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Shape Grid Circles

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I love plotters and plotter art and if you’re into robots or other machines that draw, you should check out #PlotterTwitter and DrawingBots.net

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While I’m still working on my new plotter (which is really an old HP7475A) I figured I’d have fun with Processing and write some code to generate some nice vector art. This is something I do every now and then. I’m someone who believes in writing code for pleasure. Some people are into that… I’m one of them.

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I’ve also released this code in case someone else wants to generate some art for use with their own plotter or whatever device they have that can do something with it. (Like a laser cutter, for instance.) And yes, the sample images you see on the page were generated by the sketch. There are a few variables you can change to adjust things, like the spacing between circles, steps between circles inside of circles, and setting the limit on the smallest circle.

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You can find the code on GitHub: Shape-Grid-Circles.

If you make something cool with this code, let me know! I’d love to see what you come up with.

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Ceramic Makeys

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My experience in ceramics is pretty limited. I took a few classes at UWM, but really didn’t do much outside of school. If I want to blame someone for my renewed interest in clay, it would probably be Bryan Cera. (Though Jeff the Ceramics Area Champion at Milwaukee Makerspace is also a great clay enabler.)

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One of the classic maker projects seems to be coasters, and there are many methods of making coasters. I’ve used laser cutting in the past, but I wanted to explore clay, so I modeled a Makey cookie cutter and press and 3D printed them in PLA plastic.

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Jeff showed me how to use the roller to flatten out the clay to a consistent thickness and gave me some tips on pressing and cutting. (Thanks, Jeff!) I rolled out six of them, some turned out better than others, but I guess they are all unique, right?

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Jeff gave me the lowdown on what to do next, but sadly he had a trip scheduled that would take him out of town before Maker Faire, which meant I would not be able to fire these before the event. No worries… I know other people who know things.

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Luckily I work with Bill Pariso at Brinn Labs, and he’s got a Masters Degree in ceramics. I basically said “Bill, I need help!” and he took over and kept an eye on them while they dried out, then got them fired, and glazed, and presented them to me the weekend of Maker Faire Milwaukee. Awesome!

I may experiment more with clay. It’s a very inexpensive material, and I love exploring cheap things for art and making. It allows for a gentle learning curve with low stakes. Also, did I mention how cheap clay is!?

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Maker Faire “Space Invader” Shirt

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While taking a break from reading through all the applications for Maker Faire Milwaukee I had an idea for some art we could use this year. It ended up becoming shirt art after I shared it with the other event producers.

The art consists of an 8×8 grid with 64 items, yes, as always, I try to make these numbers mean something. 8 bit, 64 bit, you get the idea… The color pallet comes from what we used previously for our kaleidoscope design.

The most difficult part was the typeface. I tried many existing fonts but nothing was working. Makey the Robot is (almost) square, so I needed the letters M, K, and E to be square. Stretching existing fonts did not work, so I ended up creating my own type.

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Once I had the M, the E was easy. I just rotated it 90 degrees! The K was a bit more difficult, but the line width matches the parts of the M and E, and I then just aimed for the corners to make them end in 45 degree angles so it would all look even. It’s probably the best “MKE” I’ve ever designed.

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Here’s a terrible photo of the shirt. We still have some left, so if you want one, let me know, and I’ll get you hooked up for a nice price! (The original design was completely square and did not have the long “Maker Faire Milwaukee” logo on the bottom, but Stacie reminded me we should really add that.)

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Life-Size Pac-Man

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Somewhere along the line of planning Maker Faire Milwaukee I came up with the idea to make some large video game characters, specifically Pac-Man and the Ghosts. Here’s my description of the project:

Pac-Man and your favorite ghosts, but life-size! How large is that? We’re not sure, because what is life? Probably 4 feet tall or more. Take a photo of yourself with Puck-Man! (Note: This is not a functional video game. It’s just fun art.)

Like many projects, I like to keep things inexpensive when possible. Maximum impact for minimum dollars and all that. The plan was to make them from half sheets of plywood, so it would take about two and a half sheets to make the characters and then what was left (and other scrap) could be used for the kickstands on the back. Stacie and I at Brinn Labs brainstormed it a bit, and she and her husband were going to do the cutting and painting, but time got tight so Jason kicked it out on the CNC machine and then got it all painted and assembled. The ghost eyes (both the black and white pieces) are cut and stacked pieces for a little 2.5 dimension (this was Stacie’s idea.)

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Did you know Pac-Man was originally going to be named Puck-Man? It’s true!

What’s visual art without an audio element? I also built a small black box named “Tripping Hazzard” [sic] because that’s what John called it when I showed it to him. Oddly enough I did trip over it two days later so I scrawled “Tripping Hazzard” on it with a black Sharpie marker. (Yes, I spelled it wrong. I blame the The Dukes of Hazzard.)

Oh, the box! It plays the audio from the video game Pac-Man! Wacka Wacka Wacka and so on. The weird thing is, about a week after I built it, I heard the sound at Milwaukee Makerspace and Arnold was playing the same video I ripped the audio from on YouTube! That’s weird, just like him.

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As for the cutting of the pieces, there was some discussion that Jason and I had about which style of ghosts we should use, and he won because he ran the CNC router. He was kind enough to send me his files so that I could make a miniature version on the laser cutter. I seem to have misplaced those, but I’ll find them soon. (Adrian was kind enough to paint the mini version which we used for a TV promo before the Faire.)

Anyway, in a lighter part of the Dark Room we set up some big Pac-Man and Ghosts and had a sound track for them which made it appear that Pac-Man was continually trying to get away from the ghosts, and I enjoyed that.

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Giant Laser Etched Banana

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We made a giant laser cut & etched banana and stained it yellow and put it on the wall. Why? I’ll tell you why. Because we’re artists and we have a sense of humor and sometimes enjoy social commentary. But wait, there’s more!

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You see, this specific banana is best know as being a piece of art created by Andy Warhol. Or maybe it’s best known as being the cover of a Velvet Underground album. Also, as we all know, Warhol was a thief. But maybe he was a thief in the way Steve Jobs was a thief. “Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal.”

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So I stole Warhol’s banana, but I really just downloaded a file that someone else created, which is fitting. Stealing is pretty easy nowadays. Thanks, Internet!

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But where did Warhol steal it from? Well, most likely an ashtray from Wing Corp. Do you like a banana? Enjoy Banana. Or maybe you should go to court and sue someone over banana. Art is ridiculous because life is ridiculous.

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Maybe you want to buy your own banana? You could probably do that, but you can’t buy our banana, because it’s not for sale! (I remain hopeful that someday someone comes into the office and actually recognizes the banana.)

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The banana was laser etched and then cut from 1/4″ Baltic Birch Plywood and it took about five hours. I think it should have gone faster but this was (more or less) a stress test for the laser cutter. It definitely etches (and cuts) stronger on the left side than the right. Good to know.

Becky is holding a Cutie (aka a “mandarin orange”) for scale. I forgot to bring a banana for scale. I should probably do that. There’s also a 12 ounce can in some of the photos, which is also for scale. I don’t know how many ounces the banana is.

Do you like a banana? See Also: MaKey MaKey Banana Pong, MaKey MaKey Banana Pong (code), The Art of Tinkering, and Bluth Family Stair Car.