Aug 15, 2010

Crank Magic Lantern Necklace

*Pictured above is Mr. Knife rubbing butter on Mr.  Toast's belly, animation occurs when you twist the knob.

This is one of my new class offerings for Artfest 2011. As some of you may know I have been fascinated with interactive art lately. I have also been fascinated with old "animation" devices such as the zoetrope, chromatrope etc. I found one object called the "Crank Magic Lantern" where there was 3 planes of images. One still in the back ground and 2 almost swaying glass panels one on top of the other. I have never seen this type of motion before, it was so simple yet opened up so many possibilities in my mind that I was dying to try. I was determined to recreate this device but as a smaller necklace version so if you were to wear it people you meet would be able to interact with it and tell a story wherever it goes.

I spent probably around a month and a half trying to figure everything out. Seemed pretty simple at first but I'm no engineer and this was my first attempt to ever make anything that needed to be constructed in a very precise manner. My usual "go with the flow" attitude resulted in quite  a few failed versions at the start. However each failed version taught me a valuable lesson that eventually led me to make the right decisions in the end. I also struggled with the materials to use and tried using sculpy and paper in the beginning. The Sculpy was simply to unwieldy, I would get the perfect piece and then accidentally squish one side before it was baked and the paper just tore apart when pushed to cranking extremes.

Time was running out (for me to be able to teach this at Artfest 2011) and although I had gotten a "working" model the thing was clunky, ugly and worked only semi-smoothly. I remembered that along my "materials hunt" (I spent a long time also trying to find clear glass or plastic that was the right shape for this project, again, alot harder than I would have thought) someone told me about Metrix Create: Space. If any of you have read Make Magazine it was like entering their lair, lots of people sitting around on laptops programming circuit boards and audrinos, laser-cutting and 3D printing while you wait and a vending machine full of electronic components and other wacky things. Everything I have dreamt about recently seemed like it could be a reality.

I have never designed anything to be laser-cut before in my life  but I figured it was all or nothing at this point. So I sat down created a digital file of all my necklace components and hoped for the best. I can't even tell you how excited I was when she brought me out my little acrylic pieces (I only used wood on the front) and ran to my studio to assemble. It worked! My relief and excitement was huge and I can't wait to be able to teach this at Artfest and see what kind of animations people come up with.

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