Author Archive

Critical Reflection: Portal Interactive Lamp

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Original Concept

My original concept was to create a ceramic artifact that brings the nostalgia and feeling of “home” from video games into the real world through light.


Previous Iterations

My first concept was to create a physical manifestation of a digital skybox, but after critiques and further thought, it was concluded that a skybox would not contain enough of the “essence” of a game to bring it to life in a meaningful way.


My second concept was to create ceramic domes with a Portal theme, drawing on the game’s core gameplay element – shooting portals on various surfaces to travel through space and time from one portal to the other. The concept was to have two domes, where glazing would represent different areas in the game (interior and exterior), with portals on the inside and outside of the dome, allowing the viewer to be transported inside the dome by looking inside. Due to time constraints, these prototypes were made with epoxy and acrylic paint, rather than clay.

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Critiques from the prototyping session led to some design changes for the final product. First, it was suggested that the domes should be more interactive, especially since the video games that inspired the concept (and video games, in general) are highly interactive. It was decided that looking at the light sources to be cast into the domes would be an interesting way to use the portals to transport the user into the games. I also came up with the idea of adding sound as another element to bring the games alive.


Final Product

The final product built off of the previous iteration, and resulted in two domes, and a slightly modified concept. I built two domes to test different facets of glazing. The outside of the domes were carved and glazed to reflect the essence of the Portal game, while the insides were glazed white or clear (matte and glossy, respectively), to allow the lights cast inside the dome to reflect the games.

First, I coil-built the domes, and scraped them to form dome shapes.


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Second, I carved them to represent Portal.

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Finally, I glazed the pieces to reflect the colors of the game, based on the color analysis done in the previous stage.

Portal and Mass Effect


Then, the pieces were fired, and I began to build the electronic components.


I used Arduino and Processing to make the lamp interactive. I used buttons to simulate the feel of firing a Portal gun. When the red button is pressed, the LEDs in the lamp transition through colors from an image representing the game Mass Effect, while the theme from the Normandy ship plays on the computer speaker. When the green button is pressed, the LEDs in the lamp transition through the colors from an image representing the game Bioshock.

The images that inspired the exterior of the domes:

thecakeisalie1Portal and Mass Effect

The images that inspired the colors of the LEDs (the interior of the dome):

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 9.16.24 PM


What Questions Does It Ask?

This project exists in the intersection of the digital (video games) and the physical (clay artifact). It asks the questions:

How can physical artifacts created in clay interact with the digital world in the realm of video game immersive experiences?

Does the act of creating an artifact like this, or receiving a handmade artifact like this could bring a more personal feel to a digital and synthetic experience?

For me, I definitely feel a stronger connection to the games through trying to craft an experience to bring the games to life. The objects have a sentimental feeling to me from the time I spent working on them while spending time with my family. I would be interested to see if giving them as a gift would grant that “personal and real” experience to the recipient, and whether that would change his or her feelings towards the games.


What does it achieve?

For me, the lamp brings a real-world interaction experience to games that I had only experienced digitally before. I enjoy the fact that the domes represent a game (Portal) whose essence (traveling through portals to different places) allows me to be “transported” to the worlds of Mass Effect and Bioshock with the press of a button.


What does it not achieve?

I feel like the LEDs in the inside may not necessarily represent the games as well as a projector or a screen inside the domes might have. These other technologies would have allowed actual images or scenes from the game to be projected, rather than colors that represent the design styles of the games.


Inspirations from the Readings

Many of these were discussed in the proposal, but upon building the domes, some quotes came to be more impactful for me.

In the Ingold reading, we discussed the idea of clay or other materials coming into being through the process of the crafter interacting with it, often with the artist not really knowing what it will become until it does. I noticed as I was crafting the domes and carving them, that I kind of became “in the zone,” and wasn’t really consciously planning out how they were going to look or where I was going to carve. I was actually quite surprised by how they turned out.







Portal Interactive Lamp: Prototype

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Prototyping     Hannah Glazebrook


Original Concept

Physical implementation of a digital skybox.



I originally wanted to create a lamp that, when used, depicts the feeling of home and nostalgia in video games.


Proposal Feedback Received

A skybox may not be the way to best depict the game nostalgia. Instead, try to focus on images or colors that depict the game’s palette, and present them with an interesting way. Rather than cutting out random shapes in the clay lampshade, make sure that all changes to the form (cutouts, etc) have real meaning in the game depiction.


New Concept

Utilizing the gameplay element in Portal, bring that visual component into a lamp that works as a “Portal” to other games. In Portal, players can cast Portals on various walls, and use them to travel through space to another location. It would be interesting to create lamps that utilize this gameplay element of portal to “transport” the user to another location by allowing them to look through the Portal into another world. I want to be able to use the lamp to bring people into the worlds they enjoy, and have some control and interactivity.


Feedback from Prototype Presentation

Bring more digital into the product.

Make a dome that is reflective on the inside, with a Portal persona on the outside. Use multicolored LEDs to change the inside of the dome to reflect the colors from different game palettes, evoking the color “feel” of the games, rather than physically painting the environment on the inside.



Original Concept:

Galaxy Projector Light

(image source:


First Prototype: Interactive Lamp

For this part, I built a lamp using a coil technique and carved it to build in shapes and texture. I then built the lamp part by using Arduino and multicolored LEDs. When you turn the potentiometer, the color inside the lamp changes.

Interactive Lamp


Second Prototype: Image Analysis with Affinity Designer

For this prototype, I found several images from the video games I love personally, and analyzed them using Affinity Designer to get the RGB values. I then used that “palette” to test glazes to see whether I could get accurate glaze coloring.

Bioshock and Fallout

Top: Fallout 3 Bottom: Bioshock


Portal and Mass Effect

Top: Portal Bottom: Mass Effect 3


Second Prototype: Testing Glaze to match the palette

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Third Prototypes: Modeling Epoxy and Acrylic Paint


For these prototypes, I used a modeling epoxy to make the domes by molding them to the shape of a wine tumbler, and painted the interior and exterior of the domes to match images selected from the games. For these, I have a Bioshock dome (left) and a Mass Effect dome. When looking through the portal on each, you can see the inside of the image. For the Bioshock dome, the exterior is Rapture (the underground city) and the inside is a walkway inside the city. For Mass Effect, the exterior of the dome is the Normandy SR-2 in orbit around a planet, and the inside of the dome is the bridge of the Normandy.

Domes with a portal. The interior is different from the exterior, representing passing through the portal to a different location in the world.


Mass Effect Inspiration


Mass Effect Execution




Bioshock Inspiration


Bioshock Execution


Challenges and Potential Solutions:


Executing the shape of the domes is challenging without slip-casting. I could make pinch or coil pots and carve them, or try and use slip molding or press molding in a mold that I 3D print.

Ceramic Skybox: Design Proposal

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Design Proposal   Hannah Glazebrook



Importance of Craft

In Shiner’s “Fate of Craft”, he states that for work to be considered craft, it must be – made by hand, have a use or purpose, be created by a craft master, and have an emphasis on material. Since we can’t do all 4 in this class (mastery takes 10,000 hours or more), I want to focus on material and use, with my final project being made by hand. I want to focus on what clay can do, the way that it could cast light differently with glaze, thickness of walls, etc. I also want to create something that will be used by someone and have a purpose other than just decoration.

Material and Use

Looking at Silve’s “Romanticism” paper gave me ideas on how different materials affect how light can be displayed. My 11-month old son is in love with lights, and I would love to be able to create something that he can look at and explore. Additionally, Giaccardi spoke about the sentimentality of objects, and that fascinated me with respect to how artifacts can take on a life of their own.

Bringing in the Digital

One of the most interesting phenomena in the digital realm (to me, anyway) is the way in which playing video games can have an impact on emotions, and how sentimental reminders from games such as toys and artifacts inspired by the game can evoke those emotions. There is also research relating to how video game immersion can be impacted by digital design decisions. That inspired me to create a physical artifact that could reflect these digital experiences and bring them into the real world.


My initial thought was to try and create a light fixture that evokes the feeling of a game. My inspiration was lamps that can cast stars on the wall like this.

Galaxy Projector Light

(image source:

After considering the ways in which this lamp might take form, I considered various techniques including coil-building, slip-casting, and building the object as a cube or box.

The box idea got me thinking about whether I could replicate a skybox from a digital game into a real-world skybox that either could be looked inside, or could project outwards.


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Intervention in Form

I considered building the form in multiple shapes.


Can be hand-built or slip cast, must deal with translating images to a dome-shape and maintaining shape.

Dome Prototype

Hand-built dome shape prototype

Sketch 1

Dome sketch

It could also be built as the shape of a cube, and built by rolling the clay, and then piecing it together.

Cube Lamp Sketch

Cube lamp sketch

Clay tiles can be carved and then affixed together to form a cube

Clay tiles can be carved and then affixed together to form a cube – (image source:


By varying the thickness of the walls or carving them out, the form could change the appearance of the the lamp both in translucency/opacity and in shape.

Interventions in Color

There is also a possibility to try and impact the light quality through color. One way is through Arduino. By using multicolor LEDs, I could change the appearance of the environment to be more blue, bright, red, etc.

Another possibility is changing the colors of the glazes, and mapping the colors from images in the game to the colors glazed on the lamp.

Another possibility could be using multi-colored slip casting. This would likely be more challenging and require more skill and training, but would allow the color to be actually inside the clay rather than on top.


Slip Molding

Image link:


How is it transformative?

The project brings the digital into the physical.

The project brings sentimentality to a digitally-inspired and modified physical object.

The experience from the game shapes the object, the object might shape the way you relate to the game.

There is a dialogue between digital experiences and physical experiences

The digital doesn’t just fit inside the physical, it shapes the form, color, and experience of the physical artifact.



  • Giaccardi, E., & Karana, E. (2015). Foundations of Materials Experience: An Approach for HCI. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
  • Shiner, L. (2010). The Fate of Craft. In S. Alfoldy (Ed.), NeoCraft: Modernity and the Crafts (pp. 33-47). Halifax: The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design
  • Silve. The Romanticism of Digital Making, for Craft Research and Practice, and the Upshot for Teaching Future Voices.