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I tend to make objects. Things. Pieces. Sometimes I think I can apply the word “sculpture” to them, mainly because sometimes there isn’t a better word to describe them (especially if they are to be considered “art”.)

Many of the things I make are “functional” in that they do a thing. But what is that thing? What does it mean to do a thing? They might make something happen, or move, or light up. The might be kinetic or reactive or interactive. They may solve a problem. They may make the world a better place. They might look pleasing.

And then there’s jewelry…

I’ve had a strange relationship with jewelry. I never really cared for jewelry. Beyond the relationship humans have with jewelry, and how it fits into society, I just never really cared about making jewelry. I think that some art instructors use jewelry making as a way to teach process and making, and maybe use it because many (most?) people like it and would like to have jewelry, or maybe because it’s such a personal thing. I mean, it’s work on the body. That’s personal, right?

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I even ended up making a piece of jewelry for a class titled “Machines that Make”. I designed a hammer ring. I learned a bit more about Rhino, and I got a print made by Shapeways, which was a good experience, but as far as a piece of jewelry, I didn’t care about it. (I mean, It’s an interesting object, but I’m not going to wear it. Like many of the things I make, there’s humor somewhere deep inside of it. Or maybe on the surface. I don’t know, I’m still figuring this out.)

Much of my art & design background involved 2D work, which, let’s be honest, often hangs on a wall, or is just seen and doesn’t do a thing. But doesn’t it do a thing? Does it provoke thought or emotions? Does it instruct or inform? Does it make you feel something? Does it make you happy? Things do things.

I remember back in a high school art class we had to make a ring. I had zero interest in wearing a ring or making a ring, and I really dragged on the project. I think I eventually finished it (late) and I don’t even know what happened to it. It was a piece I just didn’t care about. I probably could have learned about etching metal, and creating different kinds of resists, but I just wasn’t invested. (I know, this is all a person thing.)

My daughter has started to make jewelry. I’m excited about it. Not because I like jewelry, but because she likes jewelry. Or, maybe she just likes making things. It seems therapeutic. She’s mostly doing wire wrapped jewelry. I use wire for electronics and for securing things. Making jewelry with it? I guess some people do that.

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She also learned how to do metal casting, which is awesome. I know a little about metal casting, and it’s something I wish I knew more about (but there are only so many hours in the day.) I’m glad she has the opportunity to learn it.

Also, Daleks…

What? Daleks? Yeah, well, Jon H. at Milwaukee Makerspace is the Jewelry Area Champion, and besides helping people make Daleks, helps people make jewelry. Or, learn how to make jewelry. Jon is an interesting guy. I’ve heard him called a “Retired Magician” though maybe he still is a magician! He’s got a lot of skills and is willing to share them. So yeah, sometimes you see Dalek parts being made in the jewelry area, because, the process is similar, sort of. Right? I don’t know…

Where is all this going? I’m really not sure. As I said, I’ve had a complicated relationship with jewelry. I don’t wear it, I’m not a big fan. It’s a personal thing. I don’t really like drawing attention to myself. I mean, my self. My physical being. I don’t mind using words to make myself known, or sharing my work, but I don’t want the focus on my physical body. That’s just how I am. I’m weird. Maybe. I don’t know.

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Well that turned into a rambling mess about art and objects and jewelry that I wasn’t fully expecting. Writing can be like that sometimes… What do you think?

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As you may know, I’m occasionally an artist, and create weird things that I show in public. Sometimes my work appears in galleries. Typically though, my work is not in galleries in Milwaukee, so it’s a real pleasure to be in a show right in my own hometown.

Var Gallery currently has some of my work on display at the Art+Tech show, which runs until February 3rd, 2018. The majority of my work for this show (I have about nine pieces) are from my NoiseMakers series, which was also at Maker Faire Milwaukee in 2017.

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I’ve also got my Hammer of Futility at the show. (Which needed some minor repairs. Kinetic sculptures that run for weeks on end can be a challenge. I had to replace a motor, and I still need to drop in a controller to slow things down.)

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The show was curated by Becky Yoshikane and Christina Ossers, who did a great job selecting work from Milwaukee artists involved in the Art+Tech scene. (Both are artist in their own right as well.)

Thanks to Nathaniel Stern, who I borrowed a few photos from. Also check out what Kat Kneevers had to say about the show: The Medium Becomes the Message at Var Gallery’s ‘Art + Tech’ and Jessica Fenlon’s post: Art+Tech @ VAR Gallery [Milwaukee, WI], so at least if you don’t see it, you can read about it.

If you’re a fan of Art+Tech, keep an eye out for another show coming up this spring. I can’t share any details yet, but hopefully we can keep this Milwaukee Art+Tech train kinetic sculpture moving!

brinn-labs-events

When you enter Brinn Labs you are greeted by digital signage that shows (among other things) a calendar of upcoming events. There’s a TV with a Raspberry Pi attached running Screenly OSE. This is somewhat similar to the MMPIS I created at Milwaukee Makerspace.

Compared to the MMPIS doing this upcoming events list was quite a bit easier! For Milwaukee Makerspace the data is pulled from a Google Calendar and uses a hacked-up version of PHP iCalendar to do the heavy lifting. It works, almost always, and only occasionally breaks. I’ve got a few emails from people asking how I did it, and I’ve sent them files with a small write-up. For dealing with a Google Calendar, it works fine…

On the Brinn Labs web site we’re using The Events Calendar WordPress plugin, which exposes the upcoming events as an RSS feed. Well that’s easy!

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Sitting on the server I’ve got a few files. A Perl script, which fetches and parses the RSS file, and an HTML-Template file, which the Perl script uses to make things look pretty. Oh, there’s also a background image, and the whole thing outputs a simple HTML file that Screenly then displays on the TV. Between the script and template there’s probably less than 75 lines of code. The script is set to run with a cron job and updates a few times an hour.

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I’m pleased with the results, and not including the time it took me to run CPAN it was probably less than an hour to actually get it all working and looking nice. If you haven’t checked out the Brinn Labs events yet, take a look! I’ll be teaching classes there, and we’ve got an Open House set for March 1st, 2018.

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Back in October of 2017 Marc Ownley (member of Milwaukee Makerspace and amazing metal artist) brought a bunch of wooden bowls to the makerspace and asked members if they wanted to create something unique for the Feed Your Soul event that was happening in November. I took one not knowing what I might do, but it sounded like a fun challenge.

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I started to stain the bowl, and had an idea for layering stain using masks, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Then around the middle of October I headed out to Maker Faire Orlando and was gone nearly a week, so when I returned it finally hit me. I had built so many noisemakers for Maker Faire Milwaukee, I thought it appropriate to build one more. And the NoiseBowl was born!

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I did just a bit more staining then a coat of polyurethane, and moved on to the wiring. The sounds this one makes is similar to NoiseMaker VII, although I did add a small amp to kick up the volume a bit. There are 3D printed parts (like NoiseMaker VII has) but in black this time. The speaker legs are borrowed from NoiseMaker IV.

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It is similar to NoiseMaker VII in a lot of ways, which is fine, because that’s one of my favorites in the series.

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At the Feed Your Soul event they hold an auction and people bid on the bowls, with all of the proceeds going to feed the hungry in southeastern Wisconsin, which is awesome. I had a lot of fun making this, and I hope whoever got it appreciates it and finds it to be fun, but more importantly, we were able to help people in need.

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It’s rare that my art goes out into the world and doesn’t return with me. Typically I stick things in a box in the basement or eventually dismantle them (we’ve only got so much basement space!) I don’t know who has the NoiseBowl, but I hope they’re enjoying the noise it makes. Hopefully I can build something again next year.

wandr-000

I wanted to print this diagnostic wand, and I started with what you see above, because it’s worked in the past. I also wanted it strong, so I used ABS, which I am not new to, but I haven’t done much ABS with this printer, as most of the things I’ve needed in the last year worked fine as PLA.

The idea is to print the top and bottom and then put them together with some bolts. Easy, right? If only… Besides printing in ABS it’s also the coldest time of the year, and the printer is in the basement, the cold cold basement. (And yes, the printer is in an enclosure.) So after multiple attempts at printing this, including adding brims and rafts, I tried something else.

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I added walls around the print. The idea being, it makes the hot-end move around more and allow plastic to cool. Or something like that… it didn’t work.

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So I tried a tighter wall, with less space between the object and the wall. And that didn’t work. Things still warped and curled. Did I mention how cold it was in the basement?

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Happy New Year! Enjoy my failures of 2017!

I tried standing up the object. Less of it on the bed should mean less warping, right? Yes, except prints were still failing often, falling over, or breaking free from the bed. (See the video below for some great printing bloopers!)

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Then I decided to add my own support structure, which failed, or cause me to destroy the print when cutting it free from the support structure, but I kept going.

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I tweaked the support structure and got closer, though not quite where it needed to be…

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Adding some little divots helped. I did all of this in OpenSCAD, so doing a difference on the support structure was easy because, you know, modules. Yeah, make everything a module.

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Finally I got something that worked, about about 6 different models and a dozen failed prints. The standup structure with supports that could easily be cut away worked. I should mention this piece needs to be strong and needs to look good. I started with an infill of 50% then dropped to 35% (with a 25% along the way, and one print with just 10% due to what appears to be a bug in Cura.)

Rapid prototyping is often anything but… Luckily we were able to mill one out of HDPE at work while I repeatedly failed printing this at home. (I’m hoping to try this again in a warm room with a Prusa i3 MK3 in the near future.)

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And, oh yeah, somewhere along the way one of the prints that failed managed to rip loose the wires that powered the print cooling fan, which luckily is used for PLA, but not ABS.

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Also, just a reminder… I’m not new to 3D printing. I’ve been doing this for more than five years.

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And here’s some super-fun video of many of the failures I encountered along the way, as well as the final successful print.

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