I have a background in sculpture. I’ve done quite a bit of steel fabrication, bronze casting, and woodworking in the past, but over the past few years I have gotten involved in digital approaches to art making, which have transformed my creative process. Now in the studio I design most of my projects with Rhino, and then create photorealistic images of the virtual forms, or use 3D printers and CNC routers to fabricate the finished forms in physical material. This way of working has brought me into a closer relationship with the engineers on campus, and we work together on robotic projects and digital fabrication processes.
It strange to admit it, but my favorite thing isn’t a thing at all – instead it’s a digitally created still life image that represents the philosopher Aristotle’s philosophy on how to lead a good life. The image I’ve created shows a heap of stacked up objects that symbolically show the various points Aristotle made about what habits and goals are most important. Eventually, as my skills with CNC work improve, I hope to be able to create some of my more complex virtual projects in real physical material.
Rhino. In my years of creating sculpture with traditional approaches I was often frustrated at the lack of detail and precision I could obtain with my hands. By designing my projects on the computer I’m able to work in a more flexible manner, with more control and less risk of messing up since I can always press ctrl Z and undo my mistakes. Now when I’m working in the studio with physical materials I wish for a ctrl Z button to use in everyday life.
I made a sensory deprivation tank in grad school, and it took a year to complete. Anytime one creates a device that is meant to hold a person in an enclosed space in a pool of water with electrical components, there are a long list of precautions that must be addressed, so I had to work closely with some OSHA representatives and electricians to ensure that the device would be safe. Beyond all of these challenges I also welded and painted the tank myself, and that job alone took months to complete.
Collaborative, using high and low tech methods, creating partly for the opportunity to learn and partly just for the joy of making.
It’s bringing students and faculty from a variety of disciplines together. Artists, engineers, designers, and others. The interdisciplinary synergies are exciting and have a lot of innovative potential.
In my studio art courses I work to create students who have an experimental, risk taking approach to problem solving. I often tell students: “when in doubt, crank it out”. Once we’ve put some thought into how we might solve the problem, the only way to know for sure whether the idea will work is to test it. Through iterations of increasing complexity and scale we’re able to arrive at excellent solutions that couldn’t have been reached simply by contemplative thought. It’s possible to solve big problems by thinking with your hands, and I want to build this approach into the ethos of our maker space at Bucknell.
Resources in high education tend to be broken up by department and program, making it hard for students and faculty to get access to tools held in other areas. The process of making is accelerated by having easy access to tools, so it’s imperative that these spaces be well equipped and open to students on nights and weekends.
Digital approaches are incredible, but as more and more of our time in the 21st century is spent in front of a screen it’s really important to learn to work with our hands. Making gives us a chance to try and fail with physical materials in real space.
- Learn about what others are making, and borrow approaches that you think are interesting.
- Put some thought into what topics and problems you deeply care about, and make things that are relevant.
- Think iteratively. Test ideas out on a small scale, then take what you’ve learned and work on larger and more complex ideas.
- Work hard. Aristotle said that “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet”, meaning that we have to endure discomfort to reach end results that are worthwhile. In the makerspace you have to be willing to push yourself when the process isn’t easy, when you feel a bit bored and distracted, and eventually, through disciplined effort you’ll create finished work that you’re proud of.