Some Thoughts On The Work Ahead

Lately I have not done any work on dissertation material as I have been super busy with getting things done for my end of second year show and assessment. I came away from all of that with a high 2:1 so I am very pleased and ready to be getting on with my dissertation studies.

The last meeting I had with my tutor Alexandros we tried to discern a focus for my work so that I could shorten the time it will take me to get to writing. We listed what my dissertation is and is not:

  • Clear: It is about algorithms and programming
  • It is about art and craft
  • The relationship between/or that these can have.
  • the work is not interactive
  • it is compared with traditional craft
  • it will ultimately be a combination of lots of different processes
  • I need to make, write and think in the same time frame – this way it will evolve
  • Case studies are a great base to work from.

Since a couple of weeks ago when this meeting was, I have not done so much as I stated above due to other work.

I have downloaded grasshopper but have not used it yet. I will be experimenting with it later to day. I want to blog regularly about my progress with it but we shall see how that goes. Initially I think I will follow some tutorials to get a feel for the way it works and then just play with it and see what forms I produce. Once I am proficient with grasshopper I need to consider where the algorithm will enter the work, from the considered and decided use of an algorithm to how I actually use it and how that process will work.

I shall also try to blog about some artists and organisation who’s work is in similar veins and is inspirational and helpful to my dissertation work.

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IoT and My Drawing Machine Proposal

My final outcome for the second field project, The Real And Virtual Internet of Things, was to be a scanning drawing machine. Its purpose was to scan an
object and produce a drawing in response to the stimulating object. This drawing could be abstract or representational depending on what the scanner and
programmed code came up with. The machine would be set to one or the other, defined in the code prior to its completion.

I did not realise quite how much of an undertaking this was until I had reached my formative assessment at the end of the module, I had not begun making it as
I had a mixed experience with module, it was very interesting and stimulating but I could find no focus, it was so broad with lots of attractive avenues.

The machine would physically be composed of 2 main components these are the scanning component and the drawing machine itself. There is a third component
which is the programming of the machine and the particularly hard bit there is getting the scanner to talk to the micro controller drawing machine. Drawing
machines, I have seen on the internet so far, are all programmed by a human operator who does the jobs on a separate computer with different types of software
and shuffles things around to get the end result – a drawing from a photo or image.

To learn how to do these things I would rely on on-line sources and tutorials eg. several to get the kinetic scanner working, others to construct a drawing
machine and then seek on-line support and advice from on-line maker communities perhaps to help join the two if i really get stuck in making the two machines
talk to each other. I need to turn scan data (maybe a still of can so an jpeg) into a format that the micro computer can turn it into lines or forms or
colour values and then use that data (something it can measure/quantify from a scan/image) to draw an image of some description on its canvas.

So far I have bought an Xbox Kinetic module to use as a scanner. However I have only got as far as trying to install the drivers so it will work with my
computer. For some reason that I cannot fathon I am having great trouble getting the drivers to work. I have discovered that my graphics card may not be
suited or powerful enough. I have downloaded a host of different programmes to experiment with and use for the project, all these programmes are open source
and free. I really like this open source coding ethos, it is quite selfless and hugely benificial to so many everywhere. I would love to give back to the open
source community one day. The programmes include Meshlab, Processing, Python, Powershell, Meshmaker, NotePad++, Sense, Microsoft SDK’s, Microsofts Visual,
Studio, Skanect and several more. I will not become well versed with all these programmes, some I may only use a few times and others a lot more.
Some examples of online projects or totourials that I have tired to follow:

http://www.instructables.com/id/EASY-Kinect-3D-Scanner/

How to 3D scan with Skanect

reconstructme.net/

3dprintingindustry.com/…/new-kinect-adapter-gives-3d-builder-full-colo…

http://skanect.occipital.com/

http://www.instructables.com/id/Polargraph-Drawing-Machine/

http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/en_uk/blog/build-your-own-drawing-machine-instructables-how-to

https://vimeo.com/channels/drawingmachines

Once its made, where can the project go from there? I think the idea or project could move into other areas, especially a more active relationship within the internet of things, such as remote scanning and home based drawing machine.


Copper Medal

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My copper medal and my Sedna outcomes are related by theme, they both examine water issues and act as the start to a conversation or line of inquiry for the viewer. The simple copper bowl is decorated with jewellers enamel to and is a dry powder enamel rather than a liquid one as my steel enamel was. The powder form of the enamel presented some challenges when trying to coat the small series of bowls I made to choose from. There was quite a lot of trial and error where enamel burnt or did not flux properly, where it was to thick with an unbalanced surface tension. On several of the pieces I had severe cracking and ‘pinging’ problems where the enamel ‘pings’ off the metal due to the surface tension. One of the main problems I experienced was coating the interior walls of the slightly steeper bowls. To coat these I had to sift a lot of enamel resulting in really thick coats which did not fire well at all and almost instantly ‘pinged’ off. I tried sifting the enamel of wet metal surfaces but this also resulted in patchy uneven coats. Then I tried a glass firing glue which worked well to get a thin coating but when fired it just burned the enamel brown and it crumbled off. It cannot be used on metal it seems, just glass surfaces. That is how I made the river meander design on my large steel bowl and it worked well on top of a layer of enamel. It allowed me to quickly make a design, carve the shape until I was satisfied, it let me knock of the excess and the bowl could be transported to the kiln safely with little fear of the enamel powder moving. In the end i just had to be super careful about getting the first coat down and fired. Then I could move a little more quickly and fluidly

Although I have had quite a bit of experience enamelling I found that my skills had gotten a little rusty. I made some classic errors in preparation and approach – it was all a little rushed in the end. The form is simple and now that its all done I look at and think, its too simple! Perhaps I could have come up with a more interesting bowl form.

Fair Well Too Enamelling?

I enjoy enamelling as a process. I relish simple and bold designs and a limited palette. However this year I did not really learn anything new about enamelling such as a new technique other than gaining experience at working on steel. It was down to me to get books on techniques and seek out learning but found myself preoccupied with my usual distractions and worries that inhibit my making. So I feel it is unlikely that I will return to enamelling next year on Designer Maker, I feel I would benefit more by doing some course or setting aside time to really focus on it a bit later on in my creative career. So fair well for now perhaps but not forever. Knowing me I shall probably be eating these words soon enough.


Second Year Show and a Reflection On the Year

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This is my final set up for my end of second year.

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  The two water themed bowls and the light form my submission for the Sedna brief.


Kinetic Environments 500 Word Reflective Statement

Kinetic environments was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting field module. I feel it was well structured and delivered with realistic aims expected. I found that I got on well with the module tutor Paul Granjon and also the electronics technician Dennis Flynn, they were both enthusiastic and engaging as well as being patient and encouraging. The demonstrations of coding and circuit building were clear and mostly memorable, building on-top one another in such a way that allowed skills to progress steadily. It was made clear that the learning curve with coding and electronics is steep and can be daunting to get started. However I think most of the group were able to get to grips with most things and once some had reached a certain level they felt quite happy to go away and spend time expanding upon what they had learnt by trying to apply their new skills in creative ways.
From the first day we encouraged to work in groups, I found this to be immensely fun and very beneficial to productivity. It was great to learn how to code and wire circuits with another person, the partly social aspect made it more engaging and fun, especially as it can be quite daunting to get to grips with initially on your own. A small group situation meant every one could have a go with out the activity getting tedious and that ideas could be bounced around and developed all day, this was particularly useful when it came to coming up with a project to make for the end of the module. I feel the group work helped me with developing task structures and delegating jobs. These processes helped work out the strengths of individuals within the group and how we worked together as a team. After the field modules were over and I returned to subject I think I took some of the group work task management skills with me back to subject and tried to apply these to my work there.
Many of the basic electronics and arduino skills we learnt I already had so initially I did not find the module very challenging. However as the module progressed I began to find things harder but continued to have fun. Things such as combining two pieces of code and instructing the arduino board micro-controller to do multiple things were challenging to figure out and get bug free. For the final couple of weeks of the module we were instructed to create an outcome using the skills we had learnt, and we also had the option to work as a group. Seeing as I had enjoyed working as part of a group so much over the previous weeks I joined one of people I had worked with previously. Our outcome was simple and whilst not particularly ambitious it was challenging enough to push our skills further. The skills I have gained from Field include group working, organisational, basic electronics and some basic coding knowledge. Organisational and time management skills were elements that I tried to bring back to my subject work.


The Real and Virtual Internet of Things 500 Word Reflective Statement

I chose The Real and Virtual Internet of Things module for second term field as it was recommended if you had chosen Kinetic Environments in the first term. I started the module quite excited with the breadth the module covered and also to learn a different coding language (Python) with the Raspberry Pi. To begin with I liked how the module was split into 3 parts, each with their own area relevant to the Internet of Things. However towards the last couple of weeks of the module I found It was perhaps to much. I found it difficult to focus on an aspect that I wanted to build my skills in and then make an outcome from. I had entered this module with an intention to continue improving my time management and organisation. Whilst I maintained regular blogging, reflection and conducted quite a lot of research I found I could not get to creating an outcome, I think perhaps there was to much content and I got lost in it all and ended up making nothing. The problem perhaps is that learning to coding has a very steep learning curve that does not provide much reward for quite a while and it is easy to become disenchanted with it and relapse. I tried to deal with this through self discipline but found it very difficult however.
The nature of learning to code it seems is to go away and learn through self directed learning which is a good skill and I was happy to try, how ever I feel there could have been more supporting structure. Perhaps for example a series of group mini projects each week that build upon the previous one. When one has to go away and learn an utterly foreign language it is easy to give up. However I do realise that the module is trying to cover a huge area.
Despite my decline in enthusiasm I did come up with an idea of making a drawing machine in the last couple of weeks of the module. I wanted the drawing machine to scan an object and then produce a simple abstracted drawing of that object. Although I did not realise it at the time, indeed until I actually tried to start work on it, this is a very complicated project for someone with my level of skill. I got to the end of the module with just a proposal of the project I had in mind. Myself and two tutors discussed this project the difficulties that it presented and decided instead to come up with to separate parts; the scanning component and the actual drawing machine. I did not manage to produce anything however, I believe that after several attempts I became disenchanted with the idea and found it difficult to focus when I had such difficulty with what I thought was the simpler part; the scanner.
In short I was and am very interested in the area, but found the plethora of content the module offered a bit intimidating and found it hard to focus on making.


Patination on Steel Fittings

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I left a thimble and crimp set (to be used for suspending my heavy lamp) in vinegar over night to see if it would remove the zinc coating. It worked well. The formerly bright metal is now a dullish grey! It worked! This distilled vinegar stuff is jolly useful. After rinsing in water an hour later a few small rust spots began to apper. I feel the duller metal with rust spots will better suit the light shade, before hand it was too bright and shiny.

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Too bright and shiny, coated in a zinc alloy