Monday, December 11, 2017

New Line of Steampunk Jewelry and Accessories

I am trying to create a new feel for my line of Steampunk jewelry and accessories. Commercial Fashion has finally caught up with me and I need to up my game to come up with a new aesthetic - something that really catches the eye and stands out from the crowd - but doesn't frighten the average customer.

Anyone that has been involved with Steampunk for a while probably knows my pain. We scavenged parts and cleaned gears and old lace, then combined them into odd collections that were too new for anyone but the hard-core geeks to be seen wearing. We created an aesthetic and a standardized compositional vocabulary, then watched as it slowly caught on to the point that normal people would wear them.


Yes, there are plenty of pre-made craft store items in these pieces. But they also use old PCBs, computer memory as well as real gears and hardware from old machines. I didn't copy anyone or steal a design to meet market expectations. But a few still sold so I'm doubly happy to be experimenting again and still have people like them enough to wear them. It's a good start.

Eventually, you could find clean, pre-made gears and bits from a regular crafts store. And it was awesome, so much easier just to assemble without needing power tools and a soldering gun to take apart old machines. And the sales soared - suddenly everyone wanted a piece of Steampunk in their jewelry boxes.

Fast forward a few more years and you can now buy pre-assembled clusters of steamy goodness for cheaper than you can buy the individual parts. Now, we take apart these massive collections to re-assemble them into something unique enough that it can't be found on the Tim Hotz aisle of the craft store.

But somehow, that doesn't feel right to me. I'm buying a fake Chinese gear meant to evoke an antique European history for American mall shoppers who have never read Steampunk and know nothing of its history or the socio-political underpinnings of the genre. It's just something else to consume.

I'm not saying I will never use Vintaj or Holtz items again (they are just way too convenient) but I do want to start using something a little more authentic, something that was actually used for another purpose before being turned into jewelry.

This is a sample of what I came up with. It's representative of the items I slammed together at the last minute before a recent craft show. I just couldn't create anything that distinguished itself from any other vendor. All my stuff looked like everybody else's stuff and I was getting frustrated. So I forced the issue and made these, um, things - let's call them accessories.







They are different and I was happy about them being different. But I was also afraid, because I remember the early days and waiting for another experimental soul to wander by the booth and choose to be adventurous with their hard earned cash. new is good, really new is bad - at least for sales.

I did sell a few pieces, more than I expected to be honest. Others didn't sell and, at the moment, I've decided to push them even further into the unknown (think working electronic displays). I'll post more about the pieces that sold and how they were created. And I will also post any successes as I continue working on the unsold items.

And you know what, it felt pretty good to once again be selling something experimental and somewhat challenging. Meeting the market demand for an acceptable product certainly has its place (the wallet) but if I'm going to call myself a creator then I need to keep pushing the boundaries a little or risk withering away into the chasm of simple retail.  Of course a couple of sales makes it easier to think that way too.


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Friday, December 8, 2017

Fancy Filigree Rings a Definite NoGo

Made these delicate filigree finger rings thinking they would sell quickly. Customers always ask for rings, and with Game of Thrones and Steampunk being all the rage they should be very popular right? Wrong!!! Not a single one sold, and they barely got a look.

I like these rings, though. They are both subtle and expressive and they could work with a lot of different looks. They range from "finger-length" to a tiny single gear - something for every need. I wasn't totally sure if there was a local market for this style so I only made a few. I didn't expect to sell them all at one show, but I was a little shocked that not a single one sold... crickets

The rings ranged in size from a full finger=length to a tiny one with a single gear.

There are a lot of customers who want a simple, inexpensive gift that isn't a cliché trinket. I wanted to offer something inexpensive, and these rings are simple to make, so I could offer them at a very low price. They were (I thought) perfect for "small gift for a friend" add-ons, bundles and kids who have a limited budget. Just a little something to complete a package or the equivalent of an impulse buy. Apparently, I completely misjudged the market, but I'll give it another try or two before I abandon them. I might even add items to the line.







Before the show, people told me they liked the rings. But they were seeing them in isolation with nothing else competing for attention. The only ring I sold was a huge ring the size of a mini-donut, one I really expected to have a limited audience.

And every other sale was also huge and unusual - all my personal work. And I sold nothing that I made specifically to sell to the anticipated audience (commercial). Either I totally misjudged the audience for this show, or my personal work is beginning to find a market. Whichever it was, it got me to thinking...

There are several other possible reasons the small rings didn't sell. They could have been in the wrong place on the table. Maybe people didn't realize they were a third of the price of the other pieces. The rings might have been too delicate and small to compete visually with the other jewelry, all of which are bold and big and bright. It would be easy for people to overlook a few small items scattered amongst a huge wall of bold statement pieces

So I'm thinking I need to make enough of these small items to create an entire section for them. Maybe a separate case so that the entire collection is big enough to grab peoples attention and get them to shift the "scale" of their thinking.

I don't have any more shows scheduled until Spring, but the theme for the next show is Fantasy and Fairies,,, so these delicate rings, being fit for a princess, might be popular at that show. Fingers crossed and I'll keep you updated.


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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Flexible OLED Display for Hobby Electronics

Finally, a flexible and bendable OLED graphic display is available for the hobby electronics market.

Sparkfun just released  a 1.81" grayscale display that can be bent to a 40mm radius. It is a 160x32 4-bit grayscale display and comes with an attached SPI driver board. It's probably not meant for constant bending and flexing. But the ability to wrap around a changing picture around a curved surface opens up all kinds of possibilities.


Image courtesy of Sparkfun.com under the Creative Commons CC BY 2.0
Imagine the possibilities:
  • Hats with a changing logo, or showing "First Down" or displying the final score as you walk out of the stadium.
  • Bracelets with a scrolling images or the names of your children or declarations of love.
  • Shoes that show your current step count 
  • Just being shaped and non-flat makes the display eye-catching. Put one up at your next crafts fair or over your POS impulse purchase area.

  • Combine two or more for larger shapes.






Now that you're all excited about them, I have some bad news.

Sparkfun sold out almost immediately, and they currently have no estimated date of restocking. But if they found a source once, then they (or another vendor) will probably find  a source for it or a similar product. I'm considering it the first hint of things to come.

Second, even if you can get one of the screens, you are going to need a pretty powerful processor with lots of available memory to drive the display - especially if you want to do images or anything more complex.

Luckily, Arduino, Sparkfun and Adafruit all have small and very powerful M0 boards, and Adafruit is even working on an M4 version. I don't know about showing movies, but images and even simple games are probably possible.

So bookmark this new screen and keep an eye out for other versions from different vendors. Meanwhile, I'm going to be busy design a gaming bracelet custom made for a curved screen,




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Monday, November 27, 2017

SteamPunk Pendant with Round PCB

Made another Steampunk pendant necklace using upcycled parts scavenged from broken items around the house. This one uses a repurposed PCB. That's not very unusual in my projects, but this PCB is round with a hole in the center, which is very unusual.

The round PCB had a pretty green color, and I added some broken bling to it along with some scavenged bits from old jewelry and a faux gear from the craft store just to validate the Steampunk theme/ When it's all put together I think it works as a pendant quite well.

I don't remember where the board came from, maybe an old mouse or an old radio knob assembly. But I do remember having it sitting in the collection and taunting me for a long time until I finally decided to use it whether the project turned out nice or not.

See, I have a hard time using unusual parts because I'm always afraid I will fail and waste the one unique chance to ever use such a part. If it's a common, standard part then I'll take chances and use it quickly because I can always get another chance with another copy. But this is the first round PCB I had ever found and I waited and waited and waited.





Then inspiration struck, and after a year or more of hesitation, the entire piece came together in a matter of minutes - and I like it. I even found a way to decorate the back side so that it's at least not ugly or distracting if it spins around while being worn..



I even decorated the back of the pendant because necklaces tend to flip around when they are being worn. The back of the PCB was a dull brown, so I covered it with a large fake gear for the steampunk look and even added an oh-so-popular wing to complete the composition. It's not pretty enough for the featured front, but I think it's good enough for the hidden back.


But I waited a while to post it. I wanted to see if I still liked the final product after a few days, or maybe I was just so relieved to be rid of the teasing piece of electronic scrap that I had convinced myself it was attractive.

Well, it's been a few days and I still kind of like it so I decided to post it.

Unfortunately, in the same burst of creation, I also made a really ugly project from a unique part. I kept adding pieces and colors and sparkly things to that project hoping it would "come together" as a composition - and it remained ugly with every added part - at least to me.










I'll also give this failed project a few days and see if it grows on me. Or maybe I will decide that some people might actually like the large clunky thing. Or, I might just keep adding things to it until I can pretend that I had always intended for it to be one of those monstrous accretions you sometimes see in vintage stores.

Meanwhile. I'm working on another project that seems to be holding together as I add the parts. If I don't blow it, I might have a completely different style of PCB jewelry to share in a few days.


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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Light-up Cosplay Boots may be happening

Both my hiking-boots and my work-boots completely wore out this summer. Cracked soles, popped rivets and split seams now make them useless for their intended tasks. However, their well-worn look gives them a lot of character and makes them good candidates for some sci-fi cosplay modifications.



I think it's time to revisit light-up shoe projects. Slap some LEDs or some EL-wire on those suckers and call the space-bound. I've already done lighting projects with tennis shoes and with high heels. But this time, it's going to be a little more industrial looking.

I might just add some glowing EL-wire panels to the boots and call it done,


I might keep it simple and just use some simple EL-wire or maybe some EL-panels. That's certainly easy to do. But of curse I have grand ideas about controllable light shows like in the summer blockbuster movies. I have some spare microcontrollers and extra LEDs in the shop that are taunting me from their dusty shelf.

And new products like the sensor laden Circuit Playground and the Bluetooth or LORA Feather boards suddenly make real interactive and controllable light shows possible for a reasonable price. My previous projects were limited to a few pre-set, repetitive light sequences and simple pressure-switches.

I haven't done any real designs yet, not even a single sketch - so I don't have anything to show you for now. However, I've done acceleration projects and sound based projects with the Playground, and my Bluetooth skills are coming along nicely. If I combine these with my old Neopixel controller code I might have a good start on some off-world footwear.

I still needed to refresh my memory on how these things are done - so I went back and re-found some of my favorite inspirational projects and tutorials. This time I decided to take notes and make an easy to use collection of helpful links and I thought I would share them here..








Most of the tutorials and guides I knew of all revolve around either sneakers or high heels. You know, normal everyday footwear - not the stuff of exo-planet explorers. But it's all I could find, so here's a list of my favorites to get you started:.

Sneakers and Tennis-shoes



Heels


Above and Beyond






Right now, I'm thinking some rack-mount headlights, some basic running lights and some sound reactive and acceleration reactive lights. Since these are boots, I can add some clunky control panels without destroying the lines of the shoe - big and clunky work well with boots.

If you have any ideas, images or tips to share for cosplay boots, please send them my way. I'll try to post up some progress pics soon.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Connecting App Inventor and Bluetooth Low Energy



Finally found a great tutorial on using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) with MIT's App Inventor for Android. The guide is well written with lots of details on the connection process. This isn't surprising since (I think) the author is one of the people who created the BLE extension for App Inventor.

Check out the tutorial at Hackster.io

I've been using App Inventor with Bluetooth classic for a while now and am comfortable shipping data to and from several versions of Bluetooth modules. But the new BLE extension for App Inventor looked like it was a lot more complex to use, so I had avoided it until now. I still don't understand what all the extension's functions do, but the tutorial allowed me to get connected and communicating in just a few minutes.




Got a basic interface created and it's talking to the Feather board well enough to control color, speed and direction

The tutorial uses Adafruit's BLE Feather. The Feather line of boards is one of my favorite IOT platforms. It's a small but powerful Arduino compatible board, and there is a wide range of add-on shields for it. There are shields for controlling motors, LEDs, graphic displays etc. Adafruit also has BLE breakouts for adding to other boards.

And they already have free apps for both Android and  iOS for communicating with the BLE version of the Feather board. The apps are powerful and easy to use, but I wanted to create some custom functionality.My first project is to create an interface to give me more control over the Feather NeoPixel shield. This will come as no surprise to most of you - I always start learning new platforms with NeoPixels.








I'm not ready to talk much about the project yet. It's functioning and stable, but it's awkward to use. It's also a lot more complex than most of my Android projects, so I'm forced to get back into the whole UI/UX thing for the first time in years. Giving all those cues to the user is taking up a lot of my coding time, maybe more than the basic functionality.

In fact, I will probably have to break down the (soon to be released) tutorial into multiple steps - connecting, tracking settings, packaging data and UI manipulation - for both the Android side and Arduino side of things.

I'm telling myself all this work is worth it because I will finally have a full stack of parts that will allow me to create both household and wearable items that can be controlled over a phone by a non-techie. Stay tuned...


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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Blue Oogoo with Chalk Pastels


Just published a new Instructable on making colored Oogoo.

What's Oogoo? Only the most fun DIY gooey semi-science project since green slime. Even better, it's useful for patching, connecting and covering just about anything. In the tutorial, I show folks how to use chalk pastels to add colors and even paint with Oogoo.





The basic idea is simple, something I learned in art school years ago. But I had never seen it used with Oogoo before,

Simply scrape off some fine powder from the edge of a stick of chalk pastel, then mix the powder to create custom colors. You can sprinkle or brush the powder onto wet acrylic paint or even polyclay.










The cool thing about Oogoo is that the pigments get embedded into the material. And if you do it correctly, they are permanent and durable.


Making colored Oogoo is simple. Just mix some cornstarch with 100% pure silicone caulking and some powdered pigments fro0m chalk pastels.

Use a stencil or embossing form and brush some pigment onto the surface, then work it in.


You can mix the pigments before or after you add them to the silicone and cornstarch

You can make colors that almost perfectly match the premade versions.


Now you can wrap tools or handlebars with durable but colorful silicone. Or make cute characters - or jewelry - or home décor. It's just silicone rubber and pigment - you can shape it into anything you want to and have fun doing it.

The tutorial has all the detailed information you need to start making your own.


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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mecha-style stand for Bose speaker Challenge


Just got accepted for the Bose Speaker Challenge over on Instructables.

The project was designed and rendered in Fusion 360. The challenge was to design two panels (on opposing sides) for Bose's Educational Speaker Kit for students

As  you can see, I decided to go with a Mecha look.


The kit comes with translucent panels. And the back panel has LEDs that can be controlled via a phone app. I tried to get the render to show the glowing effect. It worked somewhat, but I still need to learn a lot about rendering emissive and translucent materials.


The lonely speaker-mecha wanders the desert looking for student interaction.


I wanted a design that would appeal to young kids. The Bose Build Speaker Cube kit is designed to teach about sound, electromagnetism, programming and assembly. That sounded like it's for younger students, so I also wanted to make sure it was very sturdy and very stable. I designed a very wide base and made all the parts super thick. It should hold up to classroom use for several years.

I also wanted to make sure teachers could print it easily, so I made it a single piece per side. Each side can be printed flat with a minimum of supports. The shapes should print easily without anyone having to tweak the printer settings. Teachers have plenty to do besides getting a delicate design to print correctly on the school printer. And students should get an easy success on their first try.





I tried to balance the level of detail with an engaging look. There are a lot of strong basic shapes, but not much surface detail. The strong visual massing and classic mecha shapes should trick the eye into thinking there is more detail than is really there.

The mighty mecha is at rest now, but could suddenly stand up and walk away in a cloud of dust and wall of sound.

Hopefully, the wide base will make it stable for kids to play with. The speaker weighs close to two pounds, so I wanted to make sure it didn't get top-heavy and topple over.



I learned a lot in this design project. Even though I know the basics of Fusion 360 I found myself getting bogged down in the sheer number of objects. I might have made a mistake keeping every object separate until the last minute. That made the object list cumbersome to navigate. But I learned to manage them on-the-fly from the design canvas much better than before.

And keeping them all apart till the final build also gave me a lot more freedom to make design decisions all along the process. Of course that freedom (power?) also meant I could get distracted making (too many?) minor changes for hours at a time.

I'm waiting to see what kids and teachers think of it, but overall, I'm happy with the result - both from a CAD standpoint and as a usable design for young students.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

New Tutorial Published on Instructables


Just published a tutorial on how to design chain-mail. Well, actually it's more about using parameter-driven design in Fusion 360 to create an easy-to-change base design for 3d printable chain mail. But that's a mouthful.





It's also my first attempt at a video tutorial in years - like since it was actually on "video tape," not digital. It was trickier than I remembered, but digital editing is a lot more forgiving than editing on a tape deck.

So check it out and let me know what you think of the tutorial - especially the video. I know it's kind of a specialized subject, but if you have any interest in modern 3d design and printing, the video might have some useful tips and tricks.










I was honestly really impressed with how useful parameters are for doing design iterations. Setting everything up for the first time can be time-consuming. But so is designing any object from scratch. The payoff, and it's a huge payoff, is that once you have the parameters set, you can make hundreds of design changes really quickly and with almost no effort.

Small tweaks that could have taken hours now take seconds. So if you are hesitating on taking the plunge into the new world of "parameter driven design" - well I strongly encourage you to jusmp right in. The rewards are tremendous for anyone who does complex design work.








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Monday, May 22, 2017

Glowing Pendant - First Enamel Experiment


Trying to create a pendant necklace that glows during the day as well as at night. Finally found some basic techniques that work with my 3d printer and regular filament. It's far from perfect, but the first, quickly printed piece looks good enough that I will continue to experiment and refine the idea.

This is what the pendant looks like during the day. The NeoPixels light up the thinner areas quite well and show up even in bright, outdoor light. The "stringing" doesn't show up as much in real life, but it is present. I printed this at high speed with a thick layer height. If I print a more hi-rez version the stripes should be a lot less noticeable.


This first piece has a lot of experiments built in: How does thickness affect the amount of light transmitted, how does thinning the front, back or both affect the look, can I "trap" the light in the thinned areas, and how do two lights show up within one thinned recess?










I learned a lot on this first iteration. I won't bore you with the details, but I will note that the difference between a nice glow, a stringy mess and nearly opaque can be a matter of 0.01 mm. That's a pretty tight tolerance.

As you can see below, even at night, the thicker areas block the light quickly.

I will need to try out other filaments to see if they give me more latitude in thicknesses while maintaining the diffuse look.

Glowing pendant with Adafruit Circuit Playground inside a E-sun PLA cover
And here is what the pendant looks like at night with the LEDs at full strength. I think it's pretty, but you can also dim the lights easily. And since these LEDs are on board the Circuit Playground board, you could also get the lights to react to sound, movement, heat or just randomly.

You might have noticed the curving incised lines. They are very deeply cut, so they transmit more of the light. I wanted to see what they looked like. I had hoped they would create a gradient as they carried the colored light from multiple LEDs. It kind of works.

But there was also a second reason for them. I wanted to try embedding wire in them, then pour enamel paint (okay, cheap nail polish - same thing) in between the wires like a cheap, faux cloisonné.









I did a first, tentative experiment with the nail polish. I selected different colors, styles and brands to see how they affected the light. I did not select the colors for a pleasing composition - and boy, did it turn out ugly in the daylight.

But the nail polish does affect the quality of the transmitted light. Once again, the results didn't adhere to my predictions. Chalky does not block more light and sparkly daylight posihs does not sparkle at night, even when lit.

This shows the pendant at night after I added some enamel paint (aka nail polish). It does affect the colors and somewhat smooth's out the stripes. Some colors and thickness kills a lot of the light, so I will have to learn which brands of nail polish work for this project. Even though it's the dimmest area, the red dot at the lower left is closest to the affect I wanted to achieve.

The thickness of the nail polish does affect how much light gets through. But I was happy to see that almost all the paint can be applied thickly with no significant negative affects. That's great, because I really want to just pour the paint into the recesses and not have to struggle to get an even coat with a brush.

All in all, I'm very happy with this first try. Expect to see more about this technique in the near future.



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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

How I Spent $250 to Dim a Lightbulb


Maybe that's a slight exaggeration - I could do it for pennies, or free using salvaged parts. But I really have spent hundreds of dollars over the last few years learning how. Along the way I also learned how to make the hardware and write software to control them with sensors, timers and all types of remote controls. By now I can recreate most Dollar Store electronic gadgets for less than $100 each.

Go ahead and laugh... you're supposed to, it's kind of silly. Most hobbies are.


12v incandescent light bulb powered by Arduino Uno and Adafruit motor driver
This is a 12v incandescent light bulb powered with an Arduino Uno and an Adafruit Motor Shield over the microcontroller's I2C bus. I have run massive motors and steppers off this same board, so I knew the shield's TB6612 H-bridges could easily handle the voltage. A quick guestimate said I would be nowhere near the 3 amp max for the board. There are three more 12v channels left to power a cold cathode tube, an old fluorescent and LEDs. And there are tons of other inputs and outputs that I can hook up to sensors and displays.


Like most hobbies there is an initial cost to buy the basic equipment and a huge investment in time. Eventually you get to a point where it becomes cheaper and the process becomes really fun and mostly pain free.

Per hour of fun, this electronics hobby has turned out to be one of the cheapest and most rewarding hobbies I've ever tried - and probably not for the reasons that you think.







All this tinkering and making and studying electronics - it's really just a way to gain access to other creative people. All these projects are eventually supposed to be put into other projects. That makes a great excuse to meet new people and get them to share their creativity.

Jewelry, clothing, furniture, cars, sculpture... doesn't matter to me. Can I help another creative bring their projects to life? Being able to add movement and lights and sounds to other people's projects is a great way to connect with other hobbyists.

So far, this simple hobby has allowed me to meet and befriend quilters and welders, fashion designers, models and photographers, jewelry makers, graphic designers and gear heads and... well, you get the picture.

I've helped a few of them with their projects, and they have all taught me something about their chosen medium. We can share our successes and our failures, our passion and pain. We don't use the same materials, but we all understand the creative drive. Every creator needs friends who not only tolerate your $250 lightbulb dimmer, but help you along the way.

This particular lightbulb dimming is part of an attempt to create a Steampunk style lamp with multiple light sources. I wanted that old time glow that only incandescent and fluorescents can provide.

I know I will need help from other makers to get this working. And it will probably turn out much better and more attractive thanks to their help.

All in all, I think this newest hobby has been a total bargain and a complete blessing.

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

(Cheap!!!) Grab-Bag Challenge: The Setup


Got this totally random (yet epic) challenge from a friend:
"Make something cool from this $4 grab-bag of Michaels store discards, then blog about your results."

Now how could I turn down a offer like that, especially considering they both bought and delivered the bag of odd goodies for me?




I say it was "random" because the grab-bag was pre-made and sealed by the store employees. You couldn't tell what was inside the bag, but it weighed at least four pounds, so at $4 that works out to about a buck per pound of craft-store goodness.

The rules for the challenge are simple:---  Just make something, anything. As long as it uses stuff from the grab-bag. I accepted because, well, I am creative and artsy and all that... at least that's what I tell myself.

So I tore into the bag (literally, because I couldn't untie the knots) and discovered something shocking!!!






It was all... paper!!! Seriously, what can I make with paper products? There were no electronics, jewelry findings, metal, clay or anything else I usually work with. Oh, now I'm totally screwed, a failure, my feeble excuse for creativity exposed by the simplest of materials.

Luckily, my friend saw the look of dismay (terror?) on my face and, out of kindness, immediately amended the rules and added a clause that said I could add Electronics, 3d printing, CNC, lights, motors etc. - as long as I based the project on something from the grab-bag.

Whew, good save --- maybe I can do this after all.





As you can see, there was a lot, and I mean A LOT of stuff inside that bag. After the initial terror subsided, I even began to see some items I could use ---- maybe, sort of --- even if they were made of paper.

Within five minutes or so I had pretty much recovered and gleefully started sorting my free loot into separate piles for the projects that were vaguely starting to form in my brain.






I'm not ready to commit to any specific project(s) yet, but are the items I've set aside for the first round of play. I would say I've got more of a "good feeling" than any real "plans" for these items - like I can see an idea shaping around them, it's just not fully formed yet.







Stay tuned to see what I come up with. I'm seeing some goth black, some burlesque, several lanterns and lights, and a superhero saga. I will be as surprised as anyone if even one of the projects turn out okay.

Feel free to drop me ideas about projects. That's not really cheating, and all my ideas come about paper projects comes off Pinterest anyways.

AND!!! If I can get some of you folks to take the challenge (you know you have some scraps laying around) then my friend might join in and post her projects from her own grab-bag. I think that's only fair since this is much closer to their traditional medium than mine. So grab those boxes and bags of discards and start creating.

Till next time, keep on making.






Saturday, May 13, 2017

Throwing Light #3 - Masks and Gobos


Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

Now that I know some basic ways to "throw" light, I wanted to explore how to shape the rays into specific patterns. To find out, I printed a quick (and sloppy) series of masks to test how they affected the shape and quality of light.

Like the previous experiments, I used the Circuit Playground board from Adafruit. I used the larger, deeper version of the 3D printed medallion I created in Part 2. The masks fit over the front of the openings in the light channels. I did not realize how much light would leak out from around the masks (as you can see in the photos) but the masks are enough to test some basic techniques.


The version of the medallion with a reflective interior (at right in the photo above) was not affected by the masks; it's almost useless. But the masks do have a pronounced affect on the raw black PLA version at the left.


The 3D printed set of masks (in red) sits under Circuit Playground board. The Medallion slips over the top of this assembly.
Surprises and Successes

I have played with masks and gobos for photography and stage lighting, so I sort of knew what to expect from the different shape. But the sizes and distances are so much smaller here that I expected some slight differences.

Most of the masks gave the expected results, but there were a few surprises:




The biggest surprise came with the "posts" mask. I printed one set of 1x1mm posts and a second set that was also 1mm wide but 4mm deep. I expected the deeper posts to cast the stronger shadow like it does in a large scale mask. Instead, the skinny 1x1 posts yielded the more precise shadows. I think this might be because of the small scale. The sides of the larger posts may reflect so much light that the shadow gets diffused from all the scattered light.

I was also hoping that the masks might be strong enough to shape the light from the reflectively painted version of the medallion. Unfortunately, the scattering overpowered the masks and there was negligible shaping from the masks.

SURPRISE!!! The skinny 1x1 posts actually created a stronger shadow that the deeper posts. I think the sides of the deep posts reflect and scatter too much light and negate the mask's shadow making. This is true even with the reflective version.

Bigger is better - sometimes. I wanted to see if a pinhole was large enough to create a visible ray -it was NOT!!! However, the larger round hole did emit a slightly shaped ray.


The vertical slot worked as expected, The diagonal slot worked sort of like I expected (a slight gradient) but it is the only shape that actually worked better with the reflective interior (see comparison photo above)

Aha, these worked exactly as expected. The "high slot" caused the beam to appear at a distance from the opening of the light channel.