cayn Thomson
-Second Cycle Community Bicycle Shop
-Craig Perry
-Delin Docks / Dock Street Marina


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Oliver-May18th44The SkyPonds installation was part of the 2008 Centennial Celebration of the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory. This collaboration between artists Joseph Miller and Oliver Doriss was a response to the unique aesthetic of this historic structure. The installation is a marriage of botanical properties and Tacoma’s tradition of glass making. The cloud forms balance each other symbolizing the delicate interaction of our own ecosystems. They participate in the daily cycles of the conservatory life, gentile condensations, rusting, growing, and evaporating. A closed little loop of life that mimics our own.

Of the original 8 mobiles 5 remain and are presently available for purchase if you’re that type. -Oliver & Joe

For more information on pricing contact Fulcrum Gallery.

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