posts tagged with the keyword ‘art’


The Noisy 85s

I posted just a bit about the ATtinyNoisy boards I had made from OSH Park, but there’s plenty more to tell.

My original plan was to use CR2032 batteries with these, but I found it just didn’t have enough juice to make noise, so I tried using two CR2032 batteries and that didn’t work much better. I ended up grabbing a nearby 9 volt battery to test with, and that worked well, and since I had a bunch of 9 bolt battery connectors, I chose to use those ordered a bunch of new 9 volt batteries from Amazon.

When it came time to program and assemble all the boards, some of them worked, and some didn’t. I wondered if it was because some of the chips I got were from different vendors, including some on eBay that were probably counterfeit. I spent way too much time chasing the wrong problems until I figured it out. (Maybe you’ve already figured it out!)

When I originally tested with a 9 volt battery in the shop, it was an old 9 volt battery that was down around 7 volts. Do you know what the voltage rating for the ATtiny85 is? Well, it’s 2.7 V ~ 5.5 V. Yeah, I was trying to feed it too much voltage!

At this point I had soldered on the battery connectors and was staring at a dozen brand new 9 volt batteries. The board didn’t have room for a LM7805 voltage regulator and I didn’t have time to get new boards made. I ended up taking the 9 volt batteries and shorting them with jumper wires until the voltage dropped to about 7 volts, at which point they worked fine. Yeah, I just wasted lots of electricity to get them working properly. NBD.

Below is an example of what they sounded like.

The idea was to make a bunch of these, and put them in a space, and then interact with the space and experience the sound coming from different directions. You can’t really experience it through a video, as you need to be in the space and move through it to participate in the piece.

The code is dead simple, and just does an analogWrite to a PWM pin on the ATtiny to generate some noise.

// ATtinyNoisy

int piezoPin = 0;
int randomPin = 1;
int randomValLow = 0;
int randomValHigh = 255;
int interValLow = 1;
int interValHigh = 3000;

void setup() {
  pinMode(piezoPin, OUTPUT);

void loop() {
  analogWrite(piezoPin, random(randomValLow, randomValHigh));
  delay(random(interValLow, interValHigh));

The Noisy 85s

Each ATtinyNoisy unit was placed in a paper bag, and hung from a piece of monofilament fishing line with a binder clip. (I had plenty of binder clips around!)

Here’s a few more photos from the installation that I did at UWM’s Kenilworth facility during SHiN|DiG on Friday, December 16, 2016. With many of my installations (and work in general) I focus on cheap things, often simply presented. I tend to go with the theory that if you can’t make something large, make a lot of little things.

The Noisy 85s

The Noisy 85s

The Noisy 85s

The Noisy 85s

The Noisy 85s

Big thanks to (former) student Maks for helping with the install and uninstall of this piece.




Here’s an old project I never wrote about… Every now and then I just experiment with things, and this piece started with using Inkscape for an illustration of a rocket. Here it is. Pretty boring!

Rocket digital

I ended up creating a scene for the rocket. Look, it’s going to Mars! Someday I’d like to go to Mars…

Since I tend to think of any illustration as cutting paths I tend to avoid strokes and just use solid objects, which comes in handy, especially if you decide to use digital fabrication techniques to create things.


I next took my illustration, which was essentially a two-color design on a black background) and created color separations. One for the silver, and one for the red.

Cut lines

I then created DXF files I could load into Silhouette Studio so I could cut stencils and paint the scene onto an 8″ x 8″ canvas. (Yes, sometimes I mess around with paint.) You might also notice I added registration marks, these are things you learn from years of working in the print industry and printmaking.

Rocket on canvas

Here’s the result of cutting two stencils and spray painting them onto a black canvas. It turned out okay, but I didn’t love it. (Probably because I don’t love painting.) What I do love is the fact that with vector artwork it’s easy to scale things, so I did.

Rocket on wood

Here’s a 12″ x 12″ version of the artwork, but this time I used a piece of painted wood and just applied cut vinyl to it. I really like how this one turned out. In fact, it’s hanging in the shop right now.

Sometimes I get so caught up in creating 3D (or 2.5D) work that I forget how much I like doing 2D stuff. I should probably do more in the future.



“Sometimes we don’t understand the significance of something until we create it.”



“LaserCut LetterPress” (for lack of a better name) is a project I worked on in 2014/2015 which was an idea to create a full letterpress set using a laser cutter capable of cutting 3mm Baltic Birch plywood. The idea was that the files would be released that allowed anyone with access to a laser cutter (even lower-powered cutters with small beds) to create the set.

I know there are many ways to create things, but at the time I wanted to limit production to one method, and one particularly fast method, vector cutting with a laser cutter. (Note: If you’re fascinated by the production of wood type, check out Moore Wood Type.)

I mentioned some of the process in a post titled Measure Twice, Laser Onceā€¦ but never wrote up the whole thing, so here we go.

LaserCut LetterPress Example Print

The typeface I chose was OpenDyslexic, which was inspired by a friend who is Dyslexic. I also thought it would be interesting to use a typeface that was new, and didn’t exist in the time that wooden type was widely used.

Art Letters

I did the design in Inkscape, creating the letter and the pieces that fit under the letter so it could slide into a tray.

Letter and Tray

Wood is such a wonderful material, except when it isn’t. Tolerances caused a number of issues, but I kept going forward, and didn’t worry too much about having things fit together perfectly. (I won’t say this was my downfall, but I spent a lot of time fighting it.)

Art Letters Tray

Here’s the design for the small tray. Ultimately I wanted a larger tray that had multiple lines so you could do an entire poster. That of course would have required an entire alphabet, and multiples of most letters, and punctuation, and… letterpress is hard.

Oh, somewhere along the way I also started to write code that would generate all the characters needed by outputting the needed SVG files. In theory it was totally doable, but in practice it served as a distraction that I eventually ignored.

Art Letters

With the plan to turn this into a kit that one would assemble, I thought about how one would determine what pieces would go together, and thought that etching the letter onto each piece would be a good idea. (I didn’t get to this step due to being stuck in the prototyping phase.)


Here’s the letter “A” sliding into the small tray I made. Tolerances were good with the first batch of letters, but with subsequent pieces not so much.


You can see a bit of the height difference with this batch of letters…

Height Comparison

…and you can really see it with these. Yes, this is all 3mm wood. Again, as mentioned with the previous post, there can be quite a difference when the layers add up.


I did manage to create enough letters for one of the Arts + Tech Nights at UWM.


And oddly enough, I was able to arrange the letters into “TEACH ART”, which I ended up doing six months after I abandoned this project.

LaserCut LetterPress Example Print

Here’s a few test prints I did. They worked fine, which made me think I may have overthought how “perfect” it had to be. In the process of talking to printmakers (who were very interested in the project) they got me thinking about type height, which is useful for a press (and I considered using these letters on a press) but in the end I think I should have stuck with my “hacker ethic” and just made it work with the minimal amount of success.

I don’t consider this a “failed” project because I learned a lot in the process (and got to meet & work with some awesome people) but I’d love to see someone else run with this idea… or maybe it’s something I’ll pick up again in one form or another.

Remember kids, Keep on Making!



What I would say to my students all artists & creatives…

Art matters, and it can be an agent of change. Art can make people think, and thought can lead to action. Art can reveal hidden truths, and art can change minds. Art can be a voice for those that feel they have none. If you’re angry, channel that anger into action and expression. If you feel afraid, create art that relays your feelings to others. If you make music, write protest songs, if you write poems, imagine a better world and share it through your words. If you make images, create strong images of a brighter future that can inspire people.

Art is a weapon… wield it wisely.

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