Grasshopper Training

Today I have been following a basic tutorial series (I completed it – around 13 tutorials) for Grasshopper – the parametric design plugin for Rhino. It runs alongside Rhino, and allows you to construct visual algorithms using blocks an components with visual and intuitive parameters to adjust and ‘play with’ to get your desired shape and form. I feel I am grasping everything I have tried so far. The next step for me is to take some of the data that I have been collecting and use it to start coming up with forms that I in Grasshopper which can then be ‘baked’ to Rhino and then hopefully fabricated. Tomorrow morning I shall set myself some practical tasks to complete as exercises and then in the afternoon choose one of the things I have made to make physical and solid. It should be exciting! If things don’t go so well tomorrow then at least I will be exploring the process of object from computer environment to physical reality and what is entailed in that process. I need to become very familiar with the process now so that I can quickly and reliably make something in the future without having to faff around.

Below are some screen shots of different things I have been doing today, they may not look like much, but it is this kind of leg work I need to do initially so that I can be ‘fluent’ in creating my forms in a couple of days time.

Tree with branches Range and function Objects after experimentation Geometrys for baking Finding Centre of any surface Circle and Extrude


Pitch Feedback Session with Zoe

Now that Ingrid has departed for the far side of the globe on her mission to new Zealand Zoe has stepped in to substitute, to advise and help over see us third years and our projects.

Today I received my feedback from my dissertation tutorial from Zoe and we then engaged in a conversation about the work, how I could improve my standing and the direction that my project is taking from here.

Under the ideas section for my pitch feedback I had a low basic score, I was a bit puzzled by this. I feel that although my ideas where not perfectly polished they were good, and that all the feedback I had been having prior to my pitch had been good. Certainly there was caution noted to me to fully consolidate my idea so that it was crystal clear but I feel that the nature of the work I am pursuing does not allow for an absolute picture, a clear vision, but rather that the work is a process with an uncertain or unpredictable result. I can see however that during a pitch situation this is not a good way to put across an idea. Zoe commented that I can speak about my ideas fairly coherently and competently in an articulated way. It is the lack of models and visual examples of this process of form making which is giving this low grade. The mark for context however was in the good range the comments from Ingrid included “You have a clear understanding of your context within an art historical sense, and have selected an appropriate process and material, now it needs to gain momentum…” and that is exactly it, I have all these ideas, fascinations, interests and desires and yet very little physical proof to show for it. This needs to change. 

So a synopsis of my discussion with Zoe was that I must think no longer and instead do. The what we next did was to search the ideas and context I had built up for a way into this. I expressed that I was to take data (at random from anywhere at all) as I discussed with Ingrid to start building forms in Rhino and Grasshopper (I also considered Processing today – I could utilise the skills I learnt in second year). Taking measurements, counts and just collecting ‘stuff’, arbitrary data I could now begin to build up some forms using the methods that I want to explore as a process. For Zoe, she wanted to understand why just random data as opposed to carefully chosen data. My response was to say that at the moment at least, what the data is will not matter – it is just a means to a form. In a perhaps formalist style approach I want to make forms or sculptures that are not anything, do not mean anything or require ulterior or higher purpose and meaning. Form for forms sake, produced in an interesting way, process and investigation becoming the subject.

At least to start with. We discussed the recording of the data collecting, so photographing and noting down the object and the conditions under which the data is collected. So that whilst the data is at the moment just data, there is an opportunity later to go back and if I so wish introduce narrative to the work should I feel it wants it. For example: The dimensions of my desk lamp are used to generate a form that I really like. This is then appreciated for what it is. Adding a title like ‘Desk Lamp at 7pm on a dark winter Tuesday’ gives the audience more, it is a narrative. The title and the object would most likely be at extreme abstraction from each other, but the data gathered from said lamp has been used to make an abstract sculptural object. Perhaps a series of these abstract forms can create a room or scenario or question or dialogue that would unify them or create an interesting dialogue. Maybe this idea is ridiculous and woolly… However it is one we discussed which I think could be a way into the question of ‘How do you give value to form?’ that Ingrid posed to me in my feedback notes. Whether this idea is explored or not will depend on how the work evolves and is a couple of weeks away.

Zoe talked about Ai Weiwei and his current show in the Royal Academy, London. She indicated that she felt a few of the pieces of sculpture would be very relevant to me and help me contextualise the formalist ideas further. Two pieces she mentioned in particular she felt I should look at. One called ‘Straight’ is comprised of a room which houses a long pile of steel beams on its floor that had been recovered from a earthquake struck building, the walls of the room are covered commemorative plaques of all the children that had perished in the building the steel beams were recovered from. The steel and plaques seeming act as a commemorative monument. How ever the steel is just a pile of long steel beams, a fairly innocuous and unassuming 90 tonne form. Scale is perhaps important here. I should very much like to see it.

So generating the data is my next step,then tomorrow onto Rhino and Grasshopper to use said data to generate a form and then to produce that form. This is the aim for the end of the week. Around that continuing to research artists and designers (especially in Architecture world) and to start filing a sketch book with visual examples and ideas of what sort of forms I want to achieve.

  • Collect several ‘chunks’ of data to play with. These will ultimately be numbers, I could randomly generate numbers but I could also gather it from objects as these objects can then also give me my parameters for what I can do with that data. For example I measure a range of diameters that can from a series of round objects these numbers can then be used in a simple algorithm controlling the output of a cluster of spheres along a curve to create a 3D form.
  • Once I have collected data what is it going to do? What parameters will assign it too? Axis’s? A fractal formula? The numbers for geometries that repeat in a pattern?
  • This then goes into Rhino and Grasshopper. Here I have to play with the forms and watch them develop, respond and react to what is created, where or how do I stop and know that I want to make what I’m looking at?
  • Then the object, what method do I use to produce it? 3D print? CNC? Hand build it in response to what I am seeing on the screen?

Hopefully the result of the next couple of weeks work will be a personal library of forms that I can critique, examine and reflect on.

Time to get cracking and on with the making.

Jonathan Keep

Jonathan Keep is a British Ceramicist who’s studio is based on the Suffolk Coast. His work can be thought of as being sculptural although he considers himself a potter.
He says off his work: ‘Implicit in what I do is the questioning of the reality we create for ourselves and the questioning of Western notions of high art, and culture in general. In an increasingly global community I believe an understanding of the commonality of human experience and cultural development needs to be reinforced. I seek to explore the relationship between nature and culture; the relationship between what we make, why we make and the resources and process used to make, as an exploration to understand our existence.’

This is of real interest to me, particularly the ‘…why we make and the resources and process used to make, as an exploration to understand our existence.’

Keep has a interest of the digital, he has used digital means to design his pots for some time. More recently he has delved into 3D printing in ceramic, using a self built printer that has been modified to extrude clay. The section ‘Digital Pots’ on his website houses the works that are designed in the digital realm and are then printed. As for inspiration for his digital forms he says:

‘From the elemental forces of earth, fire and water pottery has traditionally drawn on nature for inspiration. In using computer code to create this work I aim to add a further layer to include the elemental, naturalmathematical patterns and structures that underlie all form. The appreciation of this work illustrates just how much we are connected at a very deep level to the natural world.’

My favourite examples of his digital pots are the Icebergs, Random Growth, Sound Surfaces and Morphologies. The description Keep provides about the Icebergs pots is fascinating to me. He talks about the beauty of the forms that have been apparently randomly grown but in fact have an underlying structure in the code. The code has a noise value written in which causes variations each time the code is run creating new forms endlessly.

‘ICEBERG SERIES – This work is about the beauty to be found in apparently random natural forms. As in nature, my porcelain pots have an underling coded structure and logic. The algorithm used to generate these shapes has an inbuilt randomness, a ‘noise’ value actually and I am interested how similar this is to the erosion of icebergs. The natural structures have an underling logic that computer code can mimic so a different and original object is created each time the code is run. The cumulative layering of the 3D printer’s extrusion recalls the glacial strata of icebergs, and offers a sense of process and time. The choice to use white porcelain is also deliberate so as to echoes the translucency of ice – the process, material and content of the work are one.’

Icebergs, Jonathan Keep

Looking at Keeps work and reading his packets of information alongside them I felt excited and began to think about how I like to work and what I want to make. Algorithm and Material are brought together through Digital Processes and Tools to create beautiful forms which are complex, interesting and most likely impossible to make by hand. This is really exciting to me, the work is about the processes the ways and means, ideas and forms can be realised in previously unimaginable and impossible ways. This is I think one of the angles or directions that my work is trying to take.

I was wondering however, if Keep can just make endless versions of these unique digital pots, how does he select forms? How many does he make? How many does he need to make? What happens to their value if he creates 1000’s of ‘unique digital pots’? What happens to the work? Is it still craft-work? Or for that matter art?

A couple of the initial questions at least are answered in this passage (below) that Keep wrote about his Random Growth Series:

‘RANDOM GROWTH SERIES – In this series, as in nature and the formation of stalactites or ant hills, these forms have an underling coded structure and logic, but there is also an inbuilt variation or random function and a different form is created each time the code is run. I am selective as to which of these computer generated forms I select but my interests are in how us humans have an inbuilt desire to make sense of the world around us even from the most random forms. I want the viewer to bring their own subjective interpretation to the forms. In trying to make sense of the shapes the viewer brings their own personal and imaginative reading of the object. I guess this way of working continues the long tradition in pottery where the ego of the artist is held back allowing the form, natural processes and materials to speak through.’

J Keep, Random Growth


To realise his digital pots Keep built his own 3D Printer. ‘Keep’s desire to create a clay 3D printer was born from frustration over 3D Systems purchase of, and then discontinuation of, the RapMan 3D printer, the first 3D printer modified to print with clay. He is not an engineer, so when Keep decided to try to create his own clay 3D printer, he wanted to use the simpler to construct delta style build, with DIY tools and parts that were easily attainable from the internet or local hardware stores. He also plans to keep his printer completely open source so others can improve on his work.’ from article on

He built a standard delta style 3D printer with a handful of modifications that would allow it to 3D print using clay, rather than plastic filament. In order for the clay to stick to the print bed, he uses a piece of damp wood, rather than the traditional glass or metal print bed. Here’s a video of Keep building his ceramic 3D printer:

This article details his ceramic 3D printer self build. In one of his more recent posts about him attending and talking at the Aberystwyth ceramics festival he has a WASP brand delta printer. I was really interested to read this article as I am currently gathering the components I need to build my own 3D printer. Mine shall extrude plastic but the idea of using clay is exciting and could be another project to contemplate for the future.


Grasshopper is a method of visual programming, there isn’t really any text involved. In grasshopper you visually design algorithms that carry out actions inside the Rhino environment in real time. It is a plugin for Rhino that can be termed as generative algorithmic modelling

I found a better description than I could give one

Grasshopper is a plug-in for Rhinoceros 3D modeling software. It gives us a visual interface forbuilding algorithms that generate geometry in Rhino. Now, as powerful as Rhino’s 3D modeling tools are on their own, there comes a point, especially when you’re dealing with complex models, where a user might want even more flexibility. For example, the ability to quickly change fundamental attributes of a complicated model or the ability to make complex formations through repetitions of simple forms. Or maybe a user would like to use mathematical functions to control or generate shapes.

Now, some of this flexibility can be accessed from within Rhino by using the built in support for scripting languages like Rhinoscript or Python. These scripting tools offer powerful control over Rhino’s modelling commands, including some that are not available through the graphic interface.Using scripting languages, though, requires a fairly in depth knowledge of computer programming techniques, which, of course, many artists, designers or other creative users don’t have. Grasshopper combines the mostly graphical approach of working in Rhino with the powerful algorithmic techniques found in scripting.

The benefit of using Grasshopper is that you don’t need to have a high level of scripting or programming experience to jump right in and start generating interesting models.

Running the Grasshopper command in Rhino opens Grasshopper in a new window which is viewed alongside the Rhino window. Grasshopper also has a different file format than Rhino although the two are totally compatible. So things made in grasshopper are saved separately through the Grasshopper Save Option in the drop-down File menu.

Grasshopper 01

These are the blocks or components, composed in a left to right order of working that create and influence the object in real time and can be seen in the Rhino window open alongside it.

Grasshopper 02 Grasshopper 03 Grasshopper 04 Grasshopper 05 Grasshopper 06 Grasshopper 07 Grasshopper 08 Grasshopper 09 Grasshopper 010

I am currently following basic tutorials on the official Grasshopper tutorial page, these tutorial videos are by David Rutten . I spent the day getting to know the absolute basics and am tomorrow after a quick recap I shall attempt to produce some interesting forms that I could begin bringing into physicality. With Grasshopper I hope to see my work take on a new complexity and quality, Grasshopper is a powerful tool in the hands of the designer maker, I have a lot to learn however (A VAST AMOUNT) before I am anywhere near proficient. I am investigating online tutorial series such as the ones on, although I would prefer not to pay…

Cleaning Steel Bowl of Firescale


Cleaning bottom of enamel river bowl for Made by Hand event. Hopefully I will get selected to have my work on the uni stall at the show. I need a hundred word statement and several good quality photos.
First I am going to wire brush the fire scale back quickly and then see where to go from there. Sand it back smooth?  Polish it shiny?  Once i have wire brushed it I will look at the colours and decide.


Disastrous Test Print


I went to pick up my print this morning to find it had not worked. But the thing is someone had just half broken it off the build plate and then printed their….interesting heart thing on top. This is fine. Im ok with it.  After all it was just a test and a failed one at that.  However I may have liked to inspect my test peice before it was smashed and built ontop of! Anyway… it didn’t work.  Onwards. 

Third Year Begins…

3 October 2015

If I think back to the beginning of this week and the last few weeks prior to this one I suppose I was feeling quite nervous about starting my first year. All sorts of things bothered me about it. Firstly what would I be making? What would it be made from? How was I going to make it? Fairly early on I decided that I would be making a bronze sculpture with a subject centring on form using rapid prototyping techniques to inform or produce that form which would then be processed and cast into bronze. However I was still toying with ideas of producing a series of luxury craft items both decorative and functional, developing and pushing my enamelling skills and some ideas of interactive installations among many others. Throughout all these lines of thought however bronze sculpture kept rising to the surface of my mind.

So whilst thinking about all this stuff I was also turning over what I wanted to do with my dissertation… A 10,000 word essay or an Artefact with an accompanying written piece. Gradually it got to the point where, thoroughly conflicted, knotted and in a muddle I stopped thinking about it and let it all stew in the background as I got on with my summer holidaying and reading for dissertation. The first week back has catapulted me back into production and decision making mode! Although I have still been agonising over some decisions .

On Monday morning we were allocated our studio spaces via random allocation with numbers plucked from a ceramic gramophone horn. I was initially a little disappointed with my space as its a bit tucked away and dark but then I just started planning how to light it better, and saw it as an opportunity to get some electronics and maybe arduino practise. An Interactive light system for my desk would be pretty cool.

Then began the terror. Ingrid, who is now our year leader, sat us all down to the years briefing/introduction. Afterwards we all agreed (slightly wide-eyed) that we were a bit scared. We have a lot to do. And not an enormous amount of time in which to do it! The final pieces for the show need to be conceived, developed and preferably made by Christmas. This is work to do alongside dissertations and extra curricular competitions (should we want to do them, I want to do BAM’s and Pewter Live this year. We as a group and individuals need to decide if we want work shown in international shows such as Tent and Young Designers. Then in the second term we need to be designing and constructing models and bits for our show, funding raising for it and preparing all the other stuff that goes with it all.  Despite leaving the room feeling a little anxious and apprehensive about what lies ahead now I just feel very excited and charged up!

Tuesday saw some Petcha Kutcha talks by about half of the year group, in these talks the presenter talked about his or here ideal object, their Gesamkunstwerk, their idea or vision of their ideal work of art or their ideal object. The brief was to collect a selection of objects or artworks (pretty much anything) that inspired and informed our practise. These were to be gathered in a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ kind of way and then curated and contemplated so as to reach an ideal work.

My pethca kucha started as a very loose and varied collection of objects from all areas of craft, art and design. I considered looking making a set of luxury craft items such as tableware or small domestic objects. I also considered furniture using interesting material combinations. The main other idea I thought about before settling down to one was working with interactive objects and displays.  Despite all these varied ideas I was tying to think what I could make that tailored to my strengths and recent making experience. I have thus decided to make bronze my material of choice and sculpture my source of inspiration to make. I have been looking at all of my favourite classical and modern bronze sculptures and interesting forms old and new. But I am also interested in rapid prototyping and 3-D printing so I decided that I want to explore form, from an abstract and sculptural point of view using traditional and technological skills. These forms will be explored and trailed with Rapid Prototyping techniques and when forms I like begin to emerge I will start to transfer them somehow into bronze and other metals.

On Wednesday I attended the ‘Fragile?’ ceramics exhibition conference. It marked the end of the exhibition with talks from some of the artists about their works, the inspirations, ways of working, processes and their finished pieces. Some of the talks were very direct and straight forward some were more philosophical and convoluted requiring more concentration. I found it to be very inspiring and I enjoyed most of the talks. It left me feeling uplifted and brimming with ideas. I found the work of Phoebe Cummings and Keith Harrison the most interesting.

We met Hue the new member of staff on maker who is timetabled to use on Thursdays. He’s great! Full of interesting ideas, techniques and processes. He comes from an interesting and differnet back ground from the rest of our tutors, more Product and Industrial Design but has had alot of experience in Art and Craft type work and production. He seems really friendly, willing and easy to engage in conversation.

This year is my chance to shine. I do not have a history of being the hardest worker in the world when it comes to working on and finishing projects on time, coupled with a wandering mind (curiosity frequently hampers progress for me) bad time management and motivation issues have plagued me in the past too. But no more. I am excited, motivated and I have a vision, a goal that is pretty clear in my mind. This is going to be a good year, it’s going to be fun, it’s going to be stressful and hard but rewarding!