March 8, 2009

Tech Adventure – The Crossover of Craft and Technology

I went to Tech Adventure at the Trinity Arts Centre last weekend. This event brings together computer programmers, inventors, roboticists and people who generally like to make things.

Obviously I didn’t understand a lot of the technical detail of the projects that people bought along to display but I could see potential there for the arts and craft community. For a start there was a thing called a Reprap which is a 3D printer. This has huge potential and is designed so that you can basically build your own and then then get it to build ones for your friends. It built the shapes up out of plastic thread that was being fed into it. The shapes it can do are currently limited but even they are quite impressive and would have use in craft projects. Then I found out that it’s the same plastic that milk bottles are made out of so it could have huge implications for home recycling.

3d printer - reprap the gubbins

The man who had brought it was discussing various things such as how to build up shapes with overhangs on them and mentioned the words ‘sugar paste’. Apparently they have a nozzle that does sugar paste to build up support structures to get more intracate shapes and then they wash the sugar paste off. I then got very excited and asked if you could build things like the glass they had there out of the sugar paste – completely – he said yes!

Here are some of the things it made:

wine glass and thing with thing inside shoes

This would be fantastic for cake decorating I feel. He said the only issue with that would be that after an hour the sugar paste turns to syrup and the nozzles stop working which is something I think could definitly be worked around, though the shape you are making is perfectly fine!

A little more probing on our part found that though they had not done high melting point things like glass they thought it would be useful for ceramics which is cool 🙂 Also one of the things that really bugs me about the lost wax process in metal casting is that you spend ages making the wax object and you can only get one casting out of it. This machine alters that as you could have the object saved as a computer file and it would build as many as you wanted out of the wax!

There were so many other things there too and the crossover of people who do techy stuff and those who make/draw is phonomenally high. This I believe is because to make craft objects you need to be a sort of engineer even if you don’t realise it and to draw good pictures you need something similar. To come up with your own projects you need to be creative and in order for the technical people to do what they do they have to be creative – creativity is a layer above science and art or technology and craft, or poetry and programming.

The dichotomy between the sciences and arts does not really exist, it is an artifact of our society – good artists tend to be grounded in some sort of science, tech, or maths whether they realise it or not!

I went to a fantastic talk on this at last year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival.

I even read out some of my poetry at this and one more Wiggly Pet also got a good home. It went to the first person to tell me how many programming languages I had in the poem! I actually gave two away though as there was a little boy in a tigger suit who wanted one so desperately.

Another thing that came out of this is that there is a Maker Faire this month – 14-15 March at the Newcastle Science Fair. I can’t go but it looks interesting.

Also it is because of this that I am now considering making special funky cases for computers though as I am obsessed with paper mâché at the moment, I am having to resist the urge to do every project in that medium!

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