Tipi evolution and development through the eyes of Jamie

Well, where do I start with my time at Country Tipis, I know exactly where I’ll start, with myself.

Pouring drinks behind Peggy’s Bar at one of our events

I began my journey to become a tipi erection specialist in early summer 2017 and if I’m honest I don’t know what they would have done without me… only joking! On a serious note, when I first joined I was so impressed with the rate at which Richard and Ceri have built the business to where it is today. Anyway, enough about them back to me.

My studies

Before beginning my Tipi adventure, I completed an engineering degree at Oxford Brookes University. Country Tipis offered me the perfect job during the summer months until I started my adventure in the city by the sea of Plymouth. I have recently moved down there to study towards a masters in Coastal Engineering. You never know I may be writing my dissertation on the feasibility of a water born Tipi! I am a budding surfer (hence the move to the glorious south west) and just a few weeks after leaving Country Tipis I was reunited with the beautiful structures on the beach at a surf event.

Enjoying some airtime next to Smeaton’s Tower in Plymouth recently: I’m studying hard I promise!

Through the ages

Throughout summer I have been curious as to the origins and practical engineering element of a tipi structure. The origin of Tipis (or Teepees) lie with the Native American tribes whose main aim for survival was to follow the buffalo herds across the American plains. The tipi was the perfect structure for the nomadic lifestyle, as setting up and disassembling was frequent and required minimal effort but maximum effectiveness. This is completely relatable to when we were trekking all around, setting up and taking down these amazing structures!

An interesting fact I stumbled across was that the women of the tribes were the sole assemblers, organisers and decorators of the tipis. Men were required to receive permission from the women to be able to carry out any decoration…not too dissimilar to many conversations over heard during many set-ups… I shall say no more! The tipis were often arranged in a circular pattern to create a secure living environment. We too can arrange as many tipis as required in a variety of formations to fit the space and type of event.

Working from an overlaid schematic

Tipi design

The design of the tipi is well suited to cope in all weather conditions. Similar to our modern day equivalent, the native Americans too had smoke flaps which kept the wind and rain out. It is well insulated to protect inhabitants from the cold and frost during winter months. The uninterrupted surface around the entire structure prevents the wind catching and blowing it over. The smoke flaps also allow for air flow, creating a cool environment during hot days.

Linking Tipis

Our tipis, designed and manufactured by the UK based The Tipi Company are simple but very effective. One of the key elements to a Tipi is the use of straps when joining more than one, to maintain tension on the canvas and keep it taught and safe. Visually, the tension creates a smoothness to the tipi canvas and it became a challenge for every event to be able to create the cleanest, tightest and most satisfying join. From an engineering aspect, when the wind applies a force to the canvas, the majority of the load is transferred through and around the canvas and because the canvas is made of a partially elastic material it absorbs the energy from the wind in the stretching of the material (I hope I’m not boring you too much!).

Our Tipis are often likened to a Tardis: from the outside, the scale and height of these structures is amazing but the most underestimated part of the tipi is the open plan space that is created inside. Tipis are so adaptable, many times we would arrive at a site and really question whether the tipi is going to fit/work but we always pulled it off. I felt like everyone had a particular skill that we would perfect every time, one of mine were fitting blanking panels to tidy up the joins, shout out to my blanking panel buddy Jason, who taught me everything I know 😉.

Development

During one return journey from a job, I was boring Ceri with the idea of possible improvements to the design of the tipis. One idea was to use a lightweight alternative material legs such as a carbon fibre composite with a wood laminate to still give the natural feel.  The Tipi Company, if you’re reading this and decide to follow this up, copyrights are here. Another really cool idea I had was to create a mezzanine level, I think it would really make the most of the height of the Tipi just make an event even more exciting, it would also be a great storage place for those who just don’t want to go home!

It was a fantastic summer working for Country Tipis, I explored parts of my own county I never knew existed. Richard, Ceri and all the team are inspiring and I wish them all the best for the future. Peace out from Plymouth!