Where do you get your parts?

Melissa Glick, Hacker Creations

This is the most common question I am asked at craft shows.  Here are some of the more interesting origins.

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I once received a box of working clock inserts in the mail. The return address was from Malden but I did not recognize/remember who it was from. They have roman numerals but take an unusual battery. Thank you to my donor!

My childhood friend was clearing out her house to be sold and bequeathed upon me her family’s first PC. It was an IBM from 1987. I remember watching Karen annihilate aliens on a tiny 5″x7″ monitor.

At a crowded Flea market a gentleman told me he had some printed circuit boards. We met at a cafe and he gave me 2 boxes of green, shiny as new boards of all sizes. These are samples he said. Let me know if you want more.

 

July 6/17 I saw a black box on the side of the street the other day…. I thought about picking it up but I walked by. Then next day, it was still there, so I took a closer look. It was a 5 disc CD player. So I grabbed it and put it in the back of my car.  I opened it up and found a piece resembling a huge black plastic throwing star. I’ve  opened one of these before, but it did not have this design. I was most interested in the black plastic pieces, I photographed against a green background.

I started off making Joseph Cornell-like boxes using the things my father had saved in the dungeon of my childhood home. The house I grew up in was being emptied out to be sold.  Examples of my oldest work.

autobox2 copy

 

Fellow Artisan’s Asylum members offer me their cruft, (left over parts of unfinished projects, surplus materials.)  Generally happy to see them being put into some kind of use, even if it isn’t electronic.

Once after doing a workshop at an after school in Southie, I was “paid” with a tower of PC’s they were upgrading from. Stacked, they were as talk as me.

My 100 sq foot studio is packed with components that need to be taken apart. At Open Studios a visitor said, entering my studio “is like entering another world, there is so much going on.”

Sometimes when I am offered parts, I take them, even if they are nothing special because I am grateful they think of me and for their act of generosity. I am also grateful for the time the other members give to me when they answer my questions. Although they often go into more detail that I need.

 

Melissa Glick has been an inmate at the Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville, MA since 2012. She grew up in a home where recycling and saving cool looking things was the norm. She studied Art History at SUNY Purchase and got a masters in art education at Mass College of Art.

 

 

 

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Arduino Connects Art and Robotics

When I volunteered at Arduino Day on Sat. March 28th, it was snowing so hard, the Charles River was barely visible from the top floor of the MIT Media Lab. But what an interesting place to learn more about the “Lego” of electronics. Make Magazine posted a  slide show of photos I took that day.

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Arduino is designed by an international group who’s mission is to give everyone the tools needed to invent stuff, because you never know where the next life changing idea will come from.

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An Arduino controlled vehicle can follow the path of a black line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I first heard about Arduino from the collaborator on my piece The River of Connectivity which has 12 re-purposed computer fans across a 6 ft. long assemblage. Tyler built and programed an Arduino that turned the fans turned on then off in succession from left to the right. The fans, that look best when slowing down and starting up, recalled flowing water.

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Tyler Hutchison is the mastermind behind this controller – 2 wires go to each fan, powered by a DC plug.

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The River of Connectivity now hangs at the Edward M. Kennedy Health Center, Milford Ma. Thanks to The Art Connection, an organization that facilitates the collecting of art by community groups.

 

 

What is it? Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for anyone making interactive projects.  Therefore it is becoming popular with new media artists who create experiential environments and work with light and sound.

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How Does it Work? As with all electronics, components are connected to a board. The Arduino board comes with some components already attached so you can just plug into your computer and use a free software to program, tell it what to do. There are many companies doing this.

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Here I am using a toy that teaches the concept of programming. By putting different colored parts into the holes in my “control panel” I make the little box with the smile more in different directions.

The program spells out what steps to take in computer language. Using If statements allows the instructions to change based on options. Various roles of components include:

  • Sensors, that react to light, sound, touch, speed, temperature, moisture;
  • Switches, that turn things on and off and adjust speed;
  • Clocks and counters, used to schedule frequency etc.

How does it relate to art?  Some of my favorite artists made kinetic sculpture. Calder and Rikey made large metal shapes that moved, be they powered by the wind or human interaction. I once witnessed a couple of percussionists make wonderful rhythms on a large free-standing Calder swung around at The Neuberger Museum at SUNY Purchase, 1981. (This was it’s intended purpose.)

Alexander Calder, Red Mobile, 1956, Painted sheet metal and metal rods, a signature work – Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

 Closer to Home:  Some of my friends at the Artisan’s Asylum are experimenting with Arduino. Sage Kochavi’s piece Furry All, consists of  two feet high letters, covered in soft fun fur. She programed the Arduino sensor to trigger LEDs embedded in the fur. As your hand nears, the lights glow brighter and when you stroke the fur, the letter begins to purr via the embedded motors which are triggered by the interaction.

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That’s me at the bottom right, kneeling to take the picture.

Another Asylum member Mark Brownawell, has set up a little monitor connected to a temperature sensor. As people come near, red blocks of color increase and blue decrease. Temperatures in between are represented in yellow and green.

The best example of technologically assisted art I’ve heard about was Rain Room at the MOMA.

It is inevitable that the current technology would be integrated into the art of the period. Products like Arduino make it possible for artists to push boundaries and use it in ways corporations and scientists would never would. How can you imagine using Arduino in a creative project?

Where Can I learn more?

You can take a class  Introduction to Arduino

Arduino website:  http://arduino.cc/en/Guide/HomePage

Store: http://store-usa.arduino.cc/

You can see a lot of interesting projects on

Instructables: http://www.instructables.com/howto/arduino/

https://data.sparkfun.com/   There are other companies doing this sort of thing.

https://processing.org/ — another artist friendly programming language.

Resources:

http://www.makershed.com/?utm_source=makezine.com&utm_medium=ads&utm_term=Shop+Now&utm_campaign=makershed+banner

http://playground.arduino.cc/Projects/ArduinoUsers

Kaleidoscope: http://arduino-cool.blogspot.com/2014/06/kaleidoscope-with-arduino-and-rgb-led.html

Xmas Decorations: http://luckyresistor.me/xmas-decoration/

The Art Connection: http://www.theartconnection.org/

White House Maker Faire taking place in 2014

Hey Prez!!!Image

I have been working at the Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville, MA for almost 2 years. Its an amazing place where I have been able to merge visual art with technology! I make “mosaics” by combining old computer parts with colorful collage made with recycled papers. When I work with children (and adults), I tell them to look at the parts like “tiles” in various colors, materials, shapes and sizes – to use in compositions. I know 101 (not literally) fun projects to make out of recycled computer parts! While we are doing “take apart” and using our imaginations, kids are seeing for the first time, the multitude of parts (screws, heatsink, hard drive, gears, motors, wires, processors, springs, stators, transformers, copper wire, fans….) that fit together like a puzzle to make your computer work!

It is a fun and inspiring activity, that I love to share with others. You can see examples of my and the work from workshops at my website, on my blog and at my etsy store!!!!

The engineers at the asylum usually think my work is weird, but when we have an open house and they see the hoards of kids, they are very impressed! Artists make great teachers…….engineers, not always! Check out my and the work of my students.

Disassembling Computers for Art and Fun

Some folks at the ArcWorks Community Art Center in Peabody, who organized the RePurpose show I participated in, thought taking apart computers would be a good project for some of their clients. Sal and Jim from the Heritage Industries came down to the Asylum for a visit, and after I described the procedure to them in detail, they also agreed and even had some candidates in mind. It turned out the the Art Center is run by Heritage Industries, but their primary objective is providing training and work to developmentally challenged adults.  They actually transport people to businesses who pay them to do appropriate tasks such as stuffing envelopes and doing yard work. When I explained that mine was not a money making enterprise, they thought I would have a good chance of having the project funded if I submitted a proposal. Here is what I wrote:

ImageI am writing to request that ARC to fund an individual to come to the Artisan’s Asylum at 10 Tyler St Somerville, MA to disassemble old computers and other discarded electronics to be used as art materials. This is a fun task that requires focus, curiosity and problem solving.  Specific parts are used for art making by myself and in workshops that I lead for people of all ages. I have hosted, Take Apart sessions which are very popular and enjoyed by young people, experienced engineers and computer scientists alike.  It is very intriguing to discover the wide variety of shapes, colors & materials of the components.

Although there are safety issues in regard to e-waste, this helper, nor any of my students are exposed to any of these dangerous conditions.

I will train and supervise this helper to use a power drill and determine which bit head to use to remove many little screws that hold the equipment together. The first step of the process is to locate screws. Then it is zip, zip, zip and we collect all the little screws that fall out. Next, belts are pulled out of sockets, clips are opened, springs are unattached to remove the heat sink, gears, hard drive, fan etc. etc.  At times wire cutters and chisels are used for leverage to remove the parts. We receive a wide variety of donated equipment, making  each one a unique puzzle to be solved. Doing this we gain an understanding of how things are put together and we also gain an appreciation for the people so far away, working on the assembly line who put them together.

I collect the parts with bold designs and abstract contours to use in mosaics and sculpture. We make necklaces, refrigerator magnets and sculptures. Creative possibilities are limitless when re-purposing these amazing materials that would otherwise be thrown out and destroyed. What I am doing has nothing at all with making profit. It is about making
physical arrangements that explore 2 and 3 dimensional abstract qualities. My work draws attention to the proliferation of obsolete equipment and the need to regulate its disposal.

Children love my workshops, and are amazed when they see what is inside the “box”.  Unwittingly they are also being introduced to the world of electronics and science.

As of this date, I have not received any response….

Notes
1.  Toxic acid baths and open-air burning of mercury used to recover valuable materials,
expose people to high levels of contaminants. When dumped in landfills, electronic equipment
decomposes and toxic chemicals leach into the land be released into the atmosphere. Over
time this causes serious public health and environmental impact.*
2. There are Phillips screw heads as well as hex and torque.
3. Combining unusual shapes and materials of the recycled parts with graphic elements in an
underlying collage creates a conversation between color, shapes and patterns.
4.  The rest is divided between 2 buckets one for metal which is then picked up to be recycled and the other is taken to Best Buy, where they recycle the rest. They have a great video about it.

5. $3.1 billion worth of the United States’ scrap materials was imported by China. 25,000 workers are employed at scrap yards in Delhi, India. 50-80% of waste collected FOR RECYCLING is illegally shipped to the Far East, India, Africa and China.
6. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that ~3/4 of the computers sold in the US end up in landfills, incinerators or exported to developing countries in Africa, India and Asia.*
7. Use computer parts as art materials in this fun multimedia project. In Hacker Junk Mosaics,kids make design choices, experiment with shapes, colors and patterns and explore the interaction of 3D and 2D materials while making an abstract work of art to hang on the wall.

SOS Somerville Open Studios

Although it was a long time in the planning and I pulled my SOS display together at the last minute. Took half a day off from work and totally reorganized my pallets where I store all my raw materials. I cleared out space and set up a little work area where I planned to spend the time productively. There we were at the corner of aisle 1 and 2. Jim Brendt showing his graphic novel… Gretchen’s white wall, looking very Newberry St gallery with her abstract metal sculpture and Seth’s concrete table. The four of us spent the hours representing our very different work to the visitors. Image

Visitors…. Obviously the first thing you think of are those who bought something. I will never forget, and each and everyone of you, mean so much to me. The girl who bought my first magnet, she said she liked the texture! But I didnt get her name. She paid in cash. Next Michael bought the hat. I thought I could get $50 at the Steampunk Festival, but since I decided not to do that event, I offered it to him for $25. It was perfect for him. He’s one of those guys who wears a baseball hat every single day. He said it Imagewas replacing his current hat which

was 5

years old. I hope this one lasts that long!

A couple purchased (the first) framed Animal Park print. They said they would put it in their hall, which needed color. The next print to go was destined for a little girl named Harriet’s room. Her mom took a photo of the 2 of us with the print. A 30 something yr old woman bought the first mosaic of the weekend. She was funny. First she wanted the clock, then it was Orange, but in the end she purchased “Prince” for $50. ImageShe said she liked the angular shape and the colorful, mishmash of pictures and objects.

Finally, one of the biker fleet got a 2 for $80 special deal on a small framed Pig and the Wall paper mosaic! Grand Total: $375!

Now I have the selling bug! I say, buy it, take it away so that I have room to make new work!!! Thank you for supporting my habit and closing the recycling circle!

April Fools Day Surprise

I sold my first two pieces off Etsy and it was NO joke! I am so so happy! I am over the moon! A guy from San Jose bought my Bauhaus and the Gear Clock. He said he’s opening a restaurant Imageand my work would fit well in Silicon Valley. The funny thing was, the Gear Clock was actually not even available. I was tempting fate by listing it for sale. I made that Gear Clock for my Secret Santa at the Artisan’s Asylum (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=528099703880529&set=pb.161850317172138.-2207520000.1365097449&type=3&theater).  But I whipped up another one, which was even better!  I thought I had learned the best method with the first one, but the 2nd one was a whole new struggle. NOW, hopefully the 3rd one will come easier.  The Gear Clocks are a combination of bike gears, motherboards with the cut out circle which many others have found to be the perfect size. (This  etsy guy sold 1000 of them!https://www.etsy.com/listing/117995468/circuit-board-alarm-clock-from-recycled?ref=usr_faveitems)  [Tangient google searching recycled computer art].

ImageBauhaus really pops! It is a small piece with a multi-level collage in blue and green. The story of this piece involves an image I cut out of a used Art History book 20 years ago….an image from one of my Dad’s old Scientific American magazines from the 70’s podged onto a large laminate sample from Home Depot and a big shiny copper inductor probably from a small hard drive. The similar colors of early modernism and the schematic gravitated together in the “pool” of my collection at the right place at the right time. I’m happy I could bring these 2 together and find them a new home all the way across the country in California…. Farewell my children be well!

Repurpose

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Blue Polaroid

Arc Works Community Art Center 22 Foster St Peabody, MA 01960

Opening Reception: April 25 4:30 – 7:30 – Dates: 4/18-5/31

Repurpose

Here in America, computers and electronics are everywhere. Imagine your day without motors. Already this morning, I have brushed my teeth, turned on the dishwasher, talked on my phone and now I’m typing on my computer. Inside of all these tools are a multitude of parts you never see. When I take things apart, I am amazed at the variety of unusual shapes, colors and materials that are combined to make things work.  I’m not an engineer or a scientist, so I don’t understand how energy is stored up in copper wires and how intermittent pulses cause changes in voltage.  Instead I see jagged edged plastic gears and shiny asymmetrical pieces of metal that call out to me to be reassembled into art.

It feels like technology was born just about the same time I was, and it has been growing like bacteria, exponentially ever since. Computers make everything move faster, technology is advancing faster, gadgets are getting smaller and faster. Clunky old monitors and computers, outdated stereos and cameras are thrown away like garbage.  We are drowning in E-waste!

In my mosaics, I focus on the abstract beauty of the parts. As I disassemble a PC, printer or scanner I think about the person who designed each piece to fulfill a specific purpose.  I envision the assembly line in the factory and the repetitive, mindless labor. I marvel at my luck and appreciation for the opportunity I have to use my imagination to see the beauty in these mass produced objects. For my desire (compulsion, need, calling) to transform them into works of art, that get people’s attention and make them think about all of these things too.

My work is a convergence of circumstances: a father’s pleasure in accumulating obsolete materials from Raytheon; an inherited disposition to seeing beauty and value in old, unwanted refuse; a belief and education in art as a valuable shared expression; and being in the right place at the right time for it to have meaning.