Construction Begins

Yesterday afternoon I purchased £30 worth of mild steel box tube, 1.5mm thick and 12.5 x 12.5. It wont arrive until Friday or Monday, so in the mean time I have got to work.

The steel is to be used for constructing my sculptures. These based on my concept which is dealing with the exploration of form through structural systems. Steel is an appropriate material I think, dues to my experience using it allows me to show off my skills and also for its sculptural connotations, as a material it has a strong relationship to sculpture. My steel sculptures shall be welded and then have a ground finish (grinder), I am yet to decide on a further finish. The final surface finish could be shiny, textured, deliberately rusted, even blued as I did with my triangles ball/cloud sculpture. The surface is important. I recently realized the importance that surface qualities have when it was pointed out to me that I often talk about surfaces and planes as well as structure when I discuss my work. Presently I am unsure as to what my surface finishes shall be but I shall be conducting some more research into steel surface finishing and treatments to see if I can be inspired to come up with some interesting surface finishes. The surfaces will surely inform as much about the pieces as the structures themselves (which are my main focus currently).

I also bought some 6mm round bar (10 meters) from the School Stores to be getting on with one of my smaller structure sculptures. I chopped it all up into 30cm rods and then using a 60 degree angle jig and referring to my wood and glue model I set about welding the rod into a triangulated structure.

I started this blog post yesterday. This continues from there.

This morning I visited a scrap yard in Cathays on Woodville Road, just to check it out really. The bloke running in charge was helpful and friendly, the actual place is very small, apparently acting as a small local scrap collection with its larger sister counter part to be found in the industrial estate in Butetown, I think it was on Curran Road. There were big open top containers of scrap lining the walls. Aluminium, lots of copper and brass, thick copper cable and car batteries and steel and all the rest of it. The copper was of particular interest, there where several old bashed up water tanks made from spun copper that had intact bowl like bottoms, the like of which I have used in the past to enamel. This is exciting, a viable source for me to get copper bowls and dishes to continue my series of enameled bowl work. This may need to be held back until my show work is further along however.

Whilst at the scrap yard the delivery man who was dropping my steel off at uni called to say he was on his way. I raced back to uni and managed to catch him in time. The steel is now waiting to be cut next Monday, I am in the process of deciding what lengths I want to use and what size I want it to end up being.

Today I managed to finish the 6mm rod sculpture (pictured above), welding it together at least. I gave it a quick brush and then a quick sand blast to clean it up. I need to grind the welds back to smooth them out and make them a bit more neat and pleasing to look at. I will use a Dremel with sanding bobbins was well as mini grind disks to do this as the angle grinder is to large to get into those nooks and crannies. So next Monday shall see the morning spent cleaning the rod sculpture and the afternoon cutting the box tube to size and then cleaned ready for welding.




Professional Practice Lecture Series

Finding Your Path…

Today was the first day of second term. After our start of term briefing and verbal feedback for last terms module ‘Research and Development’ I attended a lecture presented by Ingrid Murphy (head lecturer of Maker) which is the first of the series called ‘Professional Practice’.

Beginning with general thoughts and points on leaving university and education to foray out into the world of work, Ingrid briefly recounted her own experiences of signing on the dole, eventually finding work she wanted to do and then about getting on to realizing her lifelong ambitions of becoming a teacher, an educator. Next Ingrid spent much of the rest of the lecture outlining, suggesting and positing jobs, work and ways of living and working.

One of the things she said concerning work outside of the creative industries is that people with creative degrees are attractive to public sector jobs in service industries. Should my original ideas and attempts of ‘having a stab at it’ go awry this would be useful to remember.

What she was really trying to get us to think about however was our skills. What skills do I have? How skilled am I in those areas really? I am a producer I make work. But with my skills can I both produce and also provide a service?

A comforting point she made in the lecture was that when she graduated she had no plan really, just an ambition which she worked towards. This was said to remind us that success does not come about overnight, there will be a journey towards ambition and goals.

The lecture followed Ingrid’s recent journey around New Zealand where she was judging an international ceramics exhibition. Much of her time there was spent meeting artists and makers. All these people that she met she served as examples to us of the plethora of opportunities that can be found and pursued out in the world.

There are so many things to think about! What do i want to do? Where do I want to go? Well… I want to make things most of all, perhaps one day run my own business of some description. I would work most anywhere initially. Residencies seem particularly inviting to me at the moment, a way, I think, that I could develop my practice contextually as well as my skills.  I also think that after a while I would like to work collaboratively, within a group of creatives which I will have assembled working on a variety of projects producing personal work to show for galleries and also work for commission and competition. I know that I also want to work with new technologies among other more traditional skills and ways of producing work. This is very important to me. So I think I shall begin by investigating opportunities around creative technologies, particularly those focused around the merging new technologies, art, design and sustainable living.

As the lecture series progresses and I find interesting opportunities or ideas of what I might want to do hopefully a better picture of what I could do after university should build up.

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:

How to 3D scan with Skanect…/new-kinect-adapter-gives-3d-builder-full-colo…

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.

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.

Field – Term 2 Formative Assessment

Today I gave a presentation which was a reflection on my time on the module Virtual and Real Internet of Things and a project proposal. I felt the presentation went well. I spoke about my experiences and ideas for about 10 to 15 minutes, this was then followed by a discussion between Jon Counsel, Alexandros and I about where to start with my idea and what direction to pursue.

We essentially broke the project down into two separate component parts. The Scanning element or part and the actual drawing machine part. They raised the concern (I had already thought about) that the combing of the scanner, scanning software, converting 3-D file to 2-D image, then getting the drawing machine to draw the image. I realise this is going to be a complicated project and so it would be best to break it down into different sections. It will require some steep learning curves with programming languages, the world of 3-D scanning software, data, point-cloud sampling and probably some mathematics in there too.

Alexandros recommended I use the open source coding platform Processing which is base on Java – it works very well with Arduino and RPi. From the Processing welcome page: “Processing is a programming language, development environment, and online community. Since 2001, Processing has promoted software literacy within the visual arts and visual literacy within technology. Initially created to serve as a software sketchbook and to teach computer programming fundamentals within a visual context, Processing evolved into a development tool for professionals. Today, there are tens of thousands of students, artists, designers, researchers, and hobbyists who use Processing for learning, prototyping, and production.”

I will continue to learn how to use Python and JavaScript as I feel these will come in handy (besides I’m am already learning them).

Processing also has libraries for the Xbox Kinect module which I was considering using for my drawing machine . With this scanner I could produce a point map or triangulation map of my subject, this could then be simplified and then used to draw an abstracted image of the subject scanned. Could this move it into a fine art ‘realm’? It was something similar that Jon Counsel brought up. He said something along the lines of that given the nature of what I was trying to do that perhaps an accurate representation might be very difficult to produce in terms of recognisability. Perhaps a better idea (and I think more interesting idea) would be to produce simple point clouds (data point maps) of the scanner subject and then use the data and drawing machine for a more visually artistic process or outcome. The abstracted and modified data may end up being more interesting than direct representation.

Things to look at:

  • Kinect and similar open alternatives
  • Gross abstraction of the collected data – how and why? What is a good/pleasing use of this?
  • Processing Tutorials
  • Point clouds and triangulated data – Pepakura?
  • Application of Blender
  • – library’s
  • – A Microsoft programme?
  • Richard Gregory – neuro scientist – mapping neurones and brain – conciousness?
  • 3 ways of seeing
  • Illusion of seeing – could I create some interesting effect with the machine?
  • How does my drawing machine relate to the Internet of Things?
  • Visualising big data?

Field Week 4 – Soundscapes and Audacity

Last night I recorded a series of sounds on my root into town from my house on my bike. I stopped at various locations and took a couple of sound recordings at each location and then chose the best one to keep after listening back to them. I was supposed to only record 5 but seeing as my partner failed to record their five and gave me the recorder with little work time left I was forced to do 8 rushed ones.

The recorder I used was supplied by the university. It is a Zoom H4 :

Handy Recorder H4Handy Recorder H4

It has a pair of X Y mics on-board, supports several different modes of microphone input with various levels of recording quality from MP3 to high definition sound quality.  I used the build in X Y stereo mic onboard – its fairly directional and so needs to be pointed directly at sound source for a clear level sound. The mic allows for nice panning sound effects if its revolved on the spot. The soundscapes were recorded in wav format.

I quite enjoyed stopping in a place and trying to identify some interesting sound in that environment and them try to capture it with the recorder.  Unfortunately I was a little rushed and did not really configure the settings on the Zoom properly for optimal recording quality. This meant most of my recordings were poor and not really suitable for the project. I would like to sign the recorder out again and take more time to find some more unusual or unique sounds around Cardiff – I had not really given myself enough time to do a great job.

I am also really interested in using the Zoom H4 to record some of my own music and sound experiments. I could see myself purchasing one myself one day, as the Zoom products do fall in the lower range of expensive and affordable if I were determined.

After going through our sounds in this weeks session with Alexandros, he instructed us to download Audacity and use it to clean, trim and resize our wav files that we recorded. By next week I need to have them processed and present them with their location photos and GPS co-ordinates with titles and tags.

After downloading Audacity I looked at the Audacity on-line manual and read over the section concerning the basics of digital audio including digital sampling, quality, sample rates, sample formats and size of audio files and compressed audio. Tonight I shall delve deeper into the manual and get the ins and outs of the Audacity software. I think it would be a really useful tool to add to my software ‘tool-set’.