ShopBot Octobaby Monster Woodcut

This image has been in my head for over a year:
photo 1 (2)As a slave to the twisted innerworkings of my mind I had no choice but to breathe life into this visual aberration. So, I set off on a journey to turn it into a giant woodcut.

Firstly, I traced the outline of the above image in Illustrator in order to make a CNC file for the ShopBot at TechShop Pittsburgh to read and cut out the negative space for me. 
  photo 3 (2)

The cut included the outline and also two “pockets,” which is where the cut does not go all the way through the wood. I added these two pockets just to learn the process. They aren’t structurally necessary.

photo 4 (2)

I redrew the image using pencil and then permanent marker on the wood. Once the drawing was finalized in permanent marker, I went over the surface with a red permanent marker, which is the modern equivalent of dyeing the wood with ox blood. The point of a red tint is so you can see where you’ve carved into the wood. The carved areas reveal the wood’s natural color and it’s especially helpful with details.

photo 5 (11)  photo 1 (3)photo 4 (3)  photo 3 (3) Once I carved the entire image I rolled it up with black ink and lay down newsprint in order to do a proof print. Because I don’t have access to a 48″ inch wide printing press my only printing option is the good ol’ wooden spoon technique, which is where you rub the back of a wooden spoon all over the back of the paper in order to transfer ink onto the paper. High tech stuff.

I’m pretty ecstatic about how this first print looks! I’ll get a lot more practice at the wooden spoon technique as the prints multiply…

The plan for this “Octobaby” beauty is to paste it up on buildings and such similar to this guy, which was just a hand drawing:


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Visiting Artist Lights Up the Green Screen

When you hear “green screen,” wackadoodle, over-the-top special effects in a Hollywood blockbuster might cross your mind. But actually, subtle, layered effects are also achievable with this medium. This is a video still from artist Erin Robinson Grant‘s body of work:

Erin hails from Portland, Oregon and is currently in the middle of a four week residency at MITCH Collective and she’s noodling on lots of projects. While she’s in town, her expertise will be on display at two workshops in May. Check out her diverse portfolio here.

Erin Robinson Grant

May 9th at the Children’s Museum of the Ohio Valley
2:30-4:30 ages 8-12 $10
Register here

May 16 & 17 at MITCH Collective (two day workshop)
10-3 (lunch break 12-1) ages 15+ $50 (scholarships available)
Register here

Please join multimedia artist Erin Robinson Grant for a workshop about the history and application of “green screen” special effects in video.  This workshop will give participants a hands on opportunity to plan and film a short multi-layered video art piece! During the workshop, participants will:

 – Learn about the history and traditional application of blue screen/green screen effects in film and video as well as viewing contemporary examples created through Adobe After Effects

 – Learn techniques and tricks for successfully filming video in front of a green screen to create layered video as well as alternative methods for video layering

 – Plan and film short video sequences in collaboration with the instructor

Materials will be provided, however, participants must bring a digital device capable of capturing video and then transferring it to a computer (acceptable devices include smart phones, camcorders, and digital cameras).


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Digital Fabrication Residency Part 4

Although technically my tenure in the Digital Fabrication Residency ended in October, nuggets of inspiration from my time as a resident have continued to propel me forward. One of the last workshops was basics on how to use the ShopBot, which is a CNC router (basically the computer reads files and a robotic arm with a spinning endmill cuts the wood to various depths). I had admired the ShopBot from afar since I started at TechShop Pittsburgh. People ShopBot (yes, it’s a verb) lots of amazing things, such as Kerf Case. I was in need of a way to hang my massive Calavera quilt (100″x100″) and thus embarked on my first ever ShopBot project. It was cool to finally make the machine bend to my will.


I  created the vector file in Illustrator, imported it into VCarve (the software that the ShopBot understands) and then set up my 3/4″ birch plywood.

It was pretty choppy partially due to the dull endmill, so I sanded the pieces a lot and after gluing and drilling the interlocking piece together, I shined them up with wood putty.

A galvanized steel pipe spans the gap and you can see the shop bot hangers barely peeking out the side. I was going for subtle.

The Enduring Skull show opened on October 31 and will be up til December 7 at Revision Space in Pittsburgh, PA

And now back to the monkeys!

This rendition of Barrel of Monkeys is for the group show Slime Time that opens Friday November 7th at the Mr. Roboto Project during Unblurred. My goal was to combine ideas generated by the Digital Fabrication Residency about digital embroidery into the project and go crazy. SO…I learned how to maneuver around the Janome Digitizer software in order to create customizable monkey expressions.

I embroidered the varied expressions with the CNC embroiderer at TechShop Pittsburgh. Once I got the hang of the software it was quite fun to manipulate the facial expressions. I created 14 different monkey faces with emotions ranging from anger to rapture.

In addition to the classic red, I also was compelled to play around with this funkalicious fabric.

The installation will interact with the gallery space and feature the monkeys interlocking arms in that oh-so-charming way they do. Check out the opening on Friday at 7 pm! (5106 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh PA)

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I Left My Heart in San Jose

On my recent visit to the West Coast I stopped off in San Jose and made a quick trip to San Francisco.

beautiful morning view

In San Francisco I visited the studio of quilting guru Joe Cunningham. Joe was one of the artists in the group quilt show back in January at Wheeling Artisan Center. I popped by his studio and had a great time picking his brain. I also snuck a peek at a work in progress and heard the stories behind over a dozen of his quilts.

One of Joe’s many wise sayings was “19th century quilters made quilts from an idea not a pattern.” I really enjoyed learning more about his process and even seeing one of the quilts currently being stitched.

Joe’s workflow for creating his own CNC stitching patterns ties in very well to what I’ve been learning about digital embroidery through the Digital Fabrication Residency. I’m itching to experiment with it!

The Pacific International Quilt Festival is the largest quilt show on the West Coast. I went to see Calavera on display along with 800 other quilts…I had never been to a bonafide quilt show before and it was quite a sight to see!

There were so many quilts of all kinds of freaky stitching. I saw a wide range of traditional and modern quilts. This was a quilt with a felted top that caught my eye since it broke the rectilinear norm:

seeing this in person never gets old!

Speaking of quilts…

No trip of mine to San Jose is complete without quilting a sizable quilt top at TechShop San Jose. They have a nifty HandiQuilter Longarm Machine that’s a lot of fun to use. This picture inspired my second large-scale quilt:

I mapped out the pavement pattern and drew out the roots from a bird’s eye view.

The pavement pieces were lasercut out of thrift store clothes. I used the CNC vinyl cutter to make a large pattern for the tree root component. Instead of the blade attachment, I used the pen plotter.

This is a sneak peak of the quilting process I embarked upon in San Jose:

I’m still figuring out how to finish the edges. I’d like to try something other than a straight edge square. 

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Digital Fabrication Residency Part 3

It’s been tough to keep up with all the goings-on in the Digital Fabrication Residency. I feel like I’m in school again with the constant wave of stress and excitement propelling me forward. I can’t believe it’s already the final week of this six week adventure! There’s so much to cover. I’ll be busy long after the residency concludes thanks to all the amazing inspiration!

We’ve been learning about digital embroidery and worked a lot on digital textile designs. I always knew there was a lot to learn about fabric, but this crash course really opened my eyes to the wide world of textiles. Kari gave a great presentation about fibers including this diagram showing zoomed in images of various fibers:

The possibilities of digital embroidery are super exciting! Learning the ins and outs of the bizarre software is….an experience to say the least. I grabbed some screenshots of the digitizer software. This one shows how it maps out all the stitches in different colors:


This is a detail of a flower embroidery created from a JPEG image that was doctored in Illustrator so the software could interpret it better:


Right now I’m tinkering with embroidering a variety of facial expressions for a sculptural textile installation…more on that later.

One of the projects we worked on was designing a fat quarter to be printed by Spoonflower. Kari covered several nifty tools in Illustrator and Photoshop to create unique patterns. I created a palette from a Toulouse Lautrec painting:

At the Moulin Rouge


After playing with funky spirographs and clipping masks this is what I came up with:

I can’t wait to see the printed fabric!

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Digital Fabrication Residency Part 2

Learning new software is HARD. Good thing I have top notch teachers who are very patient (not to mention entertaining). We started off in SketchUp, which is free, and then transitioned to Modo, which is way more complicated and entrancing. Learning hot keys and how to navigate through the virtual space has become second nature. I’m still getting my bearings with how to purposefully manipulate the three dimensional objects, but happy accidents are pretty cool too.

My hands-on brain has been struggling with virtual thinking, so I made an intermediary design as a stepping stone. I knew I wanted something that could interlock and was thinking about vertebrae. I realized the vertebrae looked kind of like a hexagon with three arms jutting out so I ran with that. For the interlocking mechanism, I was feeling nostalgic and thinking about barrel of monkeys:

So I started out with a hexagon shape and added candy cane crooks to each corner:

Then I modified each of the straight lines to come up with a more organic looking shape:

This bad boy has now been printed and I’m planning on making a mold to mass produce it and turn it into a 3D textile print of sorts. Hooray for baby steps!

In other news…

I’ve been researching exciting textile work through and other online forums. Seeing the Quilt (R)evolution show at the Dairy Barn in Athens, OH was insanely inspiring. It’s amazing to see the skills artists acquire through decades of practice in such tiny, precise stitching. I was repeatedly berated in art school for my interest in textiles because of all its art history baggage, but I just really love working large and am hopelessly drawn to the process of quilting. One of the new ideas I had for a quilt was inspired by the Dairy Barn show and this work by Zoe Sargent:

I still have laser cut circles left over from Calavera and it would be sad to let them waste away in a drawer. The novel idea of holes in a quilt inspired me to play with the notion of relocating missing circular pieces. I’ve been interested in inversion for a while.

50″x40″ 2009

Plus, my hands are itching to play with material! The endless cycle of textile –> print –> textile creates a plethora of lost-in-translation-moments-of-beauty.

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Digital Fabrication Residency Part 1


This week marks the beginning of a six week virtual residency that I’m super excited to be a part of. It’s called the Digital Fabrication Residency and encapsulates exactly what I want to learn. Taking classes at TechShop Pittsburgh has been great, but I want to get into the nitty gritty of creating files and putting my personal touch on the things I digitally fabricate. The two people behind the Digital Fabrication Residency are super cool extremely knowledgeable folks who have put a lot of thought and preparation into this residency. Since this is the first run I’m part of the guinea pig BETA group.

My initial list of goals for the residency keeps growing! It’s going to be a very busy six weeks. One interesting tidbit is how much overlap there is between textiles, printmaking, and digital fabrication. All of those things interest me a great deal, but I didn’t realize how much they shared conceptually before beginning this residency.


  • make cool stuff!
  • push SCALE (i.e. go big or go home)
  • textile patterning in Illustrator
  • Spoonflower (custom fabric printing website)
  • digital embroidery (embroider on wood veneer, felt, cardboard (then turn flat planes into 3D sculpture))
  • felting?
  • Photoshop texture displacement with color blindness tests
  • amplify 3D printing file creation skills in SketchUp and Modo
  • master the pen tool in Illustrator
  • make files for ShopBot
  • combine 3D printing prototype with silicone mold to mass product an interlocking building block
  • colorblindness test animation in SketchUp

The spirit of play is my main motivator. I’ve already learned a LOT in the first three days and I’m sure the explosions in my brain will continue! The first workshop covered some basics in SketchUp, which I had never used before. Learning how to navigate in three dimensions using a mouse was the trickiest part!

sketchupThis image is a sketch I made translating my obsession with mazes into three dimensions. I know it doesn’t make sense to actually print because of all the support material that it would require; however, we did learn about the artist Rachel Berwick who uses support material in an interesting way.

Rachel Berwick

My plan for boosting my SketchUp skill is to try to recreate this ceramic piece:


…we will see how far I get…

I’m also noodling on different kinds of connectors to come up with an interlocking 3D printed prototype that I can cast and create a mutable sculpture. Something related to vertebrae and stackable chairs…

Screen shot 2014-09-17 at 7.16.57 PM

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