Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mackinac Island and the new Bike Trailer

This past weekend we made a little road-trip to Mackinac Island. This is an island in the Upper Peninsula that, for historic and preservation reasons, has banned motorized vehicles since the 1900's. The inhabitants get around mostly by bicycles and horses. Although I think the horses are mostly for the tourists. It was very inspiring to me to see a town totally tied to the bicycle in a real functional way. I saw lawn maintenance crews using bikes to haul their equipment around, giant baskets on most of the bikes, and many tandem and three person bikes.

I had already been scheming to turn a baby bike trailer into a sculpture and package pickup trailer for the Visual Art Building here at Interlochen. So this was further motivation to do that.

This lovely Schwinn has a giant basket, but this amazing well-built aluminum trailer. It attaches to the frame of the bike with an air-hose detachment, if that makes sense. Really ingenious and many of the trailers attached this way.
A typical bike parked along the main downtown tourist-crowded  street. Yes, that's horse drawn taxi. 

Nice style!

Rowdy bike.

The bell reads "This bike is my car" or something.

A horse-drawn trailer that the suspender-wearing man used to haul a bunch of drywall.  They are serious about no cars.

One of my favorites. This bike, which is parked next to a tricycle, has a trailer held on  by a homemade  thick rubber bracket.  I wonder what is delivered in this exactly?

Same bike as above, but please note the front mudflap. This evidently get used in the  wintertime.

Now back to Interlochen Center of Art. Cars are allowed but they really aren't ideal for getting around all the campers and are frowned upon. It seems that all the other departments get these golf-carts to ride in, but for some reason the Visual Arts isn't on the A-list when it comes to golf-carts. That is ok. I'd rather ride a bike, but if we need to pick up some packages from the post office, get ice for a reception, or other random task, it'd be great to have a trailer for a bike. Much like at Mackinac Island.

Here is the bike I brought from NC. I will be donating it to Interlochen Visual Arts (value is $25).  I bought the child trailer from this local bike-fixer-upper for $10. 

Here Julie and Dan are using it for its first mission! Picking up rocks from the old art building C7. Without the bike it would've taken multiple trips sweating it with a wheelbarrow.

Here's Kiln Tech Chris taking the new rig out for a spin. Its very fun to ride. I even tried it out by riding in it and it held my weight.

There you have it, friends. I've been wanting to convert a baby bike trailer into a sculpture bike ever since seeing one in Chicago. Since I've always had a truck, van, or car it is pointless to have one. Yet, here at Interlochen Summer Camp there is a real use and need for one. Just like at Mackinac Island!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Torchmate Project # 2: Anchor

Hi there! Its another installment from the Interlochen Summer Studio Tech at the Dow Visual Art Building. Everyday between my busy schedule of moving chairs and tables in various formations, hauling pedestals around for various exhibitions, and laundering aprons, I sit down at the computer of the brand-spanking new Torchmate CNC plasma torch.  It really helps to have something to build that someone wants or needs. That way, there's a mission to complete...instead of making random unusable shapes. 

I was asked to make a small anchor. Similar to the ones I made for my floating sculpture class a year ago. This one is going to look nice, instead of welded out of junk metal, it will be cut from a nice big plate of fresh 5/16" steel. 

Torchmate carving into some 5/16" plate. 

Fresh parts.

After stick welding it together I deburred it with a flapdisc and a bastard file.  Ain't it purty?

OK, so I learned how to cut out an anchor design using the Torchmate CAD. In order to do this I had to convert a .png file into a vector shape. Sounds simple enough, but it wasn't. I only have the guidebook to help and I never learned Illustrator, so this is a bit new.  

Its about 6 inches tall. So, at this size, its more of a grappling hook, but it has this great heavy feel in my hand...like its begging to have a rope tied to it and thrown. BATMAN!

I made an anchor out of 16 gauge steel (much much thinner) and showed the kiln tech Chris Reed how to weld it to his slip mixer he built. Now it mixes the bucket of ceramic slip perfectly...and with style.

I'll have to make a few of these before I leave, just to have around the house and in the van in case I need to grapple onto a roof. 

This Torchmate is so handy. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Book on The Arts of the Sailor

While looking for some reference books on boats for my sculpture class at Interlochen, I ran into a couple of books highlighting the use of knots in sailing. The only sailing I've done, where I am "skipper" is in a little sunfish, within the safe confines of Green Lake adjacent to Interlochen. Still looking at these books gives me this romantic feeling. The beauty of tied rope and its usefulness. It reminds of when I was studying knot-tying for a Boy Scout merit badge. I was something of a knot expert in my troop.

I really like the cover of the Arts of the Sailor. I wonder if it has some symbolism to the sailor? 

Nice portrait of the author Hervey Garrett Smith.

Some notes about picking out a good knife.

The guys at the awning shop I used to work for used one of those sewing palms for on-site repairs.

Contents of a Ditty Bag

Neat illustrations, huh?

This littler book is 112 years old! Signed by the same owner as the previous one.

See how small it is? Small enough to go in your ditty bag.

This one has a knot on the side, I think is called a bow-line on a bite.

I'm not sure how this well manifest itself within my work, but it is interesting to note that what attracts me to the ouroboros snakes is a similar feeling to that of these knot books. That's a connection, I suppose. I just wanted to share these books and if you ever find anything similar at a flea market, pick it up for me. I'll buy it from you...as long as its cheap.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

New Toy at Interlochen

This summer at Interlochen Center for the Arts, in Northern Michigan, I've been re-hired to be the Studio Tech for the Visual Arts Building. I was brought in a week early of school starting to prepare the studios. Another task that fell on me was to put together a brand spanking new Lincoln Torchmate 2x4. It's a CNC router and plasma torch that can cut any design into most common metals, wood, and even vinyl. This is a fabricator's dream come true. 

I have zero experience working with one of these machines and was a little daunted by the task of constructing this expensive piece of equipment. I do have experience working with a handheld plasma torch and I once had a job programming a giant giant CNC milling machine. So I guess that's close enough.

My fellow ECU alumni Aaron Earley was hired as a studio assistant for the Metalsmithing Studio and he was willing to lend a hand putting together the table with me.
Aaron turning a screw. 

I found an old table to put the plasma cutter and laptop on. I'm still trying to figure out a neat way to put away all the wires and the controller box.
Cutting into rusty 1/8 steel.

I'm very excited because today I was able to make the first accurate cuts! Yesterday it had been cutting everything "squished" and Sebastian (my awesome studio assistant) sat down and figured out that the drive parameters needed to be tweaked. It seems to have worked.

5/16" thick star. Like butter!

It took me about 10 days to put it all together, read the five manuals, make a CAD design, and problem-solve. This is including doing all my other tasks to prepare all the other studios.

Next I'll figure out how to use it as a teaching tool. What should I have my sculpture students make with it?  They JUST learned how to arc weld, use a grinder, gas weld, and plasma cut. Now this is gonna blow their minds....mine is pretty blown.
All and all putting this machine together was fairly easy. The directions were simple and the tech guys answered the phone, were nice, and were very helpful. Torchmate even replied to one of my tweets, which is pretty dorky cool.

I'll do more updates later about what we make with this thing.

I'm really freaking excited about this!!!