It appears all over the place this 80/20 rule, 80 % of your returns from 20% of your efforts. Within engineering this translates into ‘making a small change which will have the biggest impact’ so change 20% of your design and gain 80 % benefit or something along those lines.
I’m currently selecting work for the exhibition at Hethel, it has become increasingly obvious that really as this residency draws to a close in September I will actually just be at the beginning of things- which was just what I hoped for. My friend and artist Polly has been offering much needed selecting advise as i have so much material to choose from and I appears I have several bodies of work, only one of which needs to be shown at Hethel – so narrowing the field.
Images need to be printed, drawings re-drawn, frames orders, display shelves made up, it’s a lot of work – always is, the curation of the work is a whole work activity in itself.
WIP Hand Drawn Precision
The ways in which the traditional machinery in the engineering workshop seem to spill into the architecture of the space is explored in the drawings i have been doing. These are complicated and visually very interesting machines. The RP machines are contained within box shapes and perhaps less appealing but for me its the contrast between the two that allows me to consider the changes not only in working practices but also the appearance of the workplace.
Precision and things going awry
Look at engineering publicity and you likely find the word precision somewhere. It’s what engineering is all about, precision, reliability, predictability. Of course art practice can thrive on those things also but artists regularly make use of the unpredictable and the mistake. That is not to say in the world of engineering precision that things can’t go awry.
Hethel does a lot of educational work and is currently in summer school mode, where school children and students are encouraged to explore contemporary engineering. Amongst other things they are using CAD and RP equipment. Due to some temporary and unexplained issue with one of the RP machines the result was not what was expected. I rather like this loopy sort of knitting, and the question is can it be reproduced or is a one off unique RP object? It could be scanned, made into a STL file and re-made but it wouldn’t have the same structural and layered properties.
Today have been on a Cyanotype Photographic Printing day at St Barnabas Press in Cambridge (http://www.stbarnabaspress.co.uk/_about.htm) led by David Chow.
It was after a conversation with Derek at the beginning of the residency when we were talking about the historical use of blueprints in engineering that I explored the possibility of ordering some. It proved impossible to find anyone still making engineering / architectural blueprints (due to large format photocopying and the use of digital files) but the nearest thing is a process called Cyanotype. It can involve using objects directly on a treated surface or creating a digital negative and using that. Exposure comes from the sun or an electric UV light. Its a simple process but also quite complicated at the same time, as there are many variables such as how much chemical solution is loaded onto the paper, the exposure time and so on. It means every printing is unique and hand made.
I wanted to use an image from a CAD file, as these files would never need to be reproduced as blueprints however it does allow for a combination of historical and contemporary practices to converge which is a regular feature of my work.
I asked if i could post this image of Derek’s experimental work in CAD and if he would write something about the image/process….here it is…….
“It is my normal practice to use Solidworks CAD software to design within fairly rigid linear, non-flowing but functional lines because they are easier to make on CNC machines. (Easy equals cheaper). However, there are many tools within Solidworks that can be used to create more fluid and, dare I say it, more artistic shapes which, with the availability of direct digital manufacturing techniques, are not at all difficult to make. With Nicola here at Hethel I thought I would try making my own no-pointed part – it has no point as in purpose and it has no point as in either a beginning or end”.