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

yet more actual and virtual.....

These last few months have been both exciting and frustrating in equal measure. I have been continuing my investigations of the actual/virtual theme in my work with the design of a new piece, or pair of pieces called Amalthea. They are complex cornucopia like pieces, one filigree, its companion a solid version with raised surface decoration.

To begin with, I generated a type of QR code known as a ‘blotcode’ which links to a page on my website when scanned by a barcode reader, available as an App for some smart phones. I then extruded the 2-dimensional image into a 3-dimensional form using Rhino 3D software. The cornucopia shape of Amalthea refers to the wealth of knowledge available on the World Wide Web whilst the cryptic symbols within the filigree refer to the consequences this may have on society.
Objects often have stories attached to them. They can commemorate an event; they are often transformed into family heirlooms and passed on with the stories associated with them. Amalthea also tell stories, but these stories are online, so have the potential to include text, video, image and music. They can be added to over time, creating a repository of memories and information.
So when the viewer scans Amalthea with a barcode reader mobile phone App, it connects to a page on my website telling the story, providing additional information thereby creating a simultaneous actual and virtual experience.
I plan to offer a series of similar pieces where the QR code is generated for a client linking the piece to information specific to that person. So, as heirlooms, the virtual experience could tell the story of the journey of that object through the generations.

In the making of Amalthea I have become increasingly aware of the complexities of Additive Manufacturing and selective laser sintering (SLS) in particular. The machines are complex, with a myriad of controls that the operator/technician must become as attuned to as any craftsman does to their tools. It's certainly not a case of 'pressing a button' as some people think. And though I am not the highly skilled person operating the machine I need to have both a reasonable understanding of the technology and a good working relationship with the operator.

When my work was produced in France, it was made on a ZCorp 3D printing machine. This is far simpler than the SLS technology as it employs a liquid binder rather than a laser to build the layers. And it's one of these machines that we are going to use in an attempt to print objects in clay. This is the dream that I have had since I first heard of Rapid Prototyping quite a few years ago. Our project at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London will build on the excelent work of Mark Ganter and his team at the Solheim Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle. We are also grateful to Ronald Rael and the ceramics laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley for providing us with a detailed technical report of his team's thorough testing of ceramic materials.
The Open Source philosophy of this research is fundamental; thanks to the generosity of Mark Ganter there is a growing community of like-minded groups all ploughing the same furrow. By bouncing ideas of each other the momentum is increased and reliable materials will be available for the many, rather than the few.

Though printing the Amalthea in clay is probably a little way off, I am very excited by the prospect of being able to bring both my experience and knowledge of ceramics together with the emerging technology of the 2!st century.