Recycling for Sculptures REcycled Plastics, 3D Printing, & A Træna Makerspace: A Project by Lori Hepner
I had previously completed some artist residencies in Finland, Iceland, and Svalbard and really liked the way that people living in these cultures approached the world, especially in how they respected nature and the environment. I was exploring Arctic landscapes and photographing them in order to both experience the differences in the physical shapes of the world, but also so that I could explore my inner self at the same time. My feelings of how I was connected to nature subtly changed based upon a mixture of the people/culture of an area and the geographical forms of the land and water and I was interested in tracking that in my work.
My art project, Excursionary Auras, in Situ, was a way for me to combine my traditional landscape photographs with gestures of the inner feelings that I had while in these places through 15-30 second mini-performances in the studio. I used LED lights that played back my photographs, one column of pixels at a time, as I moved in front of the camera while imagining being back in nature where I took the landscape photos. The results are very abstract light paintings with hints of the landscape and my inner emotions of being in those specific places. I title each piece with my emotion while in the landscape (content, excited, concerned…), how I was physically moving through that space (hiking, walking, paddling…), and the location itself (Træna, Norway; Kilpisjäriv, Finland…).
As this is an ongoing art series, I wanted to find a place in Arctic Norway where I could spend time working on a new project: 3D printing and beach plastic recycling. On my trip to Svalbard last summer, I was able to volunteer on a Beach cleaning in a remote fjord, which inspired the beginning of the 3D printing, plastics recycling, and makerspace as projects for Træna. Since the community is so far from the mainland, the opportunity to set up a space where the community could have access to a 3D printer, for personal or business development purposes, and could use the equipment to be a small innovation hub, using the recycled plastics and 3D printer as a local material/production machine for Træna produced items that could be developed by individual community members, local businesses, and visiting artists.
Since the Træna Festival brings such a large number of people to the island, one idea could be to target use the event to both sell 3D printed items created locally by artists and local businesses, but also to encourage plastics recycling by festival attendees by having a barter system where by turning in recyclables they could get a small sculpture, in return. Working with Tenk Træna, I designed a small 3D printed keychain of their logo embedded into an actual 3D rendering of Sanna. This is something that uses only 5g of plastic per keychain and prints in under an hour. These are the prototypes for the type of 3D prints that will be designed for the 2019 Festival.
One of the highlights of my time in Træna was spending time with the youth and showing them what was possible with 3D printing. I was able to spend a day each with three different groups of students in order to introduce 3D printing on both small and large scales. I showed them some videos of houses that have started being built by giant 3D printers that use concrete instead of plastic, which they were quite amazed to see. They were also especially intrigued with the small figures from a popular video game that I was able to print out in less than a day after they asked about the possibility to print such a thing. They were equally interested in the idea to use beach litter to create recycled 3D printer filament for such prints. They had been learning about this for the prior year, so it was the perfect time to introduce to them what might be able to be produced from cleaning up the natural environment.
In a similar scene to the workshops with the school children, I was first hooked on using computers to make art in a kindergarten computer art class that my school had when I was six years old that then continued as a regular class each year for 5 years. The ability to create digital drawings from short math equations, as this was before we there was a mouse connected to a computer, set up my lifelong path to become a digital artist. The possibility of inspiring the youth or anyone from the community from a similar immersion in 3D printing and 3D design is very gratifying and is at the heart of why I am inspired to continue on with the project and hope that the students have the opportunity to learn how to design their own things to be printed, as well.