Making

This summer I changed my blog subtitle from “Artist | Technologist | Educator” to “Artist | Maker | Educator.” For a while I was reticent about the Maker moniker, but there now seems to be some legitimacy to the name. A maker is one who makes or produces something. In pop culture a maker is one who makes something using DIY electronics, but it’s obvious that makers go way beyond that. For instance, there’s been an indie-DIY maker movement in film for some time where filmmakers build production gear at a significantly lower cost than commercial products. This Newsweek article describes the maker movement as:

…a global community of inventors, designers, engineers, artists, programmers, hackers, tinkerers, craftsmen and DIY’ers—the kind of people who share a quality that Rosenstock says “leads to learning [and]…to innovation,” a perennial curiosity “about how they could do it better the next time.”

June 18, 2014 was an official National Day of Making in the U.S. The maker movement is seen not only as a form of personal expression and flexing curiosity muscles, but also as a potential economic engine. Makers could bring invention and manufacturing back to the U.S. The only issue I have with the proclamation is the emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). While the STEM movement in education is important, I prefer the STEAM movement, which adds Art to the mix.

Being a maker requires a balance of creativity and logic. The creative side poses a problem or challenge and guides it with an aesthetic. The logic side provides the steps needed to implement a solution to the problem and then both sides evaluate the solution to see if it succeeds. Making a film, a piece of interactive art, a painting, designing a kitchen gadget, or a prosthetic hand is as much creative as it is technical, thus requires active thinking and experience from both creativity and logic. I think it is very interesting that the western world has put people like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Benjamin Franklin on pedestals as “Renaissance Men” or polymaths, yet we compartmentalize our education system in a way that allows us to choose between the sciences or the humanities/arts with a total lack of balance between them. General education (GE) requirements in college attempt a balance, but students are trained early (even in high school) to see the GE as a chore to get through rather than something that can actually help them understand the world from multiple points of view and gain thinking and manual skills that will help them throughout their lives.

Who’s not a maker? Most white collar workers and low-skill laborers.

I’m one of those cliche makers. As a kid I disassembled my toys, figured out how they worked, and mixed them to make something new. I had an erector set. I had Lincoln Logs and some Legos. My father was an engineer and he grew up having to fix his cars, home, appliances and be self-sufficient. My mother learned to paint and make crafts completely on her own. I learned early on to fix cars, I learned to drive a manual transmission car at the age of 10. I was taught to build and repair things, use a myriad of tools, and to not be afraid to experiment (or of change). I also learned to draw and paint at home before finally taking art classes in school.

In Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soul Craft, he discusses the demise of shop class from American high school and college curricula during the 1990s. Luckily, I grew up on military bases in the 70s and 80s with amazing shop facilities both in the schools and for the base residents (the original maker spaces). I helped my father work on cars and made ceramics with my mother in the shops and then took industrial arts courses from the 6th through 9th grades and then got into making theatre sets and props starting in the 10th grade though graduate school.

Since the late 1990s, I’ve been building my own maker space (aka “shop”) that’s moved a few times and unfortunately resides in my garage and home office. Someday I’ll consolidate my spaces in a single building, but I think that’s going to happen in a different residence than where I am now.

I make a lot of different things with different materials and using a lot of different tools. A few recent examples are in a previous post. My work is often traditional using wood, metal, glass, paint, and drawing, while other projects live in the ether like projections or computer graphics/film projects. I also make beer, which is its own sub-set of the maker movement called the craft beer and home brewing movements.

To get into making I suggest that one look at his/her activities that get handed over to someone or something else and see if it could be done on one’s own. For instance:

  • Cook your meals. If you haven’t done it before then try starting with something like chili. Find a recipe (the logic), and then spice it and add other ingredients to your liking (the creative).
  • Filmmaking students – make your props and design your costumes beyond what’s in the actor’s closet.
  • Change your car’s oil. BTW, another idea from Crawford is that one should stay away from the “time is money” point of view when considering tasks that could be done by someone else for a few bucks. I heard this years ago and it made me go back to changing my own oil and doing basic maintenance like I did before getting a job back in 2000.
  • Get a Dremel and do some projects.
  • Make some Christmas or birthday presents
  • Learn to program using Python, Javascript, Apple’s Swift, Java, or C. And/or HTML, CSS, and Javascript.
  • Follow stories in Make and Instructables. Try something out that intrigues you.
  • Customize your bicycle (replace the seat, bars, pedals, or whatever makes you uncomfortable when riding)
  • Learn to make 3D models using Sketchup or 123Design or Blender so you can 3D print them.
  • Fix a leaky faucet or constantly running toilet
  • Change the oil in your mower and sharpen the blades
  • Make a lamp including doing the wiring from scratch
  • Fix a lamp
  • Mend a piece of clothing. Sew a button back on
  • Buy a Raspberry Pi or Arduino and teach it to do tricks
  • Carve a pumpkin for Halloween and/or Thanksgiving

Wake Me Up When September Ends

Been quite a while since I updated the blog. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

The summer started off with a gig doing graphics for the current Brad Paisley tour. I created a few 3D models for the other artists to work with at MooTV and created an animation of a space shuttle taking off. The space shuttle animation opened the show. This gig got the summer started right by funding the 3D printer and my home office remodel. I also helped design the stage for this concert. Here’s a pic of the stage with an image of a shuttle on the screens (not my shuttle, but you get the idea)

Testing to see if the space shuttle look will work with the stage design

Testing to see if the space shuttle look will work with the stage design

Garage/Shop

Before getting the remodel going I really needed to cleanup my garage/workshop, fix some work surfaces, and do something about my aging air compressor and air-line setup. I replaced the 14-year old compressor and re-worked the air distribution. The 3D printer came in handy here. My first custom printed model was a bracket to mount a pneumatic junction on my ceiling. I also replaced a cheesy work table with one that will be more useful for projects.

Air BracketPrinted Air Bracket

 

 

 

 

Home Office/Studio

Remodeling the home office needed to happen. Last summer we remodeled most of the downstairs except for the office. I had done some work previously to a wall (exterior and interior) that was damaged by water and time, but the rest of the office looked like it did after we moved in 10 years ago. I took my time because I could and stretched out re-texturing the ceilings, painting, trimming, carpeting, and decorating over three weeks (about a week or so worth of actual work). The Brad Paisley gig paid for the materials and some furniture, but I also built some of my own furniture.

Back room before the remodel

Back room before the remodel

One of 3 selfies I've ever done

One of 3 selfies I’ve ever done

Painting getting started

Painting getting started

 

 

 

 

 

3D Printer Table

Five years ago I built a simple table/stand for my Linux rendering computers (cheap custom PCs). I decided that this table should be used for the 3D printer so I built a new top for it. I had some shelves I built many years ago out of 1×12 that I decided not to use again so I cut the wood into strips and made a table top.

Table Top Glue UpFinished Table Top

 

 

 

 

Drawing Table

I’ve been carrying around an old drafting/drawing table for about 20 years without actually using it. My father got it about 40 years ago from the Arkansas Tech ROTC building that had partially burned (you can see some smoke staining in one of the pictures). I loved the table, but didn’t have room for it’s size and I wanted to finish it somehow before I put it back into service. My father used it with another drafting surface on top of it to protect it, but I wanted to do something a little different.

I cut it down to a more manageable size and built a new base for it. I had the old saw-horse style base, but decided not to re-finish the old base. Once the top was cut down, I sanded and sealed it. Then, I attached it to a new base and put a self-healing cutting mat on it to protect it. The base is kinda lame so I am thinking I’ll build a base that is more inspired next summer.  I’m so happy to finally be using the table top. My father died quite unexpectedly 20 years ago (in February) and this table top is one of the few things I have of his that I knew he truly enjoyed having. It’s great to put it back in service.

See the smoke under the supports

See the smoke under the supports

Drafting Table Cut Down

Cut to more usable length

Completed Drawing Table next to store-bought table

Completed Drawing Table next to store-bought table

 

 

 

 

 

Artwork

I’ve been doing some drawing over the last year. I posted about how iPad drawing wasn’t doing for me so I’ve been doing as much traditional drawing as I can (as I feel like it too…). Also, as part of my office remodeling project, I photographed all of my artwork. I expect to post my artwork soon now that I have it photographed. I just need to do some color correction on the photos. Here are some recent drawings I’ve done in my sketchbook (just a tease – there are lots more).

Demon of Dutch Hill. Inspired by Stephen King's Dark Tower: Wasteland

Demon of Dutch Hill. Inspired by Stephen King’s Dark Tower: Wasteland

Some rocks in my head

Some rocks in my head

Sasha WIP

Sasha WIP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beer Brewing

During the semesters I don’t brew very much compared to the summer break. This summer I brewed a lot. I was able to try out some different recipes and refine my all-grain process a little more. I also added a crazy-cheap chest freezer to handle my need for consistent fermentation temperatures. In the fall, winter, and spring, I can keep the fermentation temperature pretty close to optimal in my house, but during the summer my temps go up since my house is somewhat old and cannot maintain the right temp for brewing . The deep freeze takes care of the problem nicely and I can tell that my summer brews are much better. I just set the temp I want on the controller and it tells the freezer when to turn on and off to maintain that temp.

Mr. Olympia

Towards the end of summer/beginning of the semester I got another gig. This time I needed to create a virtual 3D version of a sculpture of Joe Weider, the first Mr. Olympia, for the 50th Mr. Olympia competition. It was supposed to be just a weekend job, but it took an extra few days of iterations on the likeness until the client was happy. This gig will support a computer upgrade at some point (my computers are 5 years old). Apple just announced the latest iMac, which is cool, but it features AMD graphics hardware, which is bad news for the software I use most. Now I’m trying to decide what I’m going to do (previous iMac that’s Nvidia-based, hackintosh, thunderbolt pcie box, etc…).

 

Mr. Olympia animation last frame

Mr. Olympia animation last frame

ArtsFest

The end of the summer for me was ArtsFest on October 3rd. I created some animations that I projected onto a building in the downtown Conway area. It ended up pretty much sucking compared to the work I did for ArtsFest last year. Last year I did a projection mapping project that drew a nice crowd, but this time the projection was literally over everyone’s head. Most of the audience there did not even know if was happening and the crowd was much smaller than it was last year. Also, a street light washed out half of the projection. The organizers had not seen that particular light on ever, but on 10/03 it came on… I think the thing that really sucked was that I essentially phoned the project in. I had plenty of time to make it really cool, but I did not put in the time or effort. I probably only had 30 hours (maybe) in the whole project so I created things that were easy and uninspired. Next year I plan to do something interactive rather than rendered footage. Interactivity is inherently more interesting at an event like ArtsFest and it is something that I have not done in many years so I think the challenge will kick me into gear to make something cool.

ArtsFest Light Issue

ArtsFest Light Issue

ArtsFest Fabric Fall

ArtsFest Fabric Fall

ArtsFest Cubes

ArtsFest Cubes

ArtFest Spheres

ArtFest Spheres

ArtsFest Lock

ArtsFest Lock

ArtsFest Tunnel Ride

ArtsFest Tunnel Ride

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New semester

This fall semester started out as one of the busiest of my teaching career. Between a new class, a server meltdown, and having a major impact on the careers of four of my colleagues (via the Tenure and Promotion committee), it has been tough to get anything interesting done. It’s fall break now and I’m feeling a bit of relief.

Future projects

I’ve been working on a few other things that I have not mentioned in this post (both professional and personal projects). As those projects mature I’ll post about them. They include brewing projects, 3D printing, artwork, and film work.