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

Getting scientific with photogravure

Years and years and days worth of effort – that’s how long it’s taken me to submit to the need for a scientific approach to getting good results with photogravure.

Now I’m here.  Multiple test plates for every image, carefully listing and controlling the variables of image exposure time, stochastic screen exposure time, washing time, washing pressure, drying time, drying temperature, not to mention the ink viscosity, transparency, printing pressure, blankets… and I’m documenting EVERYTHING.

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I am finally beginning to get some results I’m happy with… on a reliable basis, in a way where I can understand WHY I got the results I did.  Luxury!

It’s a subtle thing that I’ve learnt over all the years I’ve been making art: that its one thing to fluke an amazing print (or any piece of art), and quite another thing being able to produce an amazing effect deliberately.

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Wunderrūma at the Dowse

I was so lucky to not only get to the Wunderruma exhibition at the Dowse, but also to the artist talk the first saturday it was open.

http://dowse.org.nz/exhibitions/detail/wunderruma-schmuck-aus-neuseeland

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I have been looking carefully at methods of fastening lately:

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Beautiful textures on this wood:

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I was as interested in the presentation as I was in the jewellery – I loved the jewellery displayed on those long clean planes that seemed to hover in space.

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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!

Visiting Janet Hughes, a Wellington printmaker

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to visit the printmaker Janet Hughes and see her beautiful new printing press.

This press was made (and personally delivered) by John Mulvay.  He’s an etching press manufacturer based in Waihi who is also an artist himself.  I’d just love one of these of my very own one day.  John posted about this press on his own blog too.

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Janet also showed me some of the prints and beautiful artwork she has around the house.  Being in Janet’s house was a beautiful experience.  It made me want to write Imagist poetry, or do Japanese calligraphy, dressed in a silk kimono.

The quality of the light makes me feel like gently lifting a horsehair brush, dipping it into the inky dimness in the stairwell and drawing an ink wash line onto linen paper.  This line will perfectly describe the clean silhouettes of the bare winter trees outside.

It’s a house made of clean lines in deep yellow, Japanese lacquer red and many shades of subtle greys in textures of tile, wall, delicate paper lampshade.  A soft pearly light filters through glass surfaces.  I’m sort of in love with it.

Janet’s work is similar; subtle and thoughtful, with beautiful detail.  I can see the Japanese influence.  I’m looking forward to seeing her new work on the new printing press!

Here are some of Janet’s pieces (thanks for sharing Janet, and apologies for the  photo quality!):

 

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