Mike Kann is a designer and PhD researcher at the Royal College of Art whose interests lie in the field of interactive furniture and installations, tactility and materiality.

Bettina Fung is interested in rituals, liminality, chance and movements. She predominantly draws but considers her drawings to often take on performative elements, where the act of drawing is as much a part of the artwork as the end result.

The collaboration aims to investigate the creative potential within the interplay between design, interactive and embedded technologies and traditional art methods, paying particular focus on the interaction between technology and the art making process, which could at times be spontaneous. It will initiate a dialogue between design technology and art, looking at how they could influence, enhance and even challenge each other, or perhaps even merge together into something new.


We are slowly getting close to completing the first prototype of the Mutable Drawing Surface, so I decided to upload more pictures of our progress here. The mechanism is working and running smoother after placing in additional gears and adding stud lock to keep things in place. The actual surface that will be drawn on is covered with blackboard paint so it could be drawn on multiple times. Remaining tasks are mainly technical based, along with drawing on the actual moving surface. There are a few issues with the wiring that need looking into, and we also need more work on programming the motors that drive the rings. I have written a few simple Arduino sketches to test the mechanism and am noticing that the Arduino language is pretty similar to C++, which I have used many years ago. I am glad that my knowledge in programming is coming back to me and would never have thought I would be coding again.

Once more, our project has experienced yet another delay. Mike was unfortunately ill for a while, which meant our  sessions were postponed. Not only he has to catch up with the work in this collaboration, but also with his PhD work and therefore is not able to work on the project for a while. We were scheduled to exhibit in the Collaboration exhibition in Camberwell(London), organised by Bad Behaviour in May, and we had to sadly cancel as the surface will not be completed on time. We are very grateful that the organisers were very understanding and again sincerely apologise for our cancellation.

For more information about the Collaboration exhibition, please visit: http://badbehaviour.london/exhibitions/collaborations/

We will reschedule and return later in the summer.




The build continues with us making the structure more stable, painting the external rings with blackboard paint and running a motor test to see it moving one of the rings (as you can see on the video). There are still more work and tweaks to be done but we are getting close to finishing. Seeing the motor running the ring was a good end of a long day for both of us. At least we now know it works.


Reflecting on the project so far

Due to our conflicting schedule and the fact that Mike is currently studying a PhD and working full time at the same time, we have encountered many delays so progress might seems slow. However I really appreciate his hard work and willingness to continue this project.

Assisting in building the prototype made me notice even more the differences between our working practices. Planning and accuracy are important when it comes to what we are building, all the components have to fit perfectly together in order for the design to work and run smoothly. I am used to improvisation, spontaneity and the attitude of there are no mistakes. I also don’t consider myself to be particularly neat so I was a little anxious when I was helping, worrying that I might break something. In this working process, which seems very different to mine, I am also trying to learn as much as I can, learning names of tools and parts and what they do. Mike even got me to connect wires to a motor controller. Even though to some it might be very basic stuff but they were new to me and I am happy to learn and this is why I am really glad to have received this bursary to enable me to have a chance to see another field, a different working process and most importantly learn more.

We also had a quick look at the Arduino codes that run the motors. Having a background in programming, I am interested to look into this further and see whether we could program the motors to do interesting things. In the past, I was never too keen on programming, but somehow it seems a lot more interesting when the code affects the physical world. We shall see how that goes.

Whilst on the same subject, I noticed [SPACE] runs two dedicated spaces for creative technology and runs workshops on Arduinos and other interactive design technology there too. Codasign, who, I believe, runs some of these workshops at [SPACE], also has some interesting resources.


It is a wonderful feeling to see something that once was just an idea, sprouted from a conversation, to then manifest in the physical world. After long periods of designing and sourcing materials in the beginning of this year, we finally started to build the prototype of the drawing surface.

Firstly, I will go over the idea and the design of this surface before outlining what we did on the first day of the build.

The Mutable Drawing Surface coming into being

I might have mentioned in previous post that we have settled on the idea to create a mutable surface on which the artist draws. Being mutable means that the surface will move and therefore altering what is drawn, and so causing the artist to respond to the changes made. How the surface moves (such as speed of it’s movement or whether it will move at all) is dependent on data from the artist, such as the artist’s body and wrist movements and position to the surface.  Similar to the nature of collaborations, where we interact with our collaborators, developing, changing and shaping the idea as we progress, the surface changes the drawing made by responding to the artist and the artist responding to these “disruptions” or “contributions” as s/he develops the work.

The interaction part of the idea is still under development and we will focus on it in the next phase of the project. We agree that the main thing for us to get right first is to work out how the surface can change what is drawn. Once we’ve got that figured out and working, we could focus on developing and programming the interactive aspects between the artist and the surface with the use of sensors.

The Design

Mike came up with the idea of having concentric rings with a circle in the centre to form a flat surface and having them rotate in different directions and speed will change what is drawn on the surface. The challenge was to work out how to hold the rings and circle together, and Mike eventually designed structure underneath to allow the rings and circle to partially sit on.

Despite our initial idea of having a drawing surface that resembled the rectangular shape of a canvas, we decided for it to be circular. This is so that the whole surface can move and, in addition, we both prefer it aesthetically. Circle, to me, is a very strong symbol and makes me think of the infinite and in relation to this project I think of that ongoing interaction/dance between the artist and technology.

The overall design is a cylinder with five concentric rings making up one side of the cylinder, each rotated by a motor that sits inside. The whole external surface will be coated with blackboard paint, allowing us to draw on it multiple times.

The rings and cogwheels in Mike’s design of the surface reminded me of clock mechanics.

The Build

Being someone who hardly does any DIY and mainly works on flat surfaces and glowing screens, this was new territory for me and so I was very excited to begin this stage. The day was mainly assembling the drawing surface and connecting the motors to the rings. We started off by sawing screw threads into the right size for the design and then going through a very long task of assembling bolts, nuts, bearings and washers, slotting threaded inserts into the gears and placing these elements into the components forming the drawing surface. The process felt a lot like another level of assembling things from Ikea, we joked and called it Mike-ea.

Day one ended with most of the parts assembled. The remaining tasks of the build still left to do are painting the surface with blackboard paint, further fixing components in place, connecting and programming the electronics and fixing issues that arose on the first day of the build. The measurements provided from the website we bought the motors from were incorrect and the motors turned out taller than we anticipated so we will have to recut some parts. We also noticed certain changes we could make in the design to make it run smoother too. We scheduled to continue in a week’s time.

All in all, it was a very satisfying day of sawing, assembling, fixing things in place and seeing this design coming into being. Moving the rings manually and feeling how sturdy the construction is made me very excited to see them being driven by the motors and I cannot wait to draw on the surface.



We have been working hard, mostly Mike. The design of the mutable drawing surface is done and we are now ordering materials. We are scheduled to build it in March and are currently in talks about a possible exhibition in May. More details to come.

Happy Year of the Goat!


We are way behind our initial schedule, mostly due to conflicting availabilities, which delayed when we could meet up and work. Also perhaps from the outcome of our workshops we didn’t realise the number of different routes we could take this project. As planned from the beginning, we want to spend the the bursary money to buy materials to create a prototype to test our idea, so it is important for us to settle on one idea to explore in this phase of the project before we start to buy and build things.

After a few more meetings we had post the second workshop, we decided to settle on developing the mutable drawing surface idea, where the surface responds to the person drawing on it and therefore changing what is drawn.

We are currently designing and sourcing materials and we will draw up a new schedule that includes building the prototype, testing, discussing the result and then planning the next stage of the project.

We will be back next year with more updates.

Wishing you all a happy new year.