Designing a design process, part 2: dinosaurs, lasers and conductive felt

I wrote a post some months ago about the challenge of trying to get back into a creative mindset. Having made some New Year’s resolutions about spending more time sketching and making stuff, sitting down and doing this actually proved to be much harder.

Documenting ideas has been something I’ve struggled with since art college. It’s infuriating to have everything so perfectly mapped-out in my head, only to have the detail tumble out on to paper, somehow dishevelled… disjointed… lacking glory.

Still, just because it’s tricky, doesn’t mean it’s inaccessible and on the rare occasion that an idea makes it to the physical world without getting lost in translation, well… that’s a pretty awesome moment.

Anyway, the journey has continued more recently by co-presenting a mini workshop on making conductive felt with the lovely Erin Lewis at Wearables Open Studio night.


Sketching dinosaurs at ROM (apparently I was the only one over the age of six attempting this)…


Playing with the 3D printer and laser-cutting machine at HackLab (thanks to Eric and Chris for help & training).

The little black “connectors” were produced from the 3D printer and the blue and yellow bracelets – on the laser-cutter. Time and life permitting – would love to do a lot more here. Perhaps laser-cutting even more so because it’s so much faster. Ultimately it would be awesome to design a piece that co-ordinates production from both machines.


And in terms of process, have I learnt anything from these recent adventures?

  • Sometimes, it’s easier to abandon all pre-thought-thoughts and just play with a material. Ideas don’t have to start in the head, they can in fact reverse-flow from material to brain. Inspiration isn’t all in the mind!
  • The physical act of playing and making is much more liberating than struggling with an idea in ink, on paper
  • Combining design/craft techniques can be helpful in progressing an idea. For example – photographing the bracelets and those mini component “clusters” was as helpful as the process of making them, in terms of playing with light and shadow around the body
  • The bracelets were made from scrap plastic, so production in terms of material was incredibly cheap. The expense is in the time taken to learn how to use the machines
  • At the February Wearables Meetup, there were two fascinating talks/presentations from Rachael Kess (OCAD fibre student) and Ryan Taylor (goldsmith). What was great about them was their easy shuffle between traditional craft techniques and those using new technologies. Having met so many artists who shun new technology (“us versus IT”), it’s much more exciting to meet and work with people who look to the future with all the perspective of the past. Ryan particularly made the point that with certain casting  and rapid prototyping techniques – work can now be produced locally at a much more cost-effective rate, which meant for medium-scale work (possibly even large-scale), there’s less dependence on China for cheap production.