Category Archives: Artistice Endeavors

Strandbeest Exhibit in Chicago

An earlier Strandbeest, Animaris Apodiacula. On the far wall you can see a picture of his workspace and that room is full of parts used to make them.
An earlier Strandbeest, Animaris Apodiacula. On the far wall you can see a picture of Theo Jansen’s workspace and that room is full of parts used to make them.

Spring break turned out to be more of a making experience than expected, starting with the Strandbeest exhibit in Chicago and then taking a Chicago Public Library makerspace class and later one about laser cutting at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Fab Lab.

If you haven’t heard of Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests, and even if you have, the Chicago Cultural Center has a fabulous exhibit for anyone interested in mechanical creatures. You get to see what an eccentric artist can do when combining engineering and art. Jansen’s wind powered beach creatures have evolved over the last 25 years, getting more sophisticated by storing wind energy, sensing when walking into the water, and even self-correcting to prevent them getting stuck. Some even anchor themselves if they detect a storm, all without any electronics just plastic pipe, cloth, and recycled bottles.

Close-up of the Animaris Suspedisse before the walking demo. Over by the windows you can see visitors walking a smaller one.
Close-up of the Animaris Suspedisse before the walking demo. The plastic pipe you see in the foreground hanging down with red tips is part of the propulsion system from the plastic bottle stored air. Over by the windows you can see visitors walking a smaller one, here’s a video.

Check the schedule if you go, you can watch a 42’ long Animaris Suspendisse walk or they might actually let you move an Animaris Ordis by yourself! The exhibit also included the evolution of the creatures and a small case of what other inspired people in the making community have done with his designs. Hamster powered Strandbeest anyone? How about 3D printed Strandbeests? The Segway like device inspired by a Strandbeest was pretty impressive too! Anyone interested in building a Strandbeest here?

The Chicago Cultural Center is a beautiful building itself and just across the street from Millennium Park – you can see Cloud Gate from many of the windows on the east side of the building. Make sure you check out the other exhibits in the building and look at the incredible dome on the 2nd floor of the Center.

I’ll cover the workshops on making your own greeting card using a electronic (vinyl) cutter and making a custom acrylic keychain with laser cutter in a future post…

Make Your Own Casting

sand block carving for aluminum
Sand block carving for the upcoming Community Aluminum Pour in Greencastle at the Peeler Art Center on DePauw University’s campus.

9/30 UPDATE: There are still sand blocks available for carving as of today, stop by Peeler Room 105 to make one!

A quick note on the Community Aluminum Pour; Thursday September 24th is the last day to make an original piece of art that you can have cast with recycled aluminum. From 4-8 pm you can carve your own design into a sand block that will be cast on October 2nd. There’s not a lot of information out there yet (although it has been listed on our events page) and carving is limited to 200 participants; but both the carving and casting is open to the public. I stopped by last night – still plenty of sand blocks available for carving!

If you miss the carving or don’t want to make your own casting, the main casting event will be on Friday October 2nd from 1 to 10 pm (back courtyard of Peeler Art Center). Looks to be fun, Sculpture Trails Traveling Foundry will be there to help and will be explaining the casting process.

Banana Tatooing

At our August 23rd meeting we got updates from the teams on how their Water Balloon Challenge ‘devices’ are coming along. The Barcus Bunch showed their video on development and testing of the air-compressor powered water balloon launcher for the upcoming Water Balloon Challenge, raising the competition level for all of us making launchers!

Castlemaker kids take comis to tatoo some bananas.
Castlemaker kids take comics to tattoo some bananas.

Besides the air-powered units, there are reports of the classic latex tubing powered units and rumors of a Gatling gun style unit going for the quickest reload time category. It’s going to be an interesting competition, which will be at Big Walnut Sports Park on September 13th. Please check our events and project page for updates.

Some example tattoos that were made by using needles to bruise the skin.
Some example tattoos that were made by using needles to bruise the skin.

Our making project for this meeting was tattooing bananas. After first talked about how skin tattoos worked we then talked about the process of how fruit changes colors when bruised.

After putting bunches of bananas on the table, everyone took needles to bruise the skin so it turns brown. Some used Sunday comics to trace the character outlines on the banana, others just designed their own tattoo free-form. Conclusion: there’s nothing like personalizing your own banana so no one else will mistake it for yours!!

Making Ideas from Art

While you hear a lot about STEM, many in the Making community talk a  lot about STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Math). Attend a Maker Faire or look at any Make magazine and you can’t help but notice how many artistic creations (how about an electric giraffe) are being made. Many of the same things shown at the bigger Maker Faires have also made appearances at Burning Man, arguably one of the most creative artistic community rituals that I’ve encountered.

Clay Sculpture by David Katz at Peeler
One of the traveling exhibits at Peeler Gallery.  This  temporary clay sculpture in 2014 by David Katz seemed to be attached to the walls.

A good Putnam County art resource is the Peeler Art Gallery on the DePauw campus. A lot of people forget about it and it’s open to the public for free. One of the current exhibits has some Andy Warhol photos and prints, but it changes every few months. If you look at this exhibit link read it very closely, summer hours are reduced from regular hours during the school year.  It’s not a huge gallery like IMA, but I’m always amazed at the quality of the exhibits at Peeler.

Making in Art

In a recent trip down to Berea, KY I got to see firsthand how the Arts community is starting to converge with the making culture, kind of putting the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering Arts, Math) in to STEM!

Artisan using a loom to create fabric with a weave/pattern for the upcoming Christmas season. The control mechanism is fairly complex that allows the flying shuttle and the proper heddles in place.
Artisan using a loom to create fabric with a weave/pattern for the upcoming Christmas season. There is a fairly complex mechanism that moves the flying shuttle and puts the proper heddles in place at the right time.

Berea of course has been known for years as an artisan center and you can see the maker culture/impact there even if it is not always called that. Artists have always been makers at heart, you only have to watch the mechanics of someone weaving fabric or tapestry in a large loom or listen to someone  describing the pickling process when silver soldering a necklace or bracelet to realize there’s a fair amount of STEM that artists can use in their craft. One studio I was in had a period table of the elements on the wall next to their casting area.

One studio creates pewter casting molds using table-top CNC machines and 3D printers.
One studio in Berea creates pewter casting molds using table-top CNC machines and 3D printers.

What I found interesting was how the personal fabrication tools that makers are embracing are being used by artists, and vice-versa. Smaller CNC machines, laser cutters, and 3D printers are all being used to create art, but then anyone that’s been to a Maker Faire knows/has seen that already. That jewelry or napkin holder may be made with something that could be built in makerspace!

There’s a core group of Castlemakers that are working towards creating a more permanent place, a makerspace, for us to create things. And to hold some of the parts and fabrication tools we’ve started collecting, including some best shared, that would allow people to make things – young and old. If you’re interested in helping, send us an email.

If you’re interested in finding out more about making your own artwork, Berea now has a series of art making workshops that you can sign up for. The biggest is their Festival of Learnshops in July, but there’s an upcoming Holiday series called Make It, Take It, Give It that starts the end of November which looks to be really good also.

Making at Feast of the Hunters’ Moon

Hunters' Moon Craftsman
Using a tree limb for tension, some rope, treadle, and his leg a craftsmen shows kids how pioneers used a simple pole lathe to make table legs for furniture.

This weekend in West Lafayette is the Feast of the Hunters’ Moon festival, which recreates what it was like in the 18th century at Fort Ouiatenon in Indiana. This was my first visit to the event and I was surprised with the how much effort people went into recreating the life at a trading post/military fort in the 1700’s and also with how many ‘making’ things going on there! There was blacksmiths, furniture making, soap and quilt making demonstrations and we only saw a small part of everything that will be going on there. Thursday & Friday it was only open for school trips, but this Saturday & Sunday (10/4 & 10/5) it’s open to the general public. A lot of fun and there’s even authentic food from the era there at the event. With the nicer weather this weekend I suspect you may want to get there early…

We’ve also forming our second making/build project – actually it’s going to be 2 projects: Catapults/Trebuchets & Hydroponics. It’s still early in the process and all are welcome to join us. Next general group meeting will be Sunday evening, 10/5, at the Community Room downtown above Eli’s Bookstore. We’re still very much in the idea stage, but as things develop there will be more information on the Projects page.