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How sometimes art class is like going to the dentist

Kath Weider-Roos is the Creative Arts Producer at A&D. She snaps photos and asks questions.

Now lie back in your chair, please. Sorry, we don't have the full body bibs they give you at the dentist's office, so here, use this cardboard box to protect your clothing....

Now, sit still, we're going to fill your mouth with a pleasant-tasting neon-pink goo, otherwise known as alginate, a mold-making material used to make dental crowns...

...or, in this case, personalized cup holders.

Very personalized. 

Let me explain.

These are students in TMP: Construction (Tools, Materials, and Processes) who have been traveling from studio to studio, getting a whirlwind tour of various media. They've arrived at the ceramics studios where Roland Graf and Jeremy Brooks will introduce them to the art of mold-making, a construction technique that's used in clay but also in bronze, plastics, product design and more. As Roland points out to the class, almost everything around you, if it's manufactured, has been created out of a mold. Making a mold is a tricky process since it requires you to think in the negative.

The students will be making two molds: a plaster mold for a clay object (the cup) and a clay/alginate mold for a plaster object (the sculptural stand or cup holder.) The end result will be two sets of sculptural stands for two cups. Each stand must incorporate a life-casting of the student's own mouth and a slip-cast clay cup, one that is faithful to the original mold and the second one varied in a way that conceptually connects the vessel with the sculptural stand.

First the students will create a plaster mold for the clay cup.

Jeremy, below, is a master at slipcasting and in his own creative practice loves the tension that can occur when you use mass-production techniques like slipcasting to create one-of-a-kind objects. Here he shows the students a few techniques for altering the cup form once it has been removed from the mold.

 

Creating the mold for the mouth is a multi-step process which, as you saw above, starts with a spectacular pink beard formed out of alginate.

After the alginate is poured in the desired formation, students must sit still for 15 minutes as the alginate sets.

After it sets, the alginate is ready to be removed and a perfect negative formation of the chin and lips is left in the rubbery mold.  This will be eventually be filled with plaster to re-create the student's mouth gesture.

But first, the students will need to add clay to the alginate mold and begin to the shape the mold for the sculptural stand. They have three hours before the alginate will begin to shrink and harden, so they will need to work quickly to complete their mold.

It's important to even out and work the clay until your mold is exactly what you want -- the plaster will pick up any imperfections that are left on the clay or the alginate.

 

Below Roland show the students how to create a perfect rectangular shape by adding boards around the mold. All the cracks must be well sealed so the plaster won't leak through.

This mold is almost ready to go but it still needs a recess where the cup will fit.  Jeremy demontrates how to create a positive mold by pressing a piece of clay inside the edges of the cup.

Next, this mold for the cup holder must be positioned on the base mold.

After the clay mold is sealed and ready, it's time to mix the plaster.

Students will have to estimate the amount of water that will create a good size plaster base and then add plaster using what's called "the floating island" technique. They will add just enough plaster to form a volcano-like shape just below the surface of the water.

Once the ratio is set, you need to mix it with your hand for three minutes, getting rid of all clumps. Then after you have removed any bubbles in the mix, you have two minutes to pour the plaster into the mold before it begins to set.

The plaster will take 20 minutes to fully harden in the mold.

Next comes the best part of the process: removing the mold to see the final sculpture.

Then you'll need to wash off any excess clay.

Finally, the sculpture will be fine-tuned and any imperfections corrected using an array of tools for scraping, shaping and sanding. 

And, voila, the perfect coffee cup holder. No more rings on the table, no more wondering-- "uh, is that my mug?" 

Not bad, for a crash course. I especially like these below which unfortunately, are completely useless for drinking coffee...

 


 

Farewell

Subtitle!

Zack Jacobson-Weaver is the Materials Fabrication Studio Coordinator at A&D.

Here is all I've hoped you've gotten from me.  This is one of my favorite college professors.

 

 
Cheers,
 

 


 

Stone Carving: Part Five

Working Outside

Limestone blocks recycled from the Michigan Union have inspired a unique Art and Design class for the Winter 2011 semester. Under the guidance of Professor Michael Rodemer, the six students in this course are learning the stone carving process, from making clay models and forging their own tools to the techniques of carving and finishing limestone sculpture. The class, a unique opportunity for both philanthropy and learning, is intended to teach students more than just the techniques of stone carving: proceeds from the sale of the sculptures created will be used to give financial support to A&D students.

This post is by Michael Rodemer.

A warm day - let us work outside!

 

Eric peels off the stone, looking for the Möbius  form. Chip by chip, Courtney makes progress.

 

Having split the stone, Max takes a quick path to smoothing it.   Lindsay releasing a wolverine from the block.

 

Lindsay's claw chisel efficiently chops away the stone.

 

Sean's fish is coming to the surface.


 

Stone Carving: Part Four

Closing In

Limestone blocks recycled from the Michigan Union have inspired a unique Art and Design class for the Winter 2011 semester. Under the guidance of Professor Michael Rodemer, the six students in this course are learning the stone carving process, from making clay models and forging their own tools to the techniques of carving and finishing limestone sculpture. The class, a unique opportunity for both philanthropy and learning, is intended to teach students more than just the techniques of stone carving: proceeds from the sale of the sculptures created will be used to give financial support to A&D students.

This post is by Lindsay Balfour, a student in the Stone Carving class.

 

With less than a month left before the auction, our hands have never moved this fast. Many of us are still trying to work the kinks out of the limestone before the actual sculpturing process begins.

Max has been trying to cut his piece of stone in half, transforming the process into a three-week commitment. Halfway through class last Friday, Max managed to spilt the limestone.  His accomplishment is captured above, along with the remains of his stone and the tools that helped him get there.

Sean carves

 

Sean is furthest ahead. Pictured above, he is shown working halfway through shaping the overall form of his piece.

Courtney Drills

Courtney is strategically drilling holes to accelerate the shaping process and remove large chucks of stone at once.

 


 

Stone Carving: Part Three

Romancing the Stone

Limestone blocks recycled from the Michigan Union have inspired a unique Art and Design class for the Winter 2011 semester. Under the guidance of Professor Michael Rodemer, the six students in this course are learning the stone carving process, from making clay models and forging their own tools to the techniques of carving and finishing limestone sculpture. The class, a unique opportunity for both philanthropy and learning, is intended to teach students more than just the techniques of stone carving: proceeds from the sale of the sculptures created will be used to give financial support to A&D students.

This post is by Eric Harman, a student in the Stone Carving class.

 

With our sculpture designs set in stone so to speak, we continued our efforts to shape our rugged blocks. The progress is slow, small chips flying off with each hammer blow, it feels like one bicep is going to be twice the size of the other by the end of the semester. 

Some of us are romancing our stones with light shaping at the points of our chisels while other have taken to more aggressive negotiations with an impact drill.

Mother Nature tempted us with a taste of spring on Friday, nothing like stone carving in the afternoon sun!

carving in the sun

Carving Outside


 

Stone Carving: Part Two

Start Chiseling!

Limestone blocks recycled from the Michigan Union have inspired a unique Art and Design class for the Winter 2011 semester. Under the guidance of Professor Michael Rodemer, the six students in this course are learning the stone carving process, from making clay models and forging their own tools to the techniques of carving and finishing limestone sculpture. The class, a unique opportunity for both philanthropy and learning, is intended to teach students more than just the techniques of stone carving: proceeds from the sale of the sculptures created will be used to give financial support to A&D students.

This post is by Courtney Harring, a student in the Stone Carving class.

 

Many of us are in the finishing stages or finished with our clay models and we are ready to start chiseling.

 

But before we can begin we needed to do a little mapping out on the stone with chalk and charcoal.

Strapping on our stylish safety glasses, we are ready to get dusty! The first blow of the chisel is both exhilarating and nerve wracking all at the same time, and boy does the dust fly.

After the first initial hit, we are able to experiment with each of our handmade tools. We are also able to get a better feel for the material.

I think it's safe to say that we all have a much better appreciation for Michelangelo now!


 

Stone Carving: Part One

Making the Tools

Limestone blocks recycled from the Michigan Union have inspired a unique Art and Design class for the Winter 2011 semester. Under the guidance of Professor Michael Rodemer, the six students in this course are learning the stone carving process, from making clay models and forging their own tools to the techniques of carving and finishing limestone sculpture. The class, a unique opportunity for both philanthropy and learning, is intended to teach students more than just the techniques of stone carving: proceeds from the sale of the sculptures created will be used to give financial support to A&D students.

This post is by Sean Watts, a student in the Stone Carving class.

 

This week we learned to forge stone carving tools out of steel.  Each student was tasked with making a set of tools for themselves. 

 

 

The process required intense heat and the students forged their tools with hammers and anvils. 

 

 

The tools had to be made into specific shapes to fulfill different purposes.

 

 

The process took several hours and each one of the five tools was tempered. The students were given the chance to polish their tools to their liking. 

 

 

The next step was to finish up the clay models, and then transfer the outlines to the stone. Students could begin to carve once they had a final design.

 


 

Adaptive Art at the Duderstadt

Art & Design and Engineering Students team up to create art with interactions

Andre Grewe makes websites for the School of Art & Design.

Opening this afternoon at the Duderstadt Gallery, the /bin/art exhibition showcases student projects developed in Adaptive Art: an interdisciplinary class offered by the School of Art & Design and the College of Engineering.

Co-taught by Satinder Baveja (Computer Science & Engineering), director of the University of Michigan's AI laboratory with expertise in machine learning, and Osman Khan (School of Art & Design), an artist who uses technology to create interactive installations, Adaptive Art focused on using computation, algorithms and machine learning as mediums for aesthetic expressions.  In this class, computers aren't something that you do your work on - instead, they're a vital part of the finished work, and might even have created it on their own.

Working in teams that mixed Engineering and Art & Design students, the class used Arduino microcontrollers and Processing, an open source programming language, to create a wide variety of works that interface with people, whether in the same room or on another continent.

I stopped by while the show was being set up and had the chance to get a preview of some of the installations:

The Beckoner
Picture this: You're rushing through the Duderstadt on your way to class. As you hurry past the gallery, you're startled by a sudden tapping sound. As you turn toward the source of the tapping, you realize it's being made by an articulated wooden hand - and now it's beckoning, drawing you closer... This isn't the start of a horror story, but an interactive installation: The Beckoner is a wooden hand mannequin that's controlled by software programmed to recognize human figures and faces - when its camera senses a human-sized shape walking by, it taps. If that shape stops and appears to be looking toward the camera, it beckons them in. "The Beckoner is study into the dynamics of human-computer interaction in a public space – can a wooden hand really engage the attention of the busy students and faculty walking by the gallery?"

 

Rehaiku
Rehaiku plays with conventions, filtering messages about disposable pop culture relayed on a very modern form of communication through a centuries-old formal Japanese structure. The software retrieves tweets from Twitter in real-time, and uses machine learning techniques to combine pieces of these different tweets into correctly formed haiku, creating perfectly formed groupings of 5, then 7, then 5 syllables about Kanye, Justin Bieber and more. The program then sends its creations back out into the world, tweeting them based on crowd response at: http://twitter.com/rehaiku

Monitor
In today's world of TSA body scanners and cameras at every store entrance and traffic light, it's hard to know when you're being watched. Monitor plays into this modern paranoia: As a viewer steps into the installation, he's surrounded by 3 pillars, each topped with a TV monitor. The center TV displays a security camera feed of the subject, and the other two display closeup footage of human eyes. As the subject turns toward any of the monitors, facial recognition software notices - and switches that monitor to static. The result? "The subject will only be able to see video in his periphery, adding to the sensation that he is being watched. The room reacts to the subjects actions in a way that is meant to maintain his ignorance of the content being displayed. "

 

Pouring Sound
This installation takes a new approach to the traditional sampler, "focusing on transforming how we treat audio and sound, from being audible and intangible, and translating it into a physical object that can be moved, contained, and mixed together." Users can speak into the red/blue pitcher, then play back the sound by pouring it into the green/yellow one. Sound can be sloshed back and forth between the vessels to mix, and dumped on the floor to erase.

 

Other projects featured in the show include:

  • Audio Wall: a Microsoft Kinect powered interactive space that allows the user to produce and play with music using only their body
  • Digital Genesis: viewers are invited to place and move physical blocks onto the digital environment, which provide light and water sources, nests and environmental effects
  • Hands Free Super Three: presenting three classic video games played hands free (sans controller)!
  • Inside Out: a garment that displays its wearer's heartbeat
  • Music Sequencer: a self-contained, 8-bit, Arduino-powered music sequencer. Sounds are selected and sequenced using an array of buttons on the main panel.

Read more about all of the projects at the Adaptive Art blog.

To get the full impact of these interactive installations, you should really see them in person, but there's a limited time to check them out: /bin/art opens with a reception at the Duderstadt Gallery from 4 - 6 pm on Thursday, December 16 and closes on Friday, December 17th.


 

Mann on Board

Geoffrey Mann touches clay and likes it

Kath Weider-Roos is the Creative Arts Producer at A&D. She snaps photos and asks questions.

Geoffrey Mann from Scotland was one of the many Witt Visitors to the school this week. He was brought in by fellow Scot, John Marshall, to talk about his work which, as he describes it, “challenges the existing divides between art, craft and design.”

If you’re not sure exactly what this means, this photo makes it more explicit:



That is, he’s going to take all your ideas about ‘craft’ and wreak havoc with them.

I found Geoff in the ceramics studios. He was having a little 2D time after having just played in the 3D studio across the street.



Geoff was working with John Leyland to create a mold for one of his dinnerware pieces from the Cross-fire Series, It took me awhile to understand why he needed to create a mold for these pieces.  Didn’t they exist already? Well, it turns out those incredible shiny ceramic teapots and plates in the photos aren’t real. They were all created in the digital realm and the only thing you could actually hold in your hand (or have some twisted tea in) is a rapid prototype output of the renderings.

So here’s the story behind this fancy dinner set. Geoff was invited to participate in a five year research project, Past, Present & Future Craft Practice (PPFCP), based at the University of Dundee in Scotland. He was the designated ‘future’ man. (“Just because I work in 3-D digital forms, I always get labeled as the ‘future’,” he says.)

And, the first thing Geoffery Mann thinks of when thinking about what to do for the craft practices project is sound. Sound? To me, this explains exactly why he was chosen for the ‘future’ portion of the craft exposition. He said he was particularly intrigued with the idea of ‘getting caught in the crossfire’ and the unseen effect of sound on objects. What kind of artifacts would sound, say for example, an argument leave on an object if it were made visible?

So in thinking about the project, he asks: where do arguments happen? Well, often at the dinner table they do.  So he had the idea to create a scene at a dinner table. It’s elegant and perfect, but there’s something wrong. The dinnerware gets caught in the crossfire of the dinner conversation. So he made this incredible dinnerware set. And though it is superbly real looking, it was entirely fabricated using 3-D animation.  Here is final video he made, using a table-side argument between Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening from American Beauty.

Turns out, the video was shortlisted for the Vimeo Awards in NYC (which take place this weekend) and now Geoff is receiving numerous requests for the dinner set from various museums and collectors.

So here Geoff Mann is, in the A&D ceramic studio, trying to figure out how to render his rapid prototype models into ‘real’ material. Not an easy task since the shape is so unusual. He adds “From the buyer’s point of view, it doesn’t have to be real ceramic but well, I’m a bit of a purist that way. “

P.S. Thanks to John Marshall for the photos.


 

TMP 1: Construction

Foam core gladiators, breakdancers, boats and more.

Andre Grewe makes websites for the School of Art & Design.

Last Friday, I was on my way back to my office with a second cup of coffee when I ran into a group of gladiators, breakdancers and pirates on the first floor - and even here at the School of Art & Design, that is something that just doesn't happen all the time.   I eventually figured out that they were students in Matt Shlian's TMP 1: Construction class, and were in the middle of a performance/critique.  I managed to get a few pictures...

The assignment: Student teams had to traverse the street gallery (the hallway outside of Slusser Gallery), staying at least 6" off the ground. This traversal also had to be performative, keeping their audience (the rest of the class) in mind.

The tools: foam core board and glue.  

The teams of students tackled this assignment in pretty amazingly different ways:

A gladiator, complete with foam core armor, shield, and sword danced across the space in really high platform sandals.

 

The second team created foam core shades and a boombox, and used them along with the music of… um, Vanilla Ice(?!) to stack, unstack, and dance across a series of foam platforms.

 

A giant foam core music staff became the platform for the third team's Lady Gaga-inspired performance (as seen from above).

 

In a Pirates of the Carribean-inspired performance, the fourth team got pretty technical: one student piloted a tiny boat that rocked and pivoted on two cylinders to rotate around her teammate.

 

The fourth team went American gladiator: in a blue vs. red battle, the combatants advanced and retreated in a series of matches.

Pretty impressive stuff, especially on a Friday morning - and this is only the first project! Stay tuned for more TMP 1 images, coming soon!