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

It all comes together! “turn data into things and things into data.”

The world is exciting these days.  Two of my big enthusiasms: information management and creativity; come together in a compelling beautiful and headily complex mixture.  I took many, many pages of notes at Fab 8 (held in Wellington!!!) and I just realised that Fab 10 is coming up very soon in Barcelona.

I mean, just listen to this:

“…3D printers are just the tip of the advanced manufacturing iceberg, noting increasing potential for the creation of

– Manufacturing processes for digital fabrication at different length-scales, from molecules to buildings;

– 3-D “assemblers” that can build functional structures in the same way that complex proteins are assembled from amino acids;

– Programmable strands of DNA that can serve as the “glue” for assembling materials and devices at the nanoscale; and more!”

One great advantage that people interested in things digital have over people who love… incunabula, for example, is that digitophiles are much more likely to be distributing their thoughts, videos, conference presentations, images, musings and projects over the web. I’m hopeful that I can get a huge amount out of Fab 10 without leaving my computer!

Here’s Gartner’s 2013 “Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies“.  It’s quite interesting to look at where 3D Scanners, Consumer 3D Printing, 3D Bioprinting etc come on this graph. So in 2013, Consumer 3D Printing was right at the peak of inflated expectations … mine included, maybe?!

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The more I explore 3D printing, the more I find that the difficulties are in the detail of what I want to do. For example, the organic, freeform type of objects I’d like to make are difficult to achieve in the ‘polygon’ oriented software I can get free access to, while I find the more ‘sculpt’ style software that is designed for more organic style forms very frustrating to work with.  I’m getting there slowly however!

I sent off my second set of files for 3D printing off to imaterialise a few weeks ago, and I’m looking forward to  getting those back soon.

I’m also learning more about the right tools to use for the things I want to do.  Quite a few projects I have in mind are actually more appropriate to do with a laser cutter than with a 3D printer.  Wellington is lucky to have Makerspace, which runs intro sessions for using their exciting tools every thursday night.  I went to the laser cutter intro a few weeks ago, and I’m preparing some files for laser cutting now.  I’m planning to use laser cutting to make etching plates that I can print in a traditional way in the print studio.

This 2011 White House Report on Digital Fabrication is a bit old now, but it has some cool recommendations, including putting a personal manufacturing lab in every school!  Innovation in manufacturing is still a big thing for the Obama administration – the US’s FY2014 budget apparently includes $2.9 billion for advanced manufacturing R&D, including $1 billion to launch a network of up to 15 manufacturing innovation institutes.

Here’s an EU Roadmap for Digital Fabrication.

oh wow how great is this!  The NIH (National Institute of Health in the US) has a 3D Print Exchange, where you can download 3D Print ready bioscientific and biomedical 3D models!! “generate high-quality and scientifically-accurate 3D printable models in only minutes, simply by uploading a file or typing in a database accession code”!!!  Imagine if Statistics NZ had this for societal data…

I also like this quote:

“The creative impulse remains the same whatever tools an artist uses, but it is liberating and exciting to explore a new vocabulary of shapes – part mechanical, part organic – made possible through innovations in technology.”  – Bruce Beasley

Rachel Park wrote this great review of a recent (March 2014) 3D printing conference in Berlin… she’s editor-in-chief of 3DPI, a 3D printing news channel.

Anna Wilhelmi makes 3D printed clothes!

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oooh… Lionel T Dean:

“The potential to translate the virtual direct into real-world products still seems magical to me… Combining computer scripted and CAD software I see my designs as living things evolving and mutating, the flora and forna of an alien landscape.”

WOW I love his design work!

For the record: a list of things to explore

The internet is like the door into Narnia; I open it and it’s so much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside – it’s the whole world transmogrified, everything in the universe turned inside out so I can know it. The contents of not only every encyclopedia, every elephant, every handbag, every lichen but also of every fantasy, every shameful story, every photo of every beloved three-legged cat, every secret.

My mind can explore anything it wants to, and every new thing beckons down a magical path towards another new thing, and another. Fantastical images, projects and ideas flood my mind and overwhelm me, sometimes!  There’s just so much out there in my travels that I know I’ll forget it if I don’t write it down somewhere, so I’ve recorded it here.

I’ve made myself another node in the network, another point of connection, another of the billions of conciousnesses that draw the disparate threads of the web together.

Technart is an amazing sounding conference on art and technology.  Item one on my list is to investigate their programme.

Beneath the Surface – a beautiful exhibition to explore.

I love this quote from the exhibition catalogue: “Questions of surface and depth are a central concern for contemporary-art printmakers; a tension exists between the flat spaces and uniformity of the digital print and the perceived enriched surface qualities of traditional printmaking methods. As Ruth Pelzer-Montada argues,this is essentially the dichotomy of contemporary art that Terry Smith draws out—that of ‘viscerality’ and its emphasis on materiality on the one hand, and of ‘enervation’ and its mechanical or screen-like surface, on the other.

In many instances, this duality of surface can equate to the differences between traditional and contemporary modes of production. For purists, digitally produced printed images lack the unique surface quality that are common to traditional printing modes, such as intaglio, etching and lithography. Even screen-printing, once derided for its commercial flatness, is seen to have a more substantial materiality than the digital surface.

In many ways, this discourse of surface and how it relates to the old and the new is superficial for it suggests that surface is only appearance. Yet, if one looks beneath the surface of printmaking as merely elided to its materiality and visual effect, what murky secrets might arise from the subterraneous complexity of the contemporary
art print? The artists presented in Beneath the Surface engage with printmaking as an expanded field of practice, including sculpture, assemblage, installation, and the digital. Although their conceptual concerns and printing techniques use vastly different approaches, through their work, it is not only possible to consider discourses of materiality but also to reflect on more abstract concepts of depth—where the print’s surface is a
complex process of history that unfolds through time and space.  http://cranearts.com/docs/QCA_exhib-cat1402.pdf

I went to FAB LAB 8 in Wellington, 2012 – it was one of the most inspiring things I did that year, and I took many. many pages of notes that I often look back on.  I just came across videos of the FAB LAB 9 talks in Japan. It’s so great that they put this stuff online!  “The science of Origami”  is just one of the talks I loved.

I also came across The Creators Project recently. The site showcases art/technology projects and introduces artists whose works are inspired and enabled by new technologies.

I really loved FIELD:     FIELD Forays Scan IIV  Somasexual

“The Field team; aka Marcus Wendt and Vera-Maria Glahn, decided to link up with limited edition digital art provider Sedition for Forays– a series of 8 digital artworks that represent “landscapes, architecture, and objects of the future as seen by the artist.” Meant to predict how subsequent generations will view technology and the environment, Forays is split into two parts: one series static, the other a grouping of short films that were also part of a larger project exhibited at the Parsons Gallery Paris in 2013.”    (Quoted from Afternoon Animation: Wander Through The Landscapes Of The Future by The Creators Project Team — Feb 3 2014

The Creators Project had another great article on Making IT wearable!

Creativeapplications.net is a magical new discovery too.  I liked what the site was currently advertising: – Alpha-ville EXCHANGE – a new series of events designed to give the London art, tech and creative communities the opportunity to connect, exchange ideas, get inspired and discover new talent.

Here’s Creative Application’s “Best and most Memorable projects of 2013“, including Nervous System’s Kinematics app and “Silk Pavillion – CNC Deposited Silk & Silkworm Construction at the MIT Media Lab”

DEV Art: art made with code – yet another great site.  I LOVED this one:

https://devart.withgoogle.com/#/catalogued/5643137129119744

This piece (above) is by FIELD

And this project from the DEV art site by Karsten Schmidt has a great detailed explanation of how he made V & A Ornamental  – inspiration for me on my Processing project I’m currently procrastinating on!

I want to find out more about the Intercreate Research Centre – byline “Art, Science, Technology and Cultural Bridging”, apparently based in New Zealand!! Exciting!  . I read about a neat project they have, making hashtags from Tukutuku (traditional Maori woven panels).  They’re holding a conference in 2015!

Tough competition in the attention economy

There is just so much to this article Making It – pick up a spot welder and join the revolution in the New Yorker recently.  Evegny Morozov deconstructs the Maker Movement and its social politics.  It’s fascinating to reflect on how making things has become a ‘movement’, why, and whether it’s really as radical and democratising as it’s made out to be.

And it’s especially interesting to me, of course, because I’m a maker. I’ve always been a maker of things, but now I’m an aspiring Maker with a capital M as well – playing around with 3D tools, manufacturing on demand, setting up my Etsy shop…

The article makes the point that some of the movements proponents “argue that the success of the maker movement shows that the means of production can be made affordable to workers even under capitalism. Now that money can be raised on sites such as Kickstarter, even large-scale investors have become unnecessary. But both overlook one key development: in a world where everyone is an entrepreneur, it’s hard work getting others excited about funding your project. Money goes to those who know how to attract attention. … Inequality here is not just a matter of who owns and runs the means of physical production but also of who owns and runs the means of intellectual production—the so-called “attention economy”.”

So far, I’ve had 8 visits to lichenandsponge.  All of those are from me. Granted, it has only been open a few days, but still, it’s made me hyper-aware of the need for online marketing – how the * am I supposed to compete with the millions of other Etsy shops, with their billions of items, all more or less unique and cool?

I should get into growth hacking, but its just so …scary!   “A growth hacker wraps messaging into the fabric of the lives and thoughts of users.” Alternatively, it could be the occupation for the villain in my book 🙂

“Growth hacking appeared as the modern way in the age of Web 2.0 to reach a market and distribute an idea. Instead of classic marketing which typically interrupts your day, a growth hacker uses “pull”; he or she understands user behavior provides value immediately to persuade. A growth hacker wraps messaging into the fabric of the lives and thoughts of users. A growth hacker will leverage across disciplines, pulling in insights from behavioral economics and gamification, to find the right message to pull in users.

A growth hacker finds a strategy within the parameters of a scalable and repeatable method for growth, driven by product and inspired by data. Growth hacking’s goal are based in marketing but driven by product instincts. A growth hacker lives at the intersection of data, product, and marketing. A growth hacker lives within the product team and has a technical vocabulary to implement what he or she wants.”

And look at what can happen When Growth Hacking Goes Bad!  “Due to the App Store’s nearly impossible to break into Top Charts, app makers have to manufacture and force growth to attract their initial users, and kick off those “viral” effects”.