While driving across the country (Boise Idaho, to Bordentown New Jersey),19 years old, on my way to my first assignment in the USAF, I was struck by many new experiences and sights. Prior to this trip, the largest city I had ever visited was Seattle. So, when I came off the plains of Wyoming, through Nebraska, Iowa, and Western Illinois, the skyline of Chicago came at me like a beacon from nowhere. Standing proud of the already impressive structures, was the Sear’s Tower, just 4 years old, black, ominous, and the tallest building I had ever seen. A full 104 stories taller than the One Capitol building in Boise, and towering 66 stories over 901 5th Avenue in Seattle. All I could think when seeing the Sears tower for the first time was “Wow!”
To say that the experience left an impression would be an understatement. Looking down from the observation deck on the 103rd floor was mind bending, and intimidating to someone who had only flown in an airplane twice, before the experience.
My 1973 object is inspired by that iconic Chicago structure and homage to the impression it left on me.
From small Northwest towns where the tallest structures around were grain silos and water towers, with a desire to see new things and travel, I knew at that moment – I was on the right path.
Over many years, I’ve done a solid amount of work for a significant number of customers. This includes design work for homes ranging from $150,000 to $45MM, hospitality work on projects right under the $1B mark, museums, retailers, health care, schools, and golf courses – to name a few. I have designed hundreds of lighting products and held executive positions in lighting companies. In this time, I have never found myself in a position to ask for anything. Word of mouth led me to clients and projects all over the country, while jobs have come from contacts and connections.
My current venture in creating creative lighted objects presents a unique problem. The path that led me to customer work and employment prior to this, is not as effective in leading to sales of the art objects I create now. As a prior marketer, I recognize this as a particular challenge. As someone who wishes to see the product of my work actually be valued and purchased, I realize it is critical to cut a path forward.
There is a phenomena that all in sales folk recognize that is important to overcome. Cold calling is a very low percentage approach, that consumes a lot of time, to get to a lot of “no” responses. Word of mouth references are far more successful overall. I experienced this personally. I have also become accustomed to the feeling one gets from receiving an unsolicited request for participation.
Unfortunately, with Social Media clouding everyone’s vision, and filling screens with millions of voices on a regular basis, it is actually more difficult than ever to be seen, or perceived as intended. Messages get muddled, and then lost to the constant shifting of feed content. Social Media is both a blessing and a curse in reaching new people and making new contacts.
This recent work is inspired by the ironwork of the late 19th century. While we see this still exposed on bridge construction today, ironwork is the skeleton of brick structures over a few stories, and for the most part, remains within the skyscrapers to this day.
I’ve always been fascinated by the cold riveted assemblies of a million parts, that come together to create rugged, stiff, long lasting structures. Assuming they are cared for properly.
In the case of this particular presentation, I’ve finished the surface in iron and applied a chemical to produce the rust patina, then clear coated it to make it touchable. This is how most iron looks exposed to the weather in the Desert Southwest, where trusswork was used heavily in mining operations. Artifacts of this type stand after a hundred years of exposure.
This is the first of the series of lighted objects I have created for offer on the Lumenique site. I will publish each one with a brief on what inspired it.
Most will recognize this from one of my favorite cities on the West coast. As a kid, we visited the 1966 World’s Fairgrounds numerous times. We visited the museums and displays, then played on the grounds. My last visit there was many years ago, on a working tour of projects I was doing as a Lighting Designer in the area.
In the process of creating lighted objects using 3D printed components, the choice of what material to employ becomes a significant consideration. Unlike novelties and hobby interests, which generally focus on cost or printer compatibility issues (material print temperatures, warping, cracking, etc.) my focus is on creating objects with high surface finish quality, extremely long life, bonding strength, overall toughness, and secondary finish capability.
Primary Materials Considered
There are three primary materials commonly used in FDM processing.
ABS or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene is the most commonly used material in FDM printing of end-use parts. It is also used to produce a wide range of plastic products you encounter every day, from toothbrushes to kitchen appliances. It is tough, can tolerate some heat, and is impact resistant. It has enough flexibility to move before it breaks. ABS glues very well using solvents, making strong bonds between parts to create larger assembled components. It sands and well, and since it is a medium surface energy plastic, so wil, wet out and takes paints and adhesives well – when properly prepared. However, ABS, due to its high Butadiene rubber content, is not tolerant of UV Light exposure, which will break it down over time, making it brittle and causing it to shrink and crack around fasteners. ABS can also be a little brittle in thin wall sections, resulting in cracking around fasteners and between layers.
I have always been attracted to the iron work that was used so heavily in the 19th century. The art of ironwork spanned basic structural engineering approaches, which have elegance founded on their function, and the embellished work, where ornamental design was either added to or integrated into the work. All held together with hot rivets and bolts, thousands of them.
My next object, or two, is going to explore this. Not to duplicate a structure, but to use them as inspiration for new design that is a take on the metalwork age. I also like the irony of using modern 3D modeling and 3D print technology to render work. Many of the same mechanical details that gave the soft metal work its rigidity, will render a plastic object additional strength and character.
After the effort of creating 16 new objects simultaneously, a process I was familiar with from the 52 in 52 exercise, it feels great to have these first pieces done, photographed and finally live. I took this opportunity to explore a wide range of approaches, forms, and general approaches. The intent was to see what felt the most right, and what felt the least right as I actually completed each work piece. I also discovered many areas of improvement I will be making in construction, forms, finishing processes, and ultimately scale and design vocabulary. This infinite and never ending “Work in Process” state of being is what makes this so compelling. I won’t always get it right, but even when I’m wrong, I gain something from it.
Unicycle Two was inspired by the first 3D print object I ever made in 2010 – Unicycle One, which was part of the 52 in 52 project. This first full object project and over 1000 subsequent projects since has been a massive learning experience. The following summarizes the progression that has taken place over these 11 years.
Not knowing the characteristics of the ABS plastic in 2010, I printed the first fixture solid, which consumed 115 cubic inches of material, at a cost of over $600. Ouch! Over the last 11 years, I have learned a lot about how to create objects with 3D printers, which is reflected in the latest iteration of the Unicycle design.
As I transition from design to artistic pursuits, there are several areas of difference that have come to me. Rather than blather on with words, I sketched a few cartoons that express the observations, in a series I am labeling “Designer vs. Artist”. I’ll add more over time.
Names are just nouns, words, a collection of vowels and consonants in an order that allows the brain to create a pronunciation, or sound when spoken. In other words, nothing tangible. Yet, names and words are far more than that. Some, like “the” and “of” are binding words, that make sentence structure work. Others like “hot”, “fast” or “angry” impart feeling or action into a sentence. Names are words of identification.
Names establish identity to an organization, a person, or an object, that eliminates the need for additional descriptive words to create understanding and identity. Without names, how would we describe companies like Ford, Chevrolet, IBM, 3M, Apple, et al? How would we differentiate between the thousands of various products we live with every day. In many cases, the name of the originator of a product becomes the noun describing the general product category, like Coke and Kleenex, or Hoover (for those old enough).