The Hand and the Glove... ramblings about making.

12.10.07 – The Craft of Rapid Manufacture; Drawing and Making

The week started with a return to teaching on the Foundation Ceramics degree course in Carlisle. The CIA [Cumbria Institute of Art} has become part of the new University of Cumbria, which I don’t think will affect me very much. I’m teaching throwing to the first years and overseeing the second years. Both groups are small so that seems manageable and interesting.

Back in College on Tuesday I headed straight upstairs to RapidformRCA to check on my SLA torus piece. The second attempt had again failed at the same place on the rim, so the technician Greg, had a more detailed look and suggested that he strengthen the support matrix at that point.
Like the new hand building techniques I have been using, there is a craft element to Rapid Manufacture. The practitioner needs to know the characteristics and properties of the material and understand the methods by which it can be processed. The main difference between my two recent experiences is that the hand is absent in the making part of an RP piece. That doesn’t alter the need to develop a tacit knowledge as in other skills.

From there it was back to the Ceramics workshops and the familiar, traditional skills of glazing, drying and firing. More time was spent in the workshops watching plaster-sledging demonstrations by the highly skilled technician Stephan, and tutor Tavs Jorgensen. There are some interesting techniques that may have possible applications in my project. The other workshop demonstration I attended was press moulding by Martin Smith. He chose to use one of the moulds for his forthcoming Barrett Marsden exhibition, so it was interesting to see what his current work is dealing with. His demonstration clearly emphasised that to realise an idea, appropriate techniques need to be used; as he said he doesn’t have a favourite technique or one he feels most comfortable with. The process is a complex problem solving exercise where a high quality end result is the goal.

In between the workshops I was also preparing for the torus 03 form to be CNC milled. The material was measured and cut to size, leaving me with enough excess to produce another form.

Back up in RapidformRCA the third attempt had successfully been produced.
Once the material had been cured I took one of the failed ones and the successful down to my workspace to remove the supporting matrix. It was fairly easily removed, but care had to taken not to snap the brittle form. As can be seen in the photographs, the material does not possess the tensile strength to completely support the form. Would another RM material have the properties required or will I have to redesign the form? It won’t be the finished object I have imagined as it’s only 25 cm diameter and the surface isn’t smooth.
I wish to produce an actual three-dimensional version of a form that I can visualise in the virtual world of Rhino 3D software. On the computer screen it can be turned, scaled and I can even pass through the form. With the precision that the software allows me I can explore and develop my particular ideas far more accurately than with paper and pencil. The forms are based on simple geometric models, which with my level of skill can be drawn up on the screen fairly easily. This particular software may not be suitable for more complex intuitive forms. However, haptic modelling software is being introduced into the department, so it will be interesting to see how other students make use of it. I have found that my sketching has become far more simplified, mostly being a rough outline of simple forms. I use them to quickly run through a series of ideas, from which I can select a number to develop in Rhino.

By Friday I was feeling pretty exhausted, having had an intense return to College. However, I have achieved what I had planned. Just before I left I saw that start of the CNC milling process, watching the machine roughing out the beginning of the torus.
I spent the afternoon at the Frieze Art Fair in Regent’s Park before walking over to Euston for the train home.
It was my first visit to Frieze and an enlightening experience to see so much current contemporary art from many parts of the world under one canvas roof. It was possible to detect some trends, for instance the use of graphic design to convey messages and statements. Oppression, sex and the city are reoccurring themes, though one gallery countered them with a makeshift cinema showing Woody Allen’s film ‘Bananas’!
I missed visiting Origin at Somerset House, but felt that Frieze was more important for me to see.

The train home was extremely busy, but a useful time for reflection, planning and sketching, preferring, on this occasion the less intense experience of sketchbook and drawing pen.