Friday, June 20, 2014

3D Printing not, quiet, there, in Ireland

Pie in the sky

This is a tale of high expectations, challenges, and disappointment. But I'll be back!

This story begins in the distant dark past, pre really useful 3D printing, later 2013.

I like to make art that is about the social, economic and cultural context it is presented.

I had begun to research the history of ceramics in different places. For example, when making large sculptures about smart phones, I researched the first non-pictorial language and the material it was recorded on - clay cuneiform tablets.

For this project I researched some of the earliest Irish pottery, particularly the late third millennium BC Beaker culture. Eventually I contacted expert Dr. Neil Carlin, from the University College Dublin.

Dr. Carlin has an interest in the social rituals associated with pottery/ceramics, and how these in Ireland, were fundamentally different to that in Britain and Europe.

I was particularly taken with the polypod bowls, many of which were discovered on the outskirts of Dublin. These are similar in form to the Kava bowels used in W. Samoa, drunk at all important gatherings and ceremonies.

Studio Art Production:

As a consequence of my research I was interested in creating two large multi legged ceramic and compressed polypod bowls. I then hand-making and firing over 330 porcelain paper clay flute forms, which would both be part of the two sculptures, as well be used in some ritual during one of the social functions at the exhibition.

Having previously assembled and then hacked an open source 3D printer to enable it to print clay, I was very familiar with this emerging technology. So I designed the bowl forms to be eventually printed in sections in Dublin, using new Irish technology, the MCOR 3D printer, which prints in paper.

In Western Australia, Michael Dixon, from Dixon Design + Development - industrial design / product development, kindly converted my drawings into CAD and then STL file format.

I was very surprised to discover that MCOR 3D printer services were not available in Ireland! However I was encouraged by the company to contact German and Belgium companies who provided 3D printer services using the MCOR machines. Despite claims that this is the cheapest and most environmentally friendly 3D printer technology, the quotes were 3,000 - 8,000 Euro! This completely deflated my aspirations of using Irish technology to make the paperwork (parts) for my sculpture for the irish audience (and to reduce shipping costs).

So, I quickly made the paperwork in my studio, by cannibalising some old sculptures I had made from thousands of identical maps of parts of Western Australia. I used laborious dry techniques I had invented and developed since 1993. Examples of my work and an explanation is here.

On the 12 June I flew in to Dublin, and begun assembling the work, finishing an hour before the Artist Reception and Welcome by the Mayor.

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