FROM THE INTERN'S DESK

In my time working at the Steel House I was given the opportunity to assist with the Design & Build Your Own Skateboard class.  Before helping with the class, I went through the processes myself, and this is the final result!

The graphic, which I designed in Adobe Photoshop CC, is inspired by Day of the Dead sugar skulls.

The graphic, which I designed in Adobe Photoshop CC, is inspired by Day of the Dead sugar skulls.

The process of making a longboard, from creating a pattern and mold, to vacuum forming the veneer, and finally applying the graphic!

The process of making a longboard, from creating a pattern and mold, to vacuum forming the veneer, and finally applying the graphic!

For more pictures and information on this longboard, please click here.

To make your very own longboard or skateboard, sign up the for the August class here!

Art from Math and Nature (Part 2)

A few weeks ago I blogged about some of my artistic projects that derive inspiration from mathematical models of biology and evolution. Though I didn't mention it earlier, most of these projects have a temporal component: that is, they evolve and grow through different states as time passes. The images I shared in my earlier post are static snapshots of a process. For this blog post, I decided to create a short video demonstrating the evolution and progression of this process. The idea is similar to what I presented before: an initial "trunk" grows into a "tree", but now you can experience the growth of this tree. You might notice that the final tree in this video is different from the tree I posted earlier. This is because almost all of my work involves aleatoric elements (i.e. elements governed by chance; "aleatoric" derives from the Latin "aleator", meaning "dice player", and ultimately from "alea", meaning "die"), and the results are never the same.

FROM THE INTERN'S DESK

As a recent addition to the Steel House crew I have spent the last four weeks getting to know the team, the space, the projects, and what it takes to be a Steelie.  

The first project I took on was planting a vegetable garden that is intended to be used as a prototype for incorporating electronic components into gardening, making it easier to remotely monitor your growbed.  Having never been able to keep a flower from wilting, I was slightly nervous to become the primary care for tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and more.  But—so far, so good.  The tomatoes are climbing, the cucumbers are curling, and the peppers are peppy.

Follow us on Instagram @thesteelhouse for garden pics and more

Follow us on Instagram @thesteelhouse for garden pics and more

Art from Math and Nature

For the past few years, my creative work has involved algorithmic processes inspired by nature and mathematics. Structures - visual, sonic, or both - grow, reproduce, die, and evolve in complex and beautiful patterns. My background as a mathematician and programmer affords me great flexibility when creating art in this manner. Consider the following image:

Nate_640x640.png

This image is a representation of a mathematical object consisting of around 14 million line segments. An initial line segment represents the trunk of a tree or the stem of a shrub, and then this segment grows and divides in a manner analogous to that of botanical life. Here's a closeup of one section of the "tree", which gives a clearer sense of its linear, branching structure:

Can you find the location of this closeup in the original image?

So what's the point of this? Why are these structures special? To answer these questions, I borrow from M. H. Abrams's classic work of literary criticism The Mirror and the Lamp. Abrams argues that the primary goal of pre-Romantic literature was to mirror reality, but that the Romantics sought instead to illuminate reality with a lamp whose flame was the soul of the artist. In my algorithmic art, I attempt to unify these two approaches: on the one hand, I seek to reflect the underlying structure and causation of our physical reality, and on the other hand, I present this structure as seen through the lens of my own aesthetic and ethical being.

Making things

Recently I borrowed a collection of coral and shells from a friend and spent an evening at the Steel House scanning them on our 3d scanner. After downloading some free software online, I was then able to take the scanned file and manipulate the shapes to create Frankenstein-ish forms. I have to admit, I was feeling pretty cool in a nerdy kind of way. It didn't take long for me to realize that no matter how hard I tried to alter the patterns and surfaces, these objects could not be improved or made more beautiful. I was reminded of the work of two of my favorite scientists, D'arcy Wentworth Thompson, who wrote On Growth and Form http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%27Arcy_Wentworth_Thompson and Ernst Haeckel, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Haekel. Thompson and Haeckel combined science, math and art as their lens into the natural world. Their curiosity led to thousands of beautiful illustrations and explanations for shapes that occur in the natural world. In the end, I deleted the digital alterations that I made on the screen and marveled at the surface patterns on the shell. I did make a 3d print of the shell, because, well - it's just kind of cool. Scanning a 3d object, potentially altering the form on a screen, then printing that out is not something I ever thought I'd do even five years ago.

I continue to be amazed by the technologies that are becoming more accessible to both designers and individuals interested in making things. There is no replacement, however, for the human experience of seeing, touching, smelling and listening. Swiping screens with our fingers and moving a virtual object with a mouse will never be as satisfying as a true interaction with the world and people we live with. For as much as I enjoy having our 3d printer/scanner and fancy computers in the studio, I'd take a night of good conversation with my studio mates over a computer-generated file any day.

It's starting!

The official launch of the Steel House was an absolute success! Thank you to everyone who came out to explore what we've been up to. We're all very excited for what is to come, so please stick with us - and prepare yourself for an amazing season of workshops, lectures, openings, parties, and whatever else we can jam in. 

A special thank you to Andrew's Brewing Co. for providing the beer, One & Supp (oneandsupp.us) for providing the decor and food, and David Michael Perez for DJing.

Photos by Julie O'Rourke and Paul Coster