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Art & Design in Making INLS 690 2020 - Jordan Green

My bibliocircuitry project is focused on the process and elements of practice of maker Alexis Noriega, the costume artist on which I wrote my ethnography paper. I chose the book Mechanical Engineering Design, 3rd Edition from McGraw-Hill's Series in Mechanical Engineering as the base for my book artifact.

Technologies & Connections

The technologies I chose to incorporate were: 3D printing (sun/gear corners and mannequin), a paper circuit, and laser cutting (wings and frames). I also included blackout poetry and embroidery (AZ-shaped patch/pouch), and reused extracted book pages by resizing and folding them into envelopes.

I chose these technologies/ways of making because, thinking about our class discussions about who is often spotlighted in the maker movement and what counts as 'making,' I wanted my final project to make use of a combination of methods that were digital tech-dependent/traditionally used in engineering design making (3D printing and laser cutting) as well as others more craftlike/artsy (paper art and embroidery). Another reason I decided to create the paper circuit with an LED to illuminate the desert scene slide like a sunset was because I thought it was a good way to reuse some materials and that the use of the LED as a 'sun' for the scene was a way to reference the part of the story of my maker's first career working for a solar panel company as a geotechnician.

Other materials I used included library card catalog cards, feathers, film, paints, permanent marker, copper wire, scrapbooking paper, parchment paper, decorative tape, and thread. These materials were ones I had at home, except the film slides and some of the feathers I didn't find outside which I bought at Scrap Exchange. Digital resources I used included Adobe Illustrator, Thingiverse, Tinkercad, Cura, and Youtube.

User Experience

I paid attention to color and textures with the intention to capture the feeling of a workshop for the user -- somewhere between art and engineering, homey, a little chaotic -- and a look that had vaguely desert tones. In my embroidery, light, and staining the paper with watercolor, I chose a warm color scheme. I situated a mixture of hard and soft elements (the embroidered felt AZ pouch used with the LED and wooden slide frame, the feathers and sprocket, floral and card catalog backgrounds), and also tried to create an artifact with a beginning-to-end progression that was easy to follow but still allowed room to explore the artifact. I kept most of the starting book's structure in that the first pages are intact and used (or removed and reused) in blackout poetry and the artifact opens as a book would, but there are also points where users are meant to be inclined to pause in that story and interact, like to open the envelopes to view other paper elements and to extract the cell battery from one cutout to complete the circuit in the other.

Process

In the planning stage, I thought about Noriega's craft and process, and what images derived from that I wanted to include. Since my maker is known for wings I wanted to build in an interpretation of those, while not leaving out other parts of the story of her craft like her connections the Tucson community and the meeting of artistic expression, engineering principles, and her background research on anatomy that made her creations lifelike.

One of the things that stood out to me about my maker from writing my ethnography was that despite her craft becoming her business, her research and process remained available for others to view and emulate. So, I decided to try to document my process as well as I could, and saved most of my storyboard notes into part of the book artifact.

From there, I chose the technologies described above that I thought would best suit the images and elements I wanted to include. (With the exception of the laser cut slide frame -- I was originally planning on doing a popup paper art diorama for one of my technologies until I came across a cool film slide of a desert landscape, and decided that would better fit the look I wanted to create so I folded functional paper envelopes instead and saved the hollowed space to build in the slide.)

It wasn't easy to see the image without a light source, so I switched to a paper circuit rather than a shadowbox-style diorama. I referred to Youtube videos for folding the two paper envelopes and creating the simple wing mechanism.

Carving out the hollow parts of my book artifact was the messiest step and took the longest by far (or maybe that was 3D printing this mannequin, but I didn't have to do that by hand!). There are tiny slivers of paper appearing all over my house, now.

I experienced a couple of setbacks with paint -- first, the acrylic paint I had didn't cling to my 3D printed frame corners, but after changing brushes and applying thicker initial layers, it stuck. The watercolor stain on the last section of my artifact didn't turn out as pigmented as I'd hoped to match my wood frame and embroidered part of the story; though I tested it on discarded pages beforehand when I began to paint the actual artifact I noticed the top pages beginning to weaken and I decided to keep the lighter tone rather than keep painting on them. If I could start over I would try to better tie the colors of the artifact interior together with this and also by applying a solid background or lightly painting the floral background to match the top page so it looked more uniform/less 'busy.'

One key 'breakthrough' part was figuring out how to get the intense light from the LED to diffuse before hitting the slide to create the softened, dusk-sky effect to illuminate the landscape. To do this, I ended up reusing a piece of the parchment paper I'd used to protect the intact front section of the book while Mod-pogding the latter pages to be carved out. Another key part was finding the best material for the pivot points on my little wings: The video I adapted the wings' design from depicted what appeared to be rigid metal U-shaped pins at the joints; I found that didn't work well on my laser cut ones and that loops of copper wire manipulated with pliers allowed them to move better.

Parchment paper between layers of laser cut wood frames.