Author Archive

Solving Problems with Entropy

Sunday, November 29th, 2015

Going into the final stage of my project, I realized a lot of things about what I was doing as far as the process itself goes. ForĀ  example, my project is not about a final result. It is not about getting a physical end result. My project is a study of the process. The first hurdle with this was to look at the process of manufacturing. In most large-scale cases there is a designer who determines colors and patterns, and then hands it off to a manufacturer that executes the design choices. This is a dynamic that I find incredibly interesting, and wanted to play with. In order to get around the need to bring in an outside designer, I wrote a program that uses Brownian Motion (which is a computer generated particle system) to generate a line pattern.

Looking at Brownian Motion made me start thinking about entropy and chaos, and how even on a computer all of these things are pre-calculated. So I began researching what other ways I could use entropy to put a pattern on a pot. My first thought was to do something like a spinmaster or spirograph, where the pot would be on a spinning platform and pigments would be dripped onto it. However the problem with this was that it made transferring the pattern generated by the program almost impossible. Then I found a technique using nail polish in water that I realized would work perfectly. The water is a second particle system, but a real-world example rather than a computer generated one. And I could draw the pattern on top of the water, because of the film that the nail polish makes. And clay is the ideal material as a surface, because it’s so porous and absorbent that the polish dries almost instantly, and doesn’t have a chance to smear or rub off.

This project was an interesting exercise in taking direction, as opposed to designing something for myself. Yes, the design is just a complex line, but the manufacturing is the important part. As a 3D prop modeler, my entire job will be taking the concepts from other people and turning them into fully formed objects. This project is a smaller scale to that, with a computer telling me what to do, and I have to figure out how to do it. The biggest hurdle was finding a way to transfer the pattern from the computer to the water. The best way I found to do it was to trace the lines on tissue paper and then lay it in the water. This also keeps the polish in place, because without a medium to hold it, it just spreads across the surface of the basin.

End results aside I am calling this project a success, because I found a way to take a pattern that was given to me and transfer it onto a ceramic piece. The entropy created by both the Processing program and the water bath was to eliminate the typical precision that computer generated graphics tend to have. Digital artists have a reputation for clean, crisp lines, because computers lend themselves to that. Organic shapes are something that every digital artist struggles with, and the dual particle systems forced precision lines into organic shapes, breaking the stereotype of digital art.


This is a short video showing the process that I used, as well as the clay pots that I used to demonstrate.



Entropy Prototype Testing

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

The biggest thing that I took away from my original proposal presentation was that my project naturally focuses on the process, rather than the end result. That being said, I also knew that I had to modify my original plans for the project. Originally I had thought about using only porcelain clay, and several different coloring techniques. The more I thought about it the more I realized that it served no purpose to show two ways of doing the same thing, and therefore removed the shaving cream portion of my study. It didn’t add anything, and limited the materials I could use. Now that I am only using the nail polish technique I ca n use any clay that I have access to and it doesn’t have to be fired. The only caveat to this is that the dipping has to be done quickly, because un-fired clay, as I learned today, can be made malleable again if exposed to water too long. This means that while firing is not mandatory, I may decide to do it to prolong the life of the object and not risk it falling apart during the dipping process.

Fortunately I know for a fact that my concept will work, and now I have to focus on the execution. There is no doubt that Processing can create randomized lines, nail polish will form a film on top of water, and the polish will adhere to clay when dipped into the water. With the “how” determined, now I need to focus on the “why”. Why do I want everything to be randomized? What purpose does it serve? What does it say about the correlation between craftsmanship and design? While these questions may seem rhetorical, they are in fact relevant to the process.

Several of the papers we have read this semester dealt with the ideas of craft and process, using specific examples in the paper but applying the ideas to the industry as a whole. Tim Ingold’s paper, for example, started out with the quote from Paul Klee of “Form-giving is life” and “Form is the end, death”. This idea of creation being the primary goal, with the end form being an almost unnecessary by-product, is the crux of my project. If the end result looks interesting, then that’s just an added bonus. If it looks terrible and ends up in the garbage can, that’s also totally alright. The core tenant of my project is the idea that creating is more important than creation. This is something that a lot of people could learn from, because I know that a lot of 3D modelers start out with concept sketches and get too focused on making it look exactly like it, as opposed to letting it organically change through the modeling process.

A supplementary idea in my project is that of computer-guided art. In most art that takes place at least partially on the computer, the user is trying to be as careful and precise as they can, and telling the computer explicitly what to do and how to do it. This project turns that idea on its head, where the computer is telling the user what to do. Granted, the user (in this case me) has to write the program, but this is why the program is randomized. It removes the largest portion of control that I have over what is generated. Instead of the crafter, which would be my usual role, I am instead the manufacturer, being told what the crafter wants and trying to do it as closely as I can to their specifications. This metaphor falls apart slightly upon scrutiny, since I am setting the factors that the computer can choose from, but that’s what manufacturing companies do. They say “These are the materials we have for you to choose from” and the crafter has to make the decision at that point. So the loss of control makes the project take on a life of its own, with the computer being the production lead.