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Intro to Physical Computing using Clay

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

Intro to Physical Computing using Clay -Critical Review


Motivation and Original Idea:



“The materials and tools we use as well as the approaches we take to design, prototype and build technology greatly influence how we think about technology, the collection of people who think about technology, and the look and feel of the technology itself.”[1]


This quote was a huge source of inspiration for my project throughout as I aimed to use clay as a material to lower the learning curve for Physical Computing.


To answer the questions as to Why teach Physical Computing? , this video captures the essence of that very well:


Concept Development:

Physical Computing has three main elements which are:

Input Output and Processing


Image Source:

But another main element of Physical Computing is the FORM. It is the form that gives meaning to the inputs and outputs of physical computing.

For eg. a glowing LED light by itself is not symbolic but if i cut-out a paper heart and stick it to the top of the LED, it starts to have some meaning.

Why Clay?

There are many ways to give form to such a project ranging from manual(sewing, paper craft, wood-working) to automated(3-D printing, Laser cutting) etc.

My exploration use Clay along with some other materials(pencil, magnets etc.) as a material because:

It is easily and cheaply available in most places

Easy to mould and shape

Can combine simple forms to each other to form complex forms

Can use tools such as knives, moulds, stamps etc.

It offers both malleability when it is wet and rigidity when it is dry

Can be painted on or drawn on when dry

Insulative(which is a very important property of any electronic circuit, the Yin-Yang  complement of conductivity)


I developed a set of prototypes with clay that demonstrated the concept. The next question was how to present this information to my target audience which was middleschool/highschool kids.

IMG_0131 IMG_0141

Early Prototype- Bell mounted on Accelerometer—Plays bell sound in Processing when change in reading detected


Design Approach:

  1. How to step students through some concepts of electricity and introductory sensing and actuation?(incremental lesson plan)

The idea was to have a set of in-class activities that would allow students to learn some intro concept. Once the students had some confidence in building circuits they would be able to make personalized projects.

(problem based approach + constructionism)



I designed a set of activities which can be found here:

  1. Getting Started with Electricity(what is resistance, how does it change with length/area of cross section of conductor)
  2. Intro to Physical Computing (Digital input switch, Analog Variable resistor + Storytelling with form )
  3. Making forms with Clay (Making an interactive lamp form prototype)
  4. Intro to Arduino
  5. Going further with Arduino: Intro to Processing, Some more Sensors(accelerometer capacitive sensing)


The activities themselves can be found here:


Here is a short video demonstrating my work journey:


What context does your project stand in and What problems does it address?


Physical Computing lies at the intersection of the Physical and the Digital

My intervention explores using clay as the form-giver to physical computing projects. The problem it is trying to address is that of learning physical computing as a beginner. The material it uses are simple and easily available. A lot of projects in the maker community require skills such as 3d modelling, printing, sewing etc. (although there are plenty of examples with simpler crafts as well). My project puts focus on using Clay to solve this problem.


Clay can be used to give shape and form to and to materialize the imagination and stories of students.


Another, digital intervention is documenting the steps of the activities using digital multimedia. As my overarching goal is to teach, I am using the digital medium for its strength: replication(was able to borrow from existing sources that teach this and link to them),distribution(shareable resource) outreach.


What questions does it ask?


How can physical artifacts created with clay breathe life into electronic components such as sensors and actuators?


How to design a set of activities that is easy to follow  and engaging for students?


Does using clay give confidence to people that it is a material they can work with?


How do students Remix and Transform the activities to make projects which are meaningful to them?

The many forms an interactive lamp could take.



touch sensitive lamp

IMG_0257 IMG_0258



Based on Diyas, lamps which are important in the Hindu culture (


Which of our readings does it relate?

The project is related to the Crafting Technology Reading[1] as well as the the Kit of No parts [2]. I also referred to a lot of blogs and websites in trying to compile my lesson plan:

Pencil CIrcuits:


What did it achieve?


My project was able to create a set of activities that introduced clay as a form-giver in physical computing activities. I was also able to document my steps in the form of a Step by step recipe.


What did it not achieve?

While I did come up with a lesson plan I could not think of a way to make certain exercises simple enough to be presented to students eg. the accelerometer activity with the bell or the touch sensitive lamp.

This would probably require a Participatory design activity with kids and teachers to see how best to present this information.



[1] Buechley, Leah, and Hannah Perner-Wilson. “Crafting technology: Reimagining the processes, materials, and cultures of electronics.” ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI)19.3 (2012): 21.

[2] Perner-Wilson, Hannah, Leah Buechley, and Mika Satomi. “Handcrafting textile interfaces from a kit-of-no-parts.” Proceedings of the fifth international conference on Tangible, embedded, and embodied interaction. ACM, 2011.


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.

image06 image11

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.


20151112_113344 20151112_113606

Second, I carved them to represent Portal.

20151112_123547 20151112_130018 20151112_133323

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.







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. For  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.



Using everyday materials to lower the entry barrier for Electronic Craft- Design Presentaion

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

Textile Tilt sensor courtesy @


“The materials and tools we use as well as the approaches we take to design, prototype and build technology greatly influence how we think about technology, the collection of people who think about technology, and the look and feel of the technology itself.”[1]

I have encountered a lot of Leah Buechley’s work on maker learning and trying to engage girls in computer science through craft and always felt inspired by it. The paper “Crafting technology: Reimagining the processes, materials, and cultures of electronics” by Wilson and Buechley revealed the research that had gone behind developing some of the craft+electronic techniques. I had always seen the more playful side of their work  but this paper talked about how they spoke with crafters to gain insights on what motivated crafter’s, their experiences with their craft etc. The paper revealed some inherent differences between traditional crafters(sewer’s, carvers and painters) and electronic makers and demonstrated some examples of “high” and “low” tech that tried to combine crafts+ electronics.

A Kit-of-No-Parts demo wall

A Kit of no Parts by Plusea


My initial idea was in the space of maker learning and aimed to use clay as the material along with everyday conductive objects(paper clips, pencil circuits, batteries etc.) to make analog electronic circuits and to make some of this content on maker-;earning more accessible to audiences who may not have access to stores like Adafruit or Sparkfun.


The clay would serve as the material that would give form to the parts. The advantage of using clay over paper and materials was that clay can be moulded into 3-D forms easily when compared to paper, textiles etc.

Digital Intervention:

Since I believed that the circuits being produced at the end of this would be analog I thought of other ways of digital intervention.

I started pondering about what Digital is really good for : speed of production, distribution and this helped me arrive at using Intructables as a digital means of sharing my process with he maker community. This would also mark as my transformation from being a Lurker to a Contributor in the Maker Community. Another transformation I anticipated was people using the process and remixing the projects to make what was most meaningful to them.



Feedback on design:

-to bring out the advantages of the materiality of the clay more

-since,there was no guarantee that people would comment on/remix the approach, I should consider rethinking the digital intervention

-using clay to make sensors?



[1] Buechley, Leah, and Hannah Perner-Wilson. “Crafting technology: Reimagining the processes, materials, and cultures of electronics.” ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI) 19.3 (2012): 21.

[2] Buechley, Leah, and Hannah Perner-Wilson. “Crafting technology: Reimagining the processes, materials, and cultures of electronics.” ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI) 19.3 (2012): 21.




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.


image source:


image source:

image source:


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.

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.

As seen at Maker Faire

Sunday, October 4th, 2015

IMG_20151003_140849155  IMG_20151003_140859190IMG_20151003_140802754 IMG_20151003_140909203



Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

Some impressions of the work seen at the Cherrylion studio:

IMG_0167A foam-based model for a later project – all inspired by a 2D goes 3D idea. Clay for Marty is more a tool, a stepping stone toward the casting (often done in metal or whatever material, really). See below for one of those strange forms – this one used a pizza cutter to create the edgy look.


The place itself:


Some more scribble documentation

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Mini update from TEI: some invited presentations that look like craft

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

There are some presentations over here at TEI 2013 that kind of touch on craft. One is Movement Crafter

The movement crafter attempts to reconcile the pace of new technologies with traditional crafting activities that are performed as pastimes. The project explores concepts of quiet communication and technology hybrids and attempts to support crafting without making the craftsperson overly selfconscious of their practice.

What it does is tracking the movements of two pairs of knitting needles and visualizing it. When I tried it only one of the two stations worked and it was not too precise. But it kind of relates to the handiwork concept from Ashton.

Another art project deals with the special ink that changes visibility under changing heat.

Transience is the Japanese calligraphy work with dynamic color changes. The scene where the letter colors are changing from moment to moment can give af”uent dynamism and feeling of vitality of calligraphy to viewers, and at the same time, it can express stream of time. Calligraphy is integrated with technology and materials seamlessly and Transience is produced to show ever-changing aesthetics fermented in Japan. In order to change letter colors on paper, we developed our original chromogenic mechanism from functional inks and conductive materials. For producing the chromogenic technology suitable for paper, we examined ink materials repeatedly, and as a result we realized the expression where calligraphy harmonizes with computer.

It was beautiful to see the change of the ink over time – but mainly because the lettering looked so good. Paint Pulse was definitely more ambitious.


Evolving guidelines for digital intervention

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Our scribbles from the discussion today regarding guides and rules for digital intervention in craft.

Open Source Ecology

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Sam pointed me to that – and some of us might not be aware of this trend:

Open Source Philosophy. from Open Source Ecology on Vimeo.

Their spearhead project is the Global Village Construction Kit. As we drift into crafting and social context, it might be a good touching point for where digital media stand.

Tempo and tension in handiwork

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Crocheting is technically just a series of knots looped through previous knots in the yarn. It “builds up” through different sequences of actions. The actions include looping yarn around a hook,  pushing the hook through existing loops, and pulling the hook through again. The process is mechanically simple. However, skill and practice is required to achieve an even series of knots with the right tension on the yarn. Too loose and the work shows unsightly holes. Too tight, and the fabric buckles, or worse, the needle does not easily slip through the loop on the next row.

The two hands work together to crochet. One hand maneuvers the hook and loops the yarn. The other hand holds the work and feeds the yarn to the hook that’s looping it. This hand holding  the work is responsible for maintaining an even tension. It does so by pulling the work down while the hook in the other hand tries to pick up the work as it pulls the yarn through existing loops.

A crochet piece achieves visual complexity when stitches are made in different combinations. This requires the crocheter to count silently while they work and maintain an even tension. Some rows are repetitive and induce a meditative state. At this point, the count is internalized as movement. The crocheter actually feels the rhythm of the pattern as they carry out manual tasks with the needles and yarn. The actions result in a tempo that internalized to relieve the need to count for long periods of time.

To communicate this tacit feeling of this work, this intervention simulates a repetitive double crochet chain. A Processing application visualizes the ideal sequence of operations, the passage of time, and input from the sensors attached to the hook and the work.

The left hand holds the work. The work is a crocheted pouch with a force sensing resistor inside. The user grips the work firmly when pulling new yarn through existing loops. This additional force counters any pull from the hook and maintains even tension. Since the hand holding the work also feeds yarn to the hook, it should otherwise relax to prevent stitches from being worked too tight.

The hook has a photocell attached to its tip. The hook slips in and out of an semi-opaque tube. When the photocell registers a transition from lighter to darker environments, the stitch has “passed through” a loop and a new knot has been made. A double crochet consists of three knots in one loop. So, the user will repeats this for a total of three times before starting again.

Users should attempt to match their tension to the tension levels illustrated at different points on the action pattern. Likewise, knots registered by the photocell should be completed at the three specified times. As users’ actions converge on the pattern, they start to understand the feel of tempoed action. Crocheters maintain this tempo between tool and hands to sustain peace of mind and achieve an even tension for their material.



Practice holding the fabric with the correct tension. A photocell on the end of the crochet hook detects a “stitch” when it enters the dark tunnel. A force sensing resistor measures the grip of the hand holding the work.

When the circles align, it’s time to retract the hook into the tube and make a stitch.

The Voicing Hole.

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

The absolute most time consuming/frustrating/dangerous part of making a sweet potato clay ocarina is the voicing hole. Tuning the instrument can be difficult, but with enough time and the right techniques and tools, it’s much more of a precise science than the voicing box.

To make the box, one must cut out a small hole that matches where the air stream is coming from the mouthpiece and then cut a wedge, so it divides the air stream (somewhat) perfectly. This must be done while the clay is still malleable, the ocarina is in two pieces (so structurally unsound) and often must be done and redone several times throughout the whole process.

In order to test if it’s working, one must put the tools down, make a temporary seal (place the two halves together) then blow. Sometimes one can manipulate the mouthpiece, other times the ocarina is too delicate, and will break.


If I were to move completely away from actually doing this, I would propose two plastic shells be used, one with a hole for a mouthpiece like part. This must be rectangular. The user would try to put the mouthpiece in alignment with the voicing wedge as perfectly as possible.


The user can test how good the connection is by putting the mouthpiece hole in front of an LED that is turned on. The light transmits through the hole to a photo resistor on the underside of the wedge that is calibrated for the room. The photoresistor will make a second LED brighter or darker based on the amount of light it receives.




Too much or too little light make the light go out (just like if it were the ocarina, it would make no sound). Because there’s not a definite “you did it right” feedback in the actual process, the led getting slightly brighter and softer is the perfect analogy. A user can only tell if they’ve gotten it right by a subjective sense. It’s very obvious when it’s making sound, but whether the sound is getting better with each adjustment is a skill that takes a trained ear and many hours to determine.

In clay

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Today we finally played with some pottery at the craft center. And DWIG became the proud owner of its own storage shelf.

Third Challenge

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Now that you have documented a practice as a logical action and planning breakdown we turn to the experiential parts of it. Look at the breakdown of the practice, identify a key moment that exemplifies the “feel” for this practice. It should answer the question of what is the most experience-based (including sensual, illogical, personal, joyful, painful) part of this practice? Design something that recreates the experiential quality of this moment.
It does not have to use the practice (e.g. if you want to describe the feeling of wood fibers you might do that with woolen threads) but should reflect the chosen key moment.

Analyzing the Processing of Screen Printing with a Stencil

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

For a period of a few years in the mid-2000s, I made and sold craft clothing items. I wanted to learn about screen printing, but the need for emulsion and other chemicals seemed too complicated, so I started making my own stencils.

Cultural Considerations

The look of stencils is usually a bit rougher and more “amateur”-looking than screen prints. There are also some connotations with homemade activist clothing (i.e. the ubiquitous Che Guevara shirts) and posters, as well as graffiti. It’s a craft for people who don’t want their final object to look clean and professional and who want the ability to make a series of prints.

Prior Knowledge

Although I learned the basics of screen printing in a high school art class, I taught myself how to make stencil prints by using internet tutorials and trial and error.  I’ve never personally seen another person perform this process. People new to this process will inevitably make errors when designing the stencil because all of your “negative” space must be connected (in each single color process). Because I’ve done this many times, I’ve learned to carefully analyze my design before I start cutting because repairs are difficult.


Since I no longer sell my crafts, my current goal would be to make myself a print or clothing item. I could choose my subject based on my personal likes or to express an opinion. If I don’t have to sell a print, the standards will be a bit lower, as I am probably more accepting of imperfections and mistakes if I’m not charging money.

Umbrella Plan

Finances: Finances are rarely a consideration, since stenciling is a very inexpensive craft, costing only a few dollars per item.

Materials: Paint (varies based on what is being printed), plastic, a good Exacto knife. These are supplies I keep on hand and are easily obtained.

Skills: The most important skill in this process is the design (considering positive and negative space) and the ability to make fine cuts through the plastic with the knife. The paint application requires almost no skill.

Standards: Although my own standards are probably not as high as the “craft community,” I would still attempt to create something that looked good enough to post/share online. Looking at the work of others and comments from the community would inform my perception of quality.

Begin crystallizing
Decisions: There isn’t a lot of room to change decisions once you start cutting, so the design process is critical.

The first step is decide on an image that will lend itself to a high-contrast (black and white) conversion. Because of applications like Photoshop, it’s easy to test out different images. I need to analyze if there are “floating” negative spaces that I would need to connect in my stencil. If I’ve chosen a good image and made the necessary alterations, the stenciling process will be much easier.

Next, I print my image and begin cutting out the black areas with my knife. This part of the process requires the most manual dexterity, but not much decision-making. I’ll need to make decisions if I’ve made a mistake in the design process (or if I’ve made a mistake with the knife). If there’s a “floating” area that I’ve missed or a weak connection, I’ll need to figure out and attempt a fix. I might need to start over with the design process.


There are usually two points of evaluation:

1. After the image has been printed (does it look right in black/white contrast? Is it still identifiable? Will it be too difficult to cut?)

2. After I’ve applied paint and removed the stencil. This is the last step of the process, so if I’m not happy with the way it looks, I need to determine if it’s a design flaw, a poorly cut stencil (i.e. jagged edges), or the paint seeping under the stencil. In this case I would use the “academic standards” to determine whether I will need to start again (from the beginning or from a later step in the process).

Final analysis/thing

Once I’ve completed the process until I’ve “passed” the evaluation, I’ll have a stenciled item (and a stencil that can be used many more times).


Anti-Deskilling – Improved Electronic kit

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Google, Wikipedia, Instructables… We tend to use our computer as a magic oracle that knows everything. By doing so, we may tend to give
it too much trust, while loosing a part of our critical thinking, and passively accetping its all mighty knowledge.

I propose to redesign a random electronic kit, but pretty badly prepared : no instruction, missing resistors or too many of them. To
counterbalance these complications, I suggest a radical approach : to empower even more the computer. It knows the instructions to build
the kit, but you need to convince it you’re worthy enough to get the next instruction by showing your technical skills, their improvement
and by building your intuitive understanding of the materials you are using.

Various levels of complexity / difficulty / degree of interaction can be used depending on the user, its level, etc.

Set content

– A good part of the componenets required for the kit
– “Useless” extra components
– Prebuild arduino board for measuring resitance/capacitance/inductance
– Software

Technical implementation / Interaction description

The prebuild arduino board should be used as a cheap multimeter that can be interfaced with the custom software.
The custom software will first prompt the user with some clear instructions on how to start soldering the kit.

Quickly, the user will reach a point where a component needed is not present as if, or even worse, the computer wont ask for a precise
component, but instead will only give hints of what is needed : a bigger resistance, a smaller inductance … The user will have then to
“build” the component himself by assembling parts from the “useless” extra components, and use the arduino board to ask the computer if
he’s getting closer of what’s needed.

The user is free to use part from outside the kit to achieve the goal. He might try with everyday life objects : piece of copper,
graphite, conductive ink, aluminum.


Lovely drawing...

Anti-Deskilling - Sketch


I can see a couple of interesting reasons of building the kit this way. First, the user will gain an intuitive and informal knowledge of
the material he can use. Not only he can assmemble new pieces in a creative way, but there is also a new learning curve, for using various
parts (electronic, or not) in an unconventional manner. This idea is closer to the intimate knowledge of the material used by the craftman
versus a cold and mathematical count of colorful stripes on a resistor.
There are other learning paths for the user who doesn’t want to follow blindly the all-mighty computer : you can either improve your
knowledge of the inner working of the kit you’re building, so that you break free from the instructions all-together, or on the opposite
side of the spectrum, improve your knowledge of the inner working of the arduino/softaware tool we propose, and defeat it by building a new
tool that would go through all the expected values and therefore to unlock all the instructions.

In any case, the user must be more creative than if he were following a classical instruction manual, and learn from this experience,
which was the intended goal of the kit.

Inspiration and possible examples

Interactivus Botanicus

Switch - Anne Stevens

Resistor Man - fleck_bucket





Sand Tones online as Instructable

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Here is the Instructable for last term’s Sand Tones project – now aptly titled Craft Cymatics.

Anti-Deskilling Quilting

Monday, January 28th, 2013

The purpose of this kit is to allow for maximum creative control, while using the affordances of computer software to aid in the design process. Making the top of a patchwork quilt with squares of fabric requires little sewing skill. Essentially, the quiltmaker simply sews a series of straight line to join each square in a row, and then join the rows together. For that reason, I have not made alterations to the actual construction process.

The real craft of making a patchwork quilt is the design process: selecting fabrics and creating a pattern (simple or complex) to complement the color and print. The pattern making process includes determining the sequence, size and shape of the fabric squares. For this reason, this kit would include more fabric squares (in a wide variety of colors and prints) than necessary. Since the creation of the pattern is what I consider to be the critical skill in quilting, it would not be provided to the user. Simple directions would be provided to explain the construction process, but not a specific sequence of squares.

The digital component in this kit is provided by a software program that assists the user in the creation and alteration of the pattern. The analog design method would be to use graph paper and colored pencils. It’s a fine method, but difficult to make changes, experiment, and get a good sense of the finished product with simple markings. With the computer, the quilter could scan or photograph fabric swatches, creating digital fabric squares that are true to life. The program could use algorithms to generate symmetrical designs based on several rows designed by the user. With a few simple clicks, multiple squares can be swapped and changed, making the design process much faster.


Sketches from Keller and Keller

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Below our scribbles from the Keller and Keller text – to guide your practice analysis for next week:

Second challenge

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Based on our breakdown of the Keller & Keller text.

Find one practice you feel comfortable with and analyze it using Keller&Keller. What are the actions? What is the actions’ “emergent quality” that evolves from the activity system you are looking at? What knowledge is applied and altered in the process? At what stage is an “umbrella plan” defined? On what grounds is that plan made? What are the ingredients of that plan?

I would suggest to use the outline and key words we discussed in class to guide your analysis. This is meant to let us develop the method which we will apply to our analysis of an existing craft practice in the foreseeable future. So if you find a problem in the Keller & Keller approach and can provide an improvement – by all means.

First 2013 challenge: Anti-deskilling

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Design challenge: This assignment builds on a combination of Dormer, Risatti, and McCullough. McCullough particularly calls for a “defense of skill” and Dormer (and others) discuss the difference between assembly and craft in a comparable way. Between following rules, which could be done by a machine, vs creative making, which depends on the personal investment and skill.
Your design challenge is in-between these poles: present a kit of prepared items and simple to follow rules toward a specific object, but (re)design this kit in such a way that one specific skill is not replaced by the materials and manuals at hand. Include a digital component in that kit.

Squishy Recognition for Performance and Sensing

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

The Project that I would like to pitch for our midterm builds off my previous design challenge for the Sean Curran Dance Company. I want to suggest explorations of the Disney Research Touche system for applications beyond HCI gesture-detection. I wish to examine this technology in areas of human and animal performance and in conjunction with feedback systems from other technologies like computer vision or actuation. The proposal consists of three parts:

  • Building our own Touche system with Arduinos
  • Testing Touche directly with alternative applications
  • Experimenting with Touche feedback systems
The core activity of the class will be using the system to experiment and conduct many small performances.

Build a system

First we would build a couple of systems with the instructable about the Touche system:

Then we would thrash the system to determine its responsiveness, robustness, and noisyness. We would probably reimplment a lot of their gestural examples to see how it actually functions minus all the hype.

Alternate Applications

Once we have a better, tacit understand of how the device can work, we can try experimenting! Here are some suggestions I have thought of.


It will be interesting to incorporate feedback into the system. This can be done directly, as with the proposed puppetry idea where actuators would manipulate a plant to make the Touche sensor recognize a particular gesture. It can also be indirectly, where a performative system (like a human or animal) recieves the feedback from the sensor (like in sonification) and the system alters itself accordingly.


Two interesting technologies to tie in would be, actuation and computer vision. The CV and Touche system could readily augment each other since they collect complementary data.


Thursday, October 11th, 2012

This performance explores the interplay of weight and lightness to reimagine the construction of heavenly bodies as products of collaborative movement on earth. As dancers perform a set piece involving their interactions with each other on stage, a digital intervention captures traces of their position and saves them above the stage as astral objects with subtle movements of their own.

Stars are composed of the same material components as our bodies: carbon, oxygen, and metallic elements. The idea that mysterious elements of outer space arise from dancers’ movement on earth is something the audience can ponder while watching the performance unfold.

Modern dance embraces a dancer’s contact with the floor, liberated from ballet’s formal restrictions of ascension into space. Thus, contact with the earth that generates ascending digital forms is made more salient through a juxtaposition of process and product.

Technical Implementation
Dancers are outfitted in form-fitting costumes featuring spots of color at five different points on their body: on the feet/ankles, hands and pelvis. Each dancer sports a different color.
Using computer vision, a camera tracks the movement of these color groups as dancers move through space. When the dancer makes a swift upward movement, the acceleration of these points will cross a computational threshold and trigger the generation of digital forms: A projection mapped to the stage appears to throw these five points into the sky from these points on the dancer’s body.

This action generates a digital form with physical properties, allows it to move gently about the space as if it were a constellation in the night sky. Existing constellations can fade as new ones are generated from movements below.

This framework is extensible. Sound can play when constellations are generated, becoming gradually less intense as they fade. Dancers are able to generate the set for their performance as a result of set movements. Exploiting the inaccuracies of computer vision tracking, the resulting night sky appears different with every performance no matter how consistently the phrases of movement persist.

Joint Relationships

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

On our call, Elizabeth Giron emphasized the importance of problem solving in the choreography process.  She referred to it as a “verbal problem turned into a movement problem.”
Two components of “Force of Circumstance” inspired this proposal:

  • making movement accumulate (as Elizabeth demonstrated with her S phrase).
    • The accumulation aspect reminded me of a looper, a device usually used for music and sound design. Loopers have been adapted to video for use in dance performances (Movement Looper at MIT or Dance Loops at Utah Valley University)
  • spatial counterpoint
    • Sean Curran’s emphasis on clean lines, body shape and linearity  reminded me of an animation made for Issey Miyake’s APOC collection in 2007 ( The animation is a loop of 3D tracking data from a walking model.  Her joints are represented by white dots on a black background, with lines occasionally joining the dots in a variety of patterns, some resembling shapes of the body and Issey’s clothing, some more abstract.

This digital intervention would combine looping with minimalist skeleton tracking.

Kinect and Laptop with skeleton tracking application that can map at least 13 points/joints
Wireless device (worn by dancer to start and stop recording a loop)

The dancers’ movements are tracked with dots, using the tracking application:

The dancers can start and stop recording a loop with a wireless device. Using the laptop, lines can be drawn, connecting dots within one dancers “skeleton,” or the lines can connect the same joint on multiple dancers.



Since Sean is “a hawk for detail” and gives much consideration to line and shape, I wanted to give him and his dancers a platform to highlight his choreography. By turning the dancers’ bodies in points and lines that can be reshaped and manipulated, the technology provides thousands of relationships between parts of one body and parts of many bodies. It’s a new kind of exploration of body shape and movement.

Minimally-invasive Semantic Registration for Dance

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

For my design concerning our visit with the Sean Curran Dance Company, I propose a simple system for identifying and responding to the individual poses of the dancers. As described by Elizabeth Giron, their company focuses on experimental grammars of movement but within a highly formalistic setting. There is minimal stage design or additional props, and the focus always seems to be on the synthesis of the music and the ritualized actions of the participants. I sought to design a system for recognizing full body gestures without interfering with the dancers’ movements.

Computer Vision

The first concept to spring to mind, was to use a computer vision system. In a highly controlled environment, like the standard sized theater on which they typically perform,  several different types of computer vision systems could be calibrated to perform quite well. A generic 2D system could segment the background and foreground, and try to infer dance poses based upon matching the profiles of the dancers to pre-determined models. This could function in a somewhat responsive way, but the granularity of its detections would be poor. More sophisticated setups could synthesize the input from multiple camera arrays to capture 3 dimensional data, but this also significantly increases the cost of the setup, the complexity of the processing, and its sensitivity to the original calibration. Cheap devices like the kinect could be used, which also help automate the process of skeleton finding and pose estimation for humans. The sensing range of the kinect, however is quite limited, and it is also designed to estimate poses for only 1-2 humans at a time. In all the mentioned computer vision concepts, you also run into lots of problems when one dancer occludes the other from the camera’s visual range, or when they intertwine or connect bodies. Moving props will also interfere with the vision. Another problem with the computer vision approach is  scalability. Most systems that work with 1-2 people well, (like the kinect) will not transfer this ability to larger crowds. If the spatial dimensions of the performance area change, this will also result in a needed recalibration, or recoding of the processing.




<p>Capturing Dance - Exploring movement with computer vision<br></br></p>
from “Capturing Dance – Exploring movement with computer vision”

Haptic Gestural Recognition

We could also outfit our dancers in specially designed clothing, which detected the kinestetic movements of the wearers. Many ideas, like power-glove style concepts, have been implemented in the past. This method ties the performative device to the user’s particular outfit however, and thus is poorly scalable, and requires re-implementation for different clothing. Also the coverage of the sensors determines the effectiveness of the device. Thus you have a trade-off between expense, sensor density, full body coverage, and freedom of movement and dress.

Swept Frequency Capacitance

Disney Research recently released an impressive demo describing a relatively new method for identifying poses. Whereas most systems (like the computer vision) always first attempt to track the position individual segments of a target object (like a body, or hand), and use this tracking data to determine the current pose, Disney’s new Touché system determines gestures and poses without regard to spatial positioning. Instead they send an array of small currents through the human body at several different frequencies. The different frequencies penetrate the body in different ways when the body is in different poses. Thus you can build a profile for each individual pose, and when this specific profile is reached you know that the body is assuming this particular pose. The best part about this product is that the only interface between the human and the machine are two simple electrodes taped to parts of his or her body. The small microprocessor needs to be carried with the performer, but its apportage is not fixed to a specific spot on the body. The data can also be sent wirelessly from this device to the master computer.

Sato, M., Poupyrev, I., & Harrison, C. (n.d.). Touché : Enhancing Touch Interaction on Humans , Screens , Liquids , and Everyday Objects, (c).


The main problem with this approach was that due to its novelty, few people knew how to implment such a device. Luckily, a clever hacker posted a series of instructables illustrating how to enact the Touche system with an arduino and a few additional components!

Thus I propose that we build some wireless, Touche systems of our own, connect them to dancers and begin to play. Interesting points to consider will be:

  • For full body gesture detection, where are the optimal locations for attaching the electrodes? Wrist and opposing ankle?
  • How sensitive is the device to these gestures, what kind of fine granulatiry of pose and movement can be achieved?
  • What intelligent, expressive ways can we attach the two other elements featured in the dance, light and sound, to this device?
  • What happens when two performers contact each other? Presumably this would scramble the gesture recognition, but could also lead to quite interesting results.

Also as a bonus, this final application in the video is where you can see a glimpse into the sad, overworked lives of the creators (embedded video below queued up to the correct time):

DM Carnival

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

The ecosystem I am studing is the DM Program at Georgia Tech.

The system is characterized by asymetry in terms of interest between different types of actors. The following proposels are performative interventions that aim to amplify communication between the actor types and to provide a better work together atmosphere:


1. DM Message Cleaner

A modified Intelligent Robot Cleaning device is not only constantly cleaning offices, classrooms and the hallways in the DM program, but also delivers Messages via a Text-to-speech generator, which Actors of the DM Program uploaded anonymously via a online portal.


2. DM Symposium

The DM Symposium is a collaborative project of everyone in the DM Project. The goal of the project is to develop within a year a transdisciplinary event that utilizes all core strengths of all actors in one big event, that last over 3 days and is open to the public. The overarching theme is the mergence of theory and practice.


3. DM Carnival

The DM Carnival is a yearly event of two weeks where all actors in the DM program which there roles for two weeks. The role selections happens by random, a computer makes the selection. The actors have to run a diary of their experience for the whole two weeks online (video, text, audio, etc.), which makes sure that nothing is going to be edited afterwards.

After the DM Carnival is over the data gets presented on a permanent Installation at the entrance of the 3rd Floor office area to remind everyone about the different perspectives inscribed in the system. The goal of the annual tradition is to provide the actors with a sensibility for their different roles. This is an entirely internal event, which contributes to the inner psychological stability and balance of the system. Additionally the carnival is a wonderful opportunity to do things the way they think they are supposed to be done.




Supermarket Sweep

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

The supermarket brings together a vast and different variety of different products and life which is prepared for human consumption in a way which has become a complex system of codes and conventions. These conventions are rarely considered by the consumer unless the delivery method is slightly changed. This is heightened by trying to purchase different products in different countries. For example, in Spain: fruit is weighted and measured by the consumer whom then organises the price tag from a ticket machine. This makes someone from a country where the convention is different to that experience the purchase in a whole new light.

Supermarket Sweep attempts to take the environment of the supermarket and push this concept one step further. Key elements that can be changed are the different products, the staff and the customers themselves. Products can be changed by turning dead produce into live produce: In the eggs section, there will be a thousand live chickens, all running around inside a fridge display cabinet. In the vegetable section the veg will be still subterranean or live on trees, potatoes in the ground and grapes still on the vine. People would have to pick what they want as if they were farming it.

The key environmental components to be explored in this study are the customers and the staff which are substituted by actors, turing the supermarket into both a playground and theatre. Staff declaring undying love for each other on the public address system and asking other customers to find colleges for them to ask them to marry them. Customers having fights, arguments and general drama in the isles. People performing magic tricks in different food sections… like turning the eggs into chickens. Trolly races being declared on the public address that will be coming down certain isles and around certain corners. Juggling acts with tins of food.

Performers will then gather at the exit and hold out contribution boxes and thanking customers for attending the show, all in an attempt to change perception of the environment from that of a supermarket to anything but a supermarket.