Month: March 2015

all change

various things came up at today’s assessment:

chairs – these are designed/fabricated objects with a strong aesthetic – are they distracting from the work that *i’ve* designed and fabricated? will people see the chairs ahead of the work? in a *domestic* environment will my work be reduced to an element of – decoration?

lens element on the laser drawing lightboxes may be worth reinstating. if so a ball lens seems most appropriate. perhaps i can take design/material cues from the lens carrier on the solar drawing machine which is very successful.

the quality of the frame for the cyanotype piece *has* to match the finish quality of the other pieces. none of the budget options of screws/glue/welding appeals for various reasons. the piece has to be diss- and re-assembled – otherwise i have nowhere to store it, i’d have to abandon it on the central reservation of a motorway 😦

despite the cost i’m considering using an extruded aluminium profile system, along these lines…


apart from the externally seamless construction, these pieces could be dis- and re-assembled at will, and take a variety of clear acrylic “slides” slotted into the inner channels.

led sequencing

settling on a box format for the cyanotype piece allows me much greater freedom in terms of the electronics within, as they won’t be exposed. in contrast to the individual leds we’d previously experimented with, the neopixel strips are dead simple to get up and running.

adafruit provide a library of sequencing patterns, but this piece requires custom coding. specifically, i want to create a theatre chase using only blue and white. this is the first step in that direction. props to my technical co-ordinator :thumbs:

lasercutting – new vs old

more wonky vids \o/

solar drawing machine in production

and in action

this is the first working prototype of the machine, with a lens carrier exquisitely crafted in book board and elastic thread 😀 the final piece will be bolted aluminium – the custom cut disks arrived today and they look the biz.

another coming adaptation is to readjust the gearing ratios so a full turn of the handle results in the required tiny incremental creep of the turntable. this should allow me to take regular “snapshots” capturing the changing qualities of the light. turning the handle at a regular rate irrespective of the strength of the sunlight should produce a trace that reveals the ebb and flow of sunlight on the machine.


of the 4 elements for my final show this is the least developed. i knew i wanted to work with another form of direct “sun drawing”. i’m quite practised with the cyanotype process and i really wanted to bring it – and the use of textiles – into the show somehow.

having run some experiments with commercial “sun-print” paper i knew i could get some interesting results using the ball lenses. i hoped i could draw out a relation with the other pieces in terms of a) drawing with light b) repeated use of the lenses c) monochrome and d) square format.

it helped enormously in terms of preparation to have the use of the drying room in the dye workshop to coat and dry large fabric panels (these test pieces are approx. 50cm square). i achieved good coverage of the chemistry with no fogging, although the cleanup was a fair job as it dripped all over the floor… newspaper down next time!

my sample results are patchy due to limited light availability – i’m hoping that exposing the final pieces in the studio will give me more breathing room (and make the most of the sunny desk i made such a fuss about). to me they have a look of frogspawn, and the light patches where the fabric has creased add to that aquatic feel. which ties in nicely with the jellyfish light patterns i envisaged for the final piece. my intention is still to use silk for the show, which will expose quite differently to the cotton sheeting i used for the samples.

my initial plan for this piece was to include soft circuits in each panel. my experiments drew a blank however, and the revised approach was to separate the circuitry/leds from the fabric and layer them in between the panels instead.

but seeing the samples hanging did nothing to convince me that this was a viable proposition. they seemed much too small to make the impact i was after and the prospect of wiring in over a hundred individual leds gave me the heebie-jeebies.

then my partner-in-crime suggested making a box, and a light went on. i’ve made two for previous college projects – in hand-cut paper and mixed media – and i feel the form dovetails nicely into my bookmaking.

all of a sudden the panels had much more presence as part of a large cube, and the technical issues are slashed if all the electronics and lighting can be contained within it. it also means i can use strip-leds rather than having to wire each lamp individually, which will help massively with the technical side.

this mock-up is made in cardboard, but ideally the finished piece will be bounded in (narrower) aluminium frames – echoing the solar drawings and introducing structural stability.

dropping just a short string of lights into it brought it alive in a way i really hadn’t anticipated. really quite excited about the possibilities now.

the main remaining issue is how to keep the cat out…

veneers 3

building on my success with the sticky-backed veneers i couldn’t resist experimenting with beautifully figured burr veneers.

i wasn’t sure whether the complex grain would fight with the drawings but i was really happy with my interim results. the burr patterns remind me of rising smoke, which relates to the drawing process – i judge the degree of burn for each point by the smoke rather than looking directly at the wood surface. it also fits my overall theme well – bringing to mind innumerable cigarettes smoked and extinguished.

the process of working with the burr wood itself however is extremely tricky. as can be seen in the product photo they arrive in a naturally crinkly and highly delicate state – a result of the differing directions of grain in each piece causing uneven shrinkage, cracking etc.

i went through a simple wetting/ironing/pressing process, which seemed very effective at flattening the pieces. however, as soon as the heat of the sun touches the wood it begins to pull away from the drawing board, returning to its convoluted state.

i also had serious issues trying to attach the burr veneers to the aluminium composite mounts. my first try was with the *free* glue supplied. if i’d been gluing to a wood substrate i imagine it may have been more successful but on the aluminium the water content of the glue made the veneer wrinkle irretrievably. i had better success with spray-mount in terms of reducing wrinkling but didn’t achieve the seamless bond of the psa.

my next plan of attack is to flatten the veneers as above – each brown paper parcel contains one damped and ironed-dry leaf. who knew my enormous stash of art books would come in quite so handy 😀 i’ll change the papers a couple more times to ensure any remaining moisture is removed. then i plan to back at least one sample with a double sided adhesive sheet, in the hope that it will a) stabilise the veneer during the drawing process and b) give me the super-tight bond to the mounts that i’m after.

veneers 2


solar drawing | cardiff | 2015
solar drawing | cardiff | 2015

very happy with the butler finish composite, much more reflective than the standard metallic finish. each mounted with the wood grain sitting against the brushed grain of the metal.

next step is experimenting with waxing the veneers prior to exposure – to do it after would tend to gather in hollows and spoil the aluminium finish.


testing the drawing machine with psa-backed wood veneers.

the process takes at least 4x as long as on paper to burn through the full thickness of the veneer. 2 rotations took 3 hours, allowing for the odd cloudy moment and regularly moving the machine to chase the sunlight falling through the window.

marked out with london landmark skyline tape, which endearingly features the eiffel tower 😀