progress update

l to r: ball lens tracks – solar etcher | gearset duplicated in illustrator – solar etcher | soft circuit, ss 2ply thread – cyanotpyes


1. solar etcher

  • jon suggested a track, similar to a marble run, to hold the ball lens in place while the paper rotates beneath it. i managed to find a (£1.29 :D) hanging rack with rails the right distance apart, a few minutes with the dremel and a whole load of sparks later and i’m getting close-ish to a working model. i still need to test and adjust the focal length (i.e. height above the baseboard).
  • i’ve made a start with the gear generating software. i figured the first thing to do was to make a close copy of the sample mechanism i have, before adjusting it for size and other variables. i managed to achieve this, although in a fairly round-about way. is it possible just to specify diameter and number of teeth? the next task is to design a baseboard and turntable and test them all on the laser cutter.

2. don’t panic book

  • no progress to report. i need to look at the possibilities for making the led circuit on the front cover independent of the main control board/battery in the book (as i have no spare pins to accommodate it).

3. laser drawing

  • second test roll is at the developers – i’ve finally learned how to use my cable release reliably 🙂 testing further for exposure and using the flexible clamp to hold the laser pointer. next roll will explore additional angles both for laser and camera/tripod.
  • mounted slides look mint 😀
  • given the effectiveness of the “marble run” track in the solar etcher i’d like to include a similar mechanism in the lightbox/loupe display. also for continuity between pieces.

4. cyanotypes

  •  having explored the possibilities in maggie’s workshop i have to rule out digital stitch from this element, not least because it requires a stabilising backing which won’t work with a translucent piece approached from either side.
  • following various tests i prefer the aesthetic and connotations of hand stitched circuits, these are also reasonably economical on use of expensive conductive thread.
  • i asked maggie for recommendations of a hand stitch that would make the most of the springiness of the thread. she suggested a form of whipped backstitch called pekinese. this ticks all my boxes – it reintroduces the spiral motif as well as conveying the organic nature of the inspiration for the use of light in this piece. technically it has a similar appearance to the chain stitch of my previous samples but with the huge improvement of not puckering the fabric. i’m working it as a whipped running stitch rather than a backstitch as i’d like to keep the thread traces relatively minimal/ephemeral.
pekinese stitch | cotton, stainless steel thread (2ply)
  • i’m leaning towards exposing the cyanotypes before stitching, rather than after. it comes down to a decision between “melting” the stitching into the printed final piece (stitch first) and adapting the stitching on each sheet to reflect the unique patterns produced in the cyanotype process (stitch last). the conductive portion of the trace is fixed – if i want to produce the effect of a pulsing spiral, which i do – but to have the remainder of the stitching to echo/enhance the cyanotyped pattern will i think be a better (and more interesting) blend of materials/processes than purely one of colour.
  • thanks to steve i shouldn’t need to evict my kids from their beds (the only light-proofable space i have available) in order to coat the fabric \o/ he has a large airy drying room that’s easily blacked out and perfect for drying fabric overnight without risk of fogging.
  • i still need to decide on scale – the larger each sheet the more leds and conductive thread will be required, but the greater the impact. equally, i may need more/larger lenses for a larger fabric area. most importantly – how would i expose a large sheet? i made a fuss about having direct sunlight on my studio space for the solar etcher – i never considered i may want to expose even larger pieces.
  • i need to bear in mind how to hang the finished work, it may be useful to book a larger studio space in order to test my options.
  • i still need to finalise fabric – silk is my first choice but i need to get maggie’s advice on which type to use.
  • jon was really helpful troubleshooting my soft circuit samples – i haven’t yet tested his best guess that the leds are drawing power at different rates hence flakiness, and that a resistor before each led should help fix this. but the circuits that *do* work are either all the same colour, or using the adafruit sequins which have a resistor built-in.
  • which leds to use in the final piece? adafruit neopixels presumably have resistors built in BUT they’re a) expensive and b) uni-directional – will they show at all from the back/far side? basic (cheap!er) addressable leds have improved viewing angle (back/front) but will each require a resistor? extra work stitching those in may pay off…

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