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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Cross Country Quilting

It all started with this print.

 I’ve been interested in color blindness tests for a while and am currently working on a series of screen prints. This reductive screen print has seven colors.

screen printing

screen printing

After interacting with the extremely talented quilting artist Luke Haynes as a MITCH Collective visiting artist, I decided to challenge myself and translate the print into a very large-scale quilt. I set out to make something for my bed, but got carried away and just kept making it bigger and bigger…

16 yards of fabric went into making the background

I sketched out a modified chevron pattern for the back ground and used my geometry skills (yay Math!) to create a pattern.



optical illusion background

I collected a variety of clothes from thrift stores and used a laser cutter at TechShop Pittsburgh to cut them out into a variety of circle sizes. If you haven’t heard of TechShop, check them out! It was recently featured on NPR in a story about the rise of community access maker spaces.

lasers are awesome

After I laid out all the circles into the background, I safety pinned all of them and then meticulously turned all the raw edges under and hand stitched them into place. This was by far the most time-consuming part of the process. I estimated there are 400-500 circles, but I couldn’t bring myself to count them.

hand appliqued circles

The whole reason I was working so large was because I knew I would have access to a long arm quilter at the TechShop San Jose location. After a crash course on how to use the machine, I fired it up to practice my free motion quilting on a test piece. This was my first time doing free motion quilting. Using it on such a precious project was like throwing a baby bird out of the nest and just hoping it would fly.

practicing free motion on the Avante quilting machine

I love drawing with thread! After a short test-run, I loaded up the quilt onto the rollers and set to work. TechShop San Jose was my cozy new home for the four quilt-filled days I spent there.

all three layers loaded onto the rollers

all three layers loaded onto the rollers


I used King Tut Canaan and King Tut Temple thread from Superior Threads for the grey and white areas and a clear monofilament thread to stitch around all the circles. Thank goodness for invisible thread! Machine stitching around circles perfectly is almost as hard (and impossible) as hand stitching them.

stitching detail

stitching detail

The finished piece measures 100″x100″ and I’m super thrilled about it. This lovely portrait was taken by the all-around fantastic San Francisco photographer Alex Huff days after I finished the machine stitching. Calavera will be on view in Pittsburgh, PA at Revision Space gallery in a group show entitled The Enduring Skull opening on October 31, 2014.

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SGC Printmaking Conference in San Francisco

MITCH Collective set up a vendor booth at last week’s SGC Printmaking Conference in San Francisco. We promoted our residency program to many talented printmakers and challenged passers by to try their hand at assembling seven tangram shapes into a square.

tangram puzzle challenge

tangram puzzle challenge

We met lots of interesting folks and reconnected with friends from yesteryear!

vendor fair set up

vendor fair set up

As part of the conference we toured Paulson Bott Press in Berkeley, CA and saw a demonstration on how to translate Gee’s Bend quilt tops into etching prints.

quilt top soft ground etch

quilt top soft ground etch

In St Louis, I met some of the ladies from Gee’s Bend and took a quilt top workshop from them at the Missouri History Museum. It was very inspirational!

Paulson Bott Press

Paulson Bott Press

Seeing quilting combined with printmaking was a great crossover between two of my art loves.

quilt top proof print

quilt top proof print

There were many exhibitions around the bay area in conjunction with the conference and this piece by Kouseki Ono was a stand out. It is 100 layers of oil based screen printing ink and it creates a very three dimensional effect.

100 layers of oil based silkscreen ink

100 layers of oil based silkscreen ink

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