Building a little manufactory
For my second week at Boisbuchet, I chose to work with a young design couple from Austria called Micher’Traxler. Their workshop was based around the use of natural energy, natural materials and natural processes. Our first exercise was to walk around the domaine to get inspired and find natural forces to work with. Attracted by the lake, I choose to work with the different states of water (ice, liquid, steam) and gravity. My first test was to soak a piece of fabric, roll it around a stick and put it in the freezer for the night to see if it could gain enough structure to support its own weight. The experiment worked and was quite solid at the beginning but the ice melt within a few minutes and the sculpture lost all it’s strength. My second experiment was to 3D print a piston that could be used to transform steam into a movement (rotation or translation). Using MakerBot Thingiverse, I got a first prototype very quickly, but the assembly was too loose to build any pressure. I started exploring turbines that could work with water, sand or even falling objects. I built the first one out of cork (left over from previous workshops) and two smaller ones with the MakerBot Replicator sent by le FabShop. On Tuesday, shared our researches and created teams from our common interests. A Taiwanese student called Yo Jack had tried to recreate the structure of a pinecone using wax and paint. The result looked more like an oyster shell with colourful layers and very random geometries. I chose to work with him. A girl from Argentina also joined our team.
Micher’Traxler are known for their hybrids of nature (randomness) and electronic (machines). A good example is this bench witch is made of rolled coloured threads which saturation depends on the amount of sun available at this moment of the day. The principle is simple: the energy needed by the machine is provided by a solar panel. If there is a lot of sun, the machine will go fast and the material will stay light. If there are clouds, the machine will go slow, giving more time for the tread to absorb the colour. This also affects the length of the bench. The design of the object depends on the weather. The same machine on two different continents would create two completely different seatings.
Another great project from Micher’Traxler was a collection of plaster containers using real fruits and vegetables to create the cavity in the bowls. No technology was involved in this process, but you can still recognise their clever touch random complexity and elegant design.
The local production line was pushed in this direction. Controlled unpredictability. It was a big challenge for a 4 days project. We did new experiments with coloured plaster and play doh, but quickly came back to wax for its capacity to harden quickly and its availability. We built a mould out of a plastic ball to help us create a hollow wax volume. We realised that, if we poured the wax in different steps, we could get different layers easily. An artisanal equivalent to roto-molding.
I 3D printed a 3 parts mould in the shape of a sphere, but with an imprint shaped has a peanut. It worked surprisingly well. We decided that the process could be suitable for artisanal soap making or ephemeral jewels. We opted for a collection of unique necklaces. I updated the design to a screw less two parts mould. Making it easier to open and handle. Five different forms were created for the inside. The clever thing with these miniature moulds was that the necklace’s chain was also what held the volume closed during the process.
We then had to create a machine that would help us «randomise» the process. We opted for a Rube Goldberg inspired machine, using many found objects and automatic movements. Many steps in this installation were just an excuse to let the wax cool down.
The customer had to pull one of the four traps located at the beginning of the «Rotociroboulatic» machine. Each ball being already closed and sealed, nobody could know what shape was inside. The mould rolled to a first stop where a soda can, filled with wax and heated by a candle, poured the first layer. The Rotoball then went back and forth in an old tire before the second layer. It got spined a little, then shaked in an acrylic tube. The last path was a slide with bumpers, inspired by the bubble gum machines you can find in shopping centres followed by a tunnel of water pushed by a hair blower. Once cold, the ball went trough a modified plastic farmhouse for kids before the customer could unmould the necklace and cut trough it to reveal the colourful layers.
A lot of pieces got stuck in their mould or had bubbles, but it was part of the surprise.