Monoprints

I’ve been working on this body of work all week, to the exclusion of most else. When I close my eyes I can see dark brushstrokes and delicate silhouetted plant forms; balanced patterns of light and shade.  I started out tight and restrained.

After a week, the movements of my bamboo stick over inked butter paper are free-form, expansive, relaxed.  The intense contrast evokes light.

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Seeing these images is seeing my mind laid out in its hidden frameworks before me.  feel joy when I look at them all; that my mind has the capacity to generate this beauty and sense of coherence.  Is it coherent? It is to me.  So fascinating – a secret language to explain myself to myself.

Old new work

I can hardly believe that the last time I worked on an art project was more than a year ago! Here’s an update, then, on what I’ve been doing since last year, apart from having a two year old and various other life events. These are fimo and resin, with gold leaf. They feel a bit like finds from Atlantis, eaten away by time.

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The changing state of manufacturing

Ever since I got interested in 3D Printing and linked it up with quick-turnaround manufacturing, I also got interested in MakerSpace, FabLabs and other places where regular citizens can hire equipment like 3D printers and laser cutters to do art projects, or commercialise their ideas.

I’ve got an Etsy site of my own, although I’m no good at keeping the content fresh, so my jewellery has slid down into the mud place where all the fossilized jewellery sites from 2011 go on Etsy. Etsy was all about handcraft, until now, when it’s now got Etsy Manufacturing http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/09/14/business/etsy-welcomes-manufacturers-to-artisanal-fold.html?referrer=&_r=0

Changing New Zealand with better information

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about what I can do to change things, what difference I can make in the world.  At heart, I’m a people person. When I look back on my life and think about the change I made in the world, I want to think “I made people’s lives better”. So I’m putting a question from one of my favourite books to myself: “What can I do with the gifts I have?”

What can I do with my creativity, project management skills, information management skills, communication and people skills, research skills, and writing skills to change people’s live’s for the better?    I love information, it has to be something to do with information. Translating information into forms that are useable.  That’s the key problem I see in society right now that I have the best chance of contributing to solving.

There’s more information out there on people’s lives than ever before.  It’s so frustrating that all the answers are probably out there by now, but there is such a volume of data that we can’t see the meaning for the noise.  More data than we can make use of flows around us constantly.  Helping harness data to improve outcomes and make people’s lives better.  A good goal.

The Economist argues that these faster, bigger flows of information are changing the speed at which we perceive time moving:

“There is no doubt that there are far more data coursing round firms than there were just a few years ago. And when you are used to information accumulating in a steady trickle, a sudden flood can feel like a neck-snapping acceleration. Even though the processes about which you know more are not inherently moving faster, seeing them in far greater detail makes it feel as if time is speeding up.

This unsettling sensation is common to most chief executives—a straw poll suggests that they receive 200-400 e-mails a day. Their underlings are deluged with information, too. AT&T now tracks faults on its telecoms networks by monitoring social media for grumpy customers letting off steam online. Big consumer brands are subject to a rolling online plebiscite from their customers. This abundance of information gives firms a cloak of hyperactivity.”

“More information provides firms with an even broader range of time frames over which to exert their transformational powers—to operate second by second, if they so desire.”

“New technologies spread faster than ever, says Andy Bryant, the chairman of Intel; shares in the company change hands every eight months. But to keep up with Moore’s Law—named after Intel’s founder—the firm has to have long investment horizons.”

What does this mean for New Zealand? We have to plan strategically, far into the future, about how and why our data is going to be used, even as we are constantly shifting technologies and ideas in the short term.  Agility in the short term, but on a solid, secure long term base.

I was recently talking to someone about what we need to change in New Zealand to improve outcomes in the health sector.  I believe we need to start by developing trusted, high quality data sets. Jayden McRae is doing great thinking in this space.

I’ve been reading Anthony Townsend’s recent book on Smart Cities: big data, civic hackers and the quest for a new utopia, and I really like his definition of smart cities as “places where information technology is combined with infrastructure, architecture, everyday objects, and even our bodies to address social, economic and environmental problems.” (p. 15)

It upsets me when the cool new technology comes before the people who the technology is FOR. Anthony Townsend is on the same page. I’m a huge advocate of smart technology and the use of software to catalyse change, but to me, every so called ‘technology project’ is actually a ‘people and change project’, enabled by technology. This quote articulates the place of technology in innovation for me:

“Many people have placed their bet on a better future delivered through technology. Not me. I get nervous when I hear people talk about how technology is going to change the world.  I have been around technology enough to know its vast potential, but also its severe limitations. When coarsely applied to complex problems, technology often fails.  What’s much more interesting is how we are going to change our technology to create the kinds of places we want to live in.” (p. 17)

As an information management professional I see myself as a translator and synthesiser of information.  I draw information together, separate the meaning from the noise, sort it into a meaningful pattern that is more than the sum of it’s parts.  organisers – making things easily accessible linking people to the information they need, when they need it.

Creativity fits into it for me, because I see designers as the same –except they’re translating ideas into visual form rather than written form.  I like this quote:

“In the future, designers will become the reference point for policy makers, for anyone wanting to create a link between high-faluting and hard to translate, and reality, and people”. Paola Antonelli,  1hr6mins Objectivity, 2009

Amazon’s solution to an information management problem

For the record, a few articles on information management. And an information management problem. I have so many different places I put the links I like, I can’t ever remember where I’ve put one. Google tries to remedy this by just not categorising at all. if I can remember any keywords, I’ll just trust its still out there and google it again. But some things are just impossible to find on google.

How do you design the library of the future?
https://medium.com/@Oxford_University/how-do-you-design-the-library-of-the-future-22d9344e40f7

https://thebrowser.com/link/overdose-of-technology/#

Here is how Amazon does it – fascinating! https://docs.google.com/document/d/1F12fyVF0PO2fSmkOI2_R1IFigTaznaertxiVXlEbas4/mobilebasic

Rockpool: exhibition at Gilberd Marriott Gallery in December 2014/ January 2015

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Feeling so great about my exhibition!  I can hardly believe I managed to make this happen with a three month old baby.  I imagine the next one won’t be for several years! (although I’ve got heaps of ideas already).

The opening was nervewracking but fabulous; after I get over my nerves and into the swing of it, I love having the opportunity to talk about my artwork, how it’s made and what it means.  One of the reasons I wanted to have the exhibition was to have the chance to share all I’ve been learning about 3D modelling and printing – it seemed so mysterious.

Here are some of my prints hanging:

IMG_20141128_165327Me taking my baby to see the exhibition even though she’s too young to appreciate the finer points…
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3D printed brooches

 

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3D printed ceramic bowls

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3D printed metal jewellery

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Technology and the Handmade Print: Developing my Folio for the Baldessin Press Printmaking Forum

BaldessinForumThis fascinating forum is happening soon, and I’m so disappointed that I can’t be there in person!  I’ve been working on my portfolio for months, and I also bought my ticket to Australia months in advance (what a swot! 🙂 ) but I’ve just had a baby, and we found out that because there’s a bit of an epidemic of whooping cough in NZ and Australia at the moment, its advised not to take babies overseas until they’ve had all their whooping cough vaccinations at age 5 months.  Oh well, at least I can be there digitally and on paper!

I sent off my portfolio a few days ago:

So proud of myself for actually getting this packed up and sent with a two week old baby in the house!

So proud of myself for actually getting this packed up and sent with a two week old baby in the house!

Because I can’t be there in person, I thought I’d write this blog post to explain a bit about my folio and how it was developed, including info and working processes so I can give people an inside look at my art practice.

I enjoy working at the border between handmade traditional craft and digital media, so I wanted to use this opportunity to explore different types of technology and how I could get them interacting with the handmade printing process.

Here’s an overview of my folio, the first three pieces :

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The second three pieces:

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Now here’s a record of my research into how to make printmaking plates using a laser cutter.

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Me having fun with the laser cutting machine

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Making notes on how to get a plate that works!

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Setting up the software for laser cutting and importing my file from Adobe Illustrator

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The laser cutting machine in progress

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An early attempt at laser cutting – this etch was too deep, and it burnt the wood

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Taking the scientific approach – I made a laser etching test plate

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3D Printing

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Making laser cut printmaking plates at Makerspace

The time for stalling and perfectionism is over! It’s official, in 15 days, all going well, we will have a baby.  I have 15 more days to do …all that I wanted to do before having a baby.

One of those things was ‘write the perfect blog post about laser cutting, complete with meditation on digital fabrication as a concept, the Maker movement and what I think about the V&A buying the 3D printed gun for their collection’ (cool).

Sorry, that post is never going to get written.  Instead, I present the following about my laser cutting and etching experiments to date at the wonderful Makerspace, Wellington.

2014-07-14 16.04.04(I love the design of Makerspace’s door!)

Go up the stairs to a bright orange steel door.  You have to press the buzzer for someone to let you in – they need good security because there’s lot of exciting, expensive tools in here!.  I can hear electronic music pumping, and there’s a lot going on. I check out the calendar as I’m waiting to be let in.  There are dates and times for all kinds of sessions, including ‘building robotic things’, ‘introducing the laser cutter’, ‘intro to 3d printing’.  The owner, Lee, wants to help people start businesses using digital technologies.  Makerspace has the machines, and the general principle is that you have to go to a short intro class to learn how to run the particular machine you want to hire, then, once you know how to use it, you hire a time and just go for it.

I go to the laser cutting intro session on a cold wet Thursday night.  The session is packed – it is great how many people are interested in this stuff.  My laser cut keyring design is too complex, and I don’t get to print anything because I didn’t listen to the instructions telling me to save it beforehand (ggaghh!)…. But I’m still determined.

Lee helps me load up the laser cutting software so I can transfer my Adobe Illustrator (AI) files (little does he know that I don’t know how to use AI yet, so I don’t have any files!).  Now I have the laser software, I teach myself the basic basics of AI in double time, and produce some ‘experimental’(!) laser cutting designs.

Next week I come back and book some time on the laser cutter.  Lee’s assistant Jules and I watch the laser at work on my design through the machine’s protective cover.  There is a strong smell of burning wood and paper.  I’m dismayed to find that my set-up is all wrong. I’ve got too many tiny lines, too close together.  At the speed I’ve set, they will just make a burnt hole.  Then, in my haste to actually get an outcome, I delete lots of my painstakingly prepared files by mistake.  I feel like crying.  I take up a lot of Jules’ time, but he is very nice about it.  I resolve to come back much more independent.

For better or worse, I grew up associating technology with guys.  Although I’m sure I got encouraged to use these tools, it was always my dad, rather than my mum, who was into the computer stuff at home.  There was always a crowd of boys around the computer at primary school.  It’s not as if the girls were pining away to use the computer; they were were off playing elastics or tree-faries. Anyway, it’s relatively new for me to be excited about technology, or to feel that its something that I can do, so it’s a bit intimidating going into a machine-y space, and I’m very ready to feel like an idiot.  But Lee is really friendly and laid back, and makes me feel at once like I can do it, I’m not going to break anything, and that its ok not to know, if I don’t.   I fit in fine around all their other projects.  I love it that this place really DOES make the technology accessible.

Another thing that makes me feel more at home is that I love it how the technology is being used to do ALL kinds of projects – there’s a stay at home mum who is using laser cutting services for her cooking business, people are using the laser to cut wedding invitations, and me, messing around with fine-art etching experiments.

There are projects on the go everywhere in the space; piles of freshly cut Perspex and wood for commercial projects, 3D printed plastic vases and skulls, and of course they’ve made their own signs.  I admire the laser cut coat-hook on the back of the toilet door.

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What I’m trying to make here isn’t a finished product in itself – it’s a plate that I can use to cover with ink and print on a printing press to create a print on paper. For me, the digital part of the process is important because it lets me make printing plates with very complex and fine lines, without using acids or metal salts.  It also makes the process quicker (theoretically!) because it takes a long time to transfer a hand drawn image to wood, and then to adjust it to different scales.  Ironically, drawing something on Adobe Illustrator takes MUCH longer than drawing it by hand, but once it’s in there, there is much more scope for playing with the image; stretching it, resizing it, copying it, adding and subtracting elements.  Digital is a great way to quickly explore variations on an idea.

I still want an element of the handmade though.  I want to mix up the ink, roll it onto the plate and print it by hand on beautiful paper.

I love words and I enjoy thinking about them.  I like saying the words ‘printmaking’, ‘print’, ‘making’, ‘copy’, ‘replica’, seeing the images that crowd through my brain and listening to the resonances of those words in art, technology, biology and literature.

I initially wanted to make printmaking plates using 3D printing technology.  It was too 3D to be an effective plate. The qualities of 3d printing make it better for sculptures, objects and jewellery.  When I started printmaking, I wanted to make very textural, deep embossed prints.  I made deep collographs with edges too deep to touch the paper, and did experiments that buckled and ripped paper (I know better now!).  Ironically, to make an effective highly textural print, you only need a very subtly etched surface to suggest depth.  Anything that actually IS deep, doesn’t work well.

The next time I come back to do laser cutting at Makerspace is another steep learning curve, but I think it’s at a higher part of the curve, if you know what I mean.  I don’t burn the wood, and the plates I produce bear much more of a resemblance to the idea in my mind! I’ve decided that these etched plates can stand as they are, actually.  I’m not going to print them onto paper.

Have I done enough to be satisfied in my portfolio for my entry to Baldessin Presses exciting “Printmaking and Technology” Forum?? The more I think about the theme, the more I explore, the better outcomes I get, the better outcomes I know I COULD get if I only had TIME to do more!!!!!

The exploration is going to keep going on though.  I just have to decide when to pause, take a brief snapshot and put a frame around the moment.  Nothing is ever truly finished.

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My first attempts at laser etching

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Makerspace 3D printer

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Makerspace Wellington – lots of projects on the go

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The laser cutting machine

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The laser cutting machine working away on my first files

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Pregnant me, in the workshop!

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My notes on laser cutting

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Laser cutting software with my design ready to etch