Month: May 2014

competition or commission: next steps

the public art module really focussed my mind on getting my work “out there” as a vital next step in my professional development. i chose the live sziget brief to really challenge myself to produce a proposal in time to submit for the competition, so i counted the project as a success at that point. what i wasn’t prepared for was the email that came last week saying that the proposal had made it through to the second round \o/

sadly i’m unable to travel for the length of the festival (10 days in august) due to family commitments. ingrid suggested perhaps someone else could take it for me but the interactive nature of the proposal requires a lot of supervision and i think that would need to be me (control freak? :D). my other concern would be actually making the work. while i’d be happy to sit and crochet for a month or so to produce the tent structure the other elements – most importantly the flags – would require access to a print workshop. there’s also the small matter that the notional match funding i included in my budget is closed to applications for this year.

so it’s been a lesson for me in terms of overambitious plans – it never occurred to me for a minute that anyone would actually ask me to make the thing 😀 but more than anything it’s a huge confidence boost. my feedback this year has been really encouraging, but to hear from an actual judging panel for an actual competition that my work is interesting/appealing is a massive deal and will encourage me to keep making these applications. hopefully i should get better at identifying suitable briefs without over stretching myself.

today i hit the deadline for a call for experimental artist’s book from on the theme of “home”. when i spotted this opportunity in the book arts newsletter i knew i already had a piece that would fit perfectly with the theme – my bed as a book. an added bonus for me is that the final exhibition is online only, and wouldn’t require me to part with the book, which i made while i deferred my studies last year and is very close to my heart.

book arts are something i know that i’ll keep exploring, so i really hope that my book and this exhibition are a good match.


3D modelling and beyond

i’m very happy with my sls print (selective laser sintering = powder printing). slight banding on the upper and lower surfaces and some faceting on the inside faces, but these are both more obvious on the lower half and will hopefully be diminished in the casting process (or less obvious in clear resin). the colour of the nylon is stated as white but against a brilliant white backdrop you can see the warm tone, which should work well with the natural colour of the silk inclusions. the printed piece is reassuringly weighty and has a texture my daughter described as “like extra strong mints” 😀

i’m delighted with the crispness of the detail in the text and moth image. this is the clearest difference of using a powder bed printer – which requires no additional supportive structure – compared to the makerbot prints which can never really be cleaned of the tangle of supports.

the pieces fit together perfectly and the dividing line around the edge is barely visible. my only reservation would be how easily the surfaces collect random fragments of fluff and dirt.

i was worried that the delay i experienced in purchasing the software and a pesky bank holiday weekend would mean i wouldn’t be able to progress the project beyond this stage. but 3dprint-uk surpassed their lead time estimates and martin managed to squeeze me into the workshop before the move and i made the first half of my two-part silicone mould today. hopefully the second half will be dry enough to bring home before the weekend, and the slow drying (but non-smelly!) resin i have will cure in time for the assessment.

i have very little time to experiment with the material or the mould and it may turn out i need to do further work over the holidays or when we restart in the autumn, but i’m determined to get this piece finished. even if the casting goes to plan i’m expecting some shrinkage in the resin, which will entail scaling and reprinting of the upper half of the medal to ensure the perfect fit i’m after.

and if i don’t get a usable result from the casting i’ll be left to present the bottom half which i expect to be markedly grubby from the mould-making process – let’s hope it stands up to a vigorous scrubbing with a toothbrush…

the raw and the readymade project development: radio

at long last i have the acrylic case for the radio finished. i’m still at the stage where i can mostly just see the defects, but i’m hoping that the contents will draw attention away from these.

cutting and assembling the case has taken way more time and effort than i anticipated. quality control has been my biggest problem, along with sizing issues – the mockup i made in foamboard turned out to be 3mm thickness rather than the 5mm i’d assumed. various versions had good etching but poor cutting and vice versa. martin recommended that i should assemble the pieces with dowels rather than glue, but strength was less an issue for me than appearance (the case is not intended to ever be carried) and i figured the chances of me messing up drilling at least one of the holes was pretty high. the finish on the glued joins is more visible than i hoped in places but within acceptable limits (and not visible in these pictures ;)).

despite checking and double checking the pieces against each other i have one join that doesn’t sit flush (back left) and the side pieces are fractionally shorter than the front and back. i’m going to cut/construct a channel in the base for the case to rest in, which will disguise this. visible in the pictures (right side handle) is charring of the acrylic from the heat of the laser cutter, which was cutting with more power at the bottom of a sheet than at the top. by this stage i figured i’d already spent enough time and materials trying to get it spot on that i’d just have to live with it. none of the various products i’ve tried has been able to remove it.

one last minute change i made was not to use my original design of a cut-out circular grille on the front. i had issues with cutting on all but one of my samples, and the one that was good had botched etching. i decided that even the best cut grille (with uniformly clear, shiny edges) was too distracting when i want the viewer’s attention to be on the contents rather than the case, it visually obscured a large section of the interior. i decided instead to use a “faulty” piece where i’d forgotten to set those lines to cut – it still conveys the outer appearance of the radio but with much greater visibility. i’d also thought i needed the cut-outs to transmit the sound element of the piece, but once i decided to use an opaque base to contain the electronics – rather than hiding them beneath/within the cityscape – i wasn’t limited by the size/volume of the speaker i could use.



the raw and the readymade project development: book

there were several issues that came up during my formative assessment that i wanted to address in the final piece. the first was how i was going to present the book. being a small and somewhat delicate object i knew it needed some kind of case or protection.

i first considered making a beaded bag, a traditional way of carrying amulets on the person, as well as adding another layer of shiny magical protection (reflective surfaces being believed to ward off evil spirits). i also considered a traditional museum display case, to amplify the notion of the book as an ethnographic artefact, but i worried that this would send a “look don’t touch” message, which i certainly didn’t want – this book is definitely for reading.

i finally decided on a watch display case, being the perfect size to house the book, but hopefully more inviting than a secured case. i’ve yet to settle on a title for the work, but when i do i intend to “etch” it onto the top glass (the most practical way to do this will be to use dry decal transfer paper). i need to ensure this title/message will invite the viewer to open the box and the book.

the case as purchased had a cream velour lining, which i dyed with drawing ink to a more traditional burgundy red. i cut liners to size from foam and covered them with the velour from the internal cushion (with virtually no material to spare). the end result isn’t exactly as i’d hoped – the foam pieces once covered were slightly too large, hence the crumpling of the fabric – but i’m happy that the book fits very neatly into the space and is held firmly in place which is the most important thing to me.

i also wanted to address comments that the quality of the typewritten text block didn’t really match up to the craft skill of the enamel covers. ever keen to try new processes i decided to experiment with laser etching onto paper. the main motivation behind choosing this method was to obtain a digital version of the text block which could be reproduced as a limited edition. artists books in short runs is something that i really wanted to explore further, beyond my experiments on the letterpress. i was pleased to find that it was actually possible to etch onto such thin paper (130gsm, the maximum weight that would fit in the covers) without burning through or any real visibility on the reverse side.

i chose a very simple layout because i wanted the quality of the etching to be the main focus, also because typewritten text/courier is a kind of house style of mine. (i just spotted that my online no-caps writing style has crept through into the example above as well. oops) laying out the text block was quite challenging as i needed to “print” the pages both front and back. getting the right pages in the right place was one thing, but getting the registration of front and back within such narrow margins was the biggest test. i only missed by a few mm but given the size of the book unfortunately that does show, with the text creeping towards the centre of the finished pages.

the practicalities of using the laser cutter with such lightweight material also gave me a few hiccups. originally i’d intended to etch on the front, and then etch and cut the pages from the back. but once cut the pages were scattered by the power of the laser and left me with an almighty mess. there was also an issue with burning on the reverse of the pages, i think due to stray material on the lower grid catching in the heat of the laser.

in order to tame lifting of the paper and subsequent poor registration i ended up taping the sheets onto cardboard and i etched rather than cut the page margins and then cut them by hand. frustratingly, etching those lines increased the time-per-page from 10 minutes to an unwieldy 35. with the queue of people behind me desperate to get onto the cutter (the second cutter having been sent to llandaff for the fab lab) i was unable to re-do the wonky pages or produce more than one sample text block for the limited edition.

overall i’m very happy with the laser etching. the paper is a softer creamy colour which echoes the off-white of the covers, and while the text contrast is subtle there’s a noticeable engraved effect which to my mind gives a much more crafted look than the initial typewritten pages.

my final task on this project is to produce an etch design for the covers which i presume i will make from (3mm?) ply, as it responds so well to the process. i do need to bear in mind the weight of those covers, as the enamel book only just sits closed and the covers are pretty weighty. by increasing the width of the spine and perhaps enlarging the covers overall i hope to counteract the natural “spring” in the text block. if all else fails i’ll just leave them under a heavy weight as long as possible!

3D modelling: part 2

following on from here.

no matter how nicely my rhino models rendered, i couldn’t get them into a printable state. boolean operations were temperamental at best and often failed, apparently at random – working one time and failing the next with identical objects. my models were teeming with horrible jagged edges.

moment of inspiration came to my rescue. it was written by the same person who wrote rhino and all the functions are familiar, but this is a pared down version aimed at the beginning modeller which excels at producing “hard surface” models – ideal for 3D printing.

modelling in moi

here you can see my finished model along with some of the construction elements. the tube on the right is for cutting central holes for the magnets (larger 6mm diameter ones to increase the “grab” between them and hold the heavier final materials). much as i would have liked to use a heightfield image for the top i couldn’t get it to work so i resorted to extruding my line drawings and punching details through cookie-cutter style. this process still required a fair amount of trial and error – i was unable to include some detail i’d have liked on the moth’s body.

i flowed the moth shape across the surface at top left, constructed from the same curve initially used to create the medal profile, after which i just slid it across onto the top. having tried this process in rhino i was left with the eternal boolean union problem – looks okay in render, looks awful when taken into makerware to print – but moi joined them perfectly without complaint.

my plan had always been to powder print the finished model, but i discovered the printer at college had died a while back. the pressure of sending the job out to a commercial printer really focussed my mind – no opportunity for experimental test prints. 3dprint-uk looked like my best bet price-wise, with the added benefit of having an automated quote system that previews the validity of your model and offers some basic fixes. when your two-piece model shows up as having several more you know it has a chance of failure. unfortunately having a test print come out okay on the makerbot – which my glitchy files did – is no guarantee it would also work on a different printer.

i used a piece of software recommended on their site – netfabb basic – to check and repair my stl file. initially it came up with several holes – easily fixed – and thousands of inverted triangles – not so easily fixed in the free version. it turns out this was a result of exporting the mesh with the maximum number of polygons, once i reduced that number down i managed to make an honest-to-goodness valid file \o/

while this process has often been a frustrating one i feel i’ve come a long way in a relatively short period of time. i’ve identified the modelling software best suited to my needs and abilities, with the bonus that what i learn on there should be transferrable to rhino if i find i need something with more features in the future. i did try a number of other pieces of free or trial software as well as taking advantage of autodesk’s student downloads to trial maya and mudbox, but each had its own steep learning curve. in terms of producing printed finished pieces moi works best for me. the tutorials on 3dprint-uk have been very helpful in narrowing down what makes a valid model that has the best chance of printing as expected. i feel well enough equipped now that i would happily use 3d modelling and printing in future work.

can’t wait to get my print back and see how i did.

yorkshire sculpture park: part 1

a fabulous day out, which even yorkshire “spring” weather couldn’t put a dampener on 🙂 the only disappointment was roger hiorns’ seizure – perhaps because my expectations were too high or perhaps because it photographs better than it works irl. the bath was a nice unexpected touch though.

james turrell | deer shelter | 2006

deer shelter was one of my highlights. the impression on a cloudy day was of a fluorescent light in the ceiling, rather than an opening. it wasn’t too cold to sit on the concrete benches and really absorb the work, the lack of other visitors helped this contemplative mood. understated inside and out, apparently inaccessible, but a real immersive atmosphere inside.

we did wonder how many sheep might have fallen into it 😀

anna collette hunt | infestation | 2011

a swarm of ceramic bugs, each beautiful and jewel-like. en masse rather more unsettling.

henry moore | two forms | 1966

the lamb kept licking this for some reason. the astroturf around the base was an unexpected if practical touch.

hemall bhuta | speed breakers | 2012

on our walk up through the woods towards the longside gallery we both remarked on the beauty of the roots stretching across the path. this cast bronze piece melds into the surroundings almost too much – even having read the signs we  nearly missed it.

andy goldsworthy | hanging trees | 2007

total fangirl moment for me, seeing my first goldsworthys in the wild.

julian opie | galloping horse | 2012

it was magical to glimpse this piece at a distance, galloping through the trees.

peter liversidge | everything is connected | 2012

i was heartened to discover the use of unexpected/nontraditional materials given the setting.

sophie ryder | sitting | 2007

i found sophie rider’s work immensely appealing yet disconcerting, sorry i missed crawling, which looks even more extraordinary.

barbara hepworth | the family of man | 1970

love the texture.

commemorative bench

i’m with duncan cook on ysp.

field project presentations

both of the modules i chose required a final presentation. i’ve edited them down to medium quality and 10 second slides to give an idea of the content of each.

morocco project (geometry):

public art project (festival brief):

following my feedback for the first presentation i’ve credited and captioned images where possible in the second.

the final slide of the “dear budapest” show is my first try at a visual proposal, which i wasn’t happy with and asked for specific feedback on. as a result of that feedback i’ve split it between two pages, edited down the content to the real essentials and added text to highlight the most important element of the project – a conversation between festival participants and the residents of Budapest (and beyond).