Saturday, May 21, 2016

Make BIG Robots

This is the Laputan Robot from Castle In The Sky,
with Grant, at Fanime, May 2015.
Let's call this "Version 1.0."

Laputan Robot V2.0

This is a cosplay project for Fanime. The design team and consultants include: Grant, Alex, William, Natalie, and Geoff. The build team includes: Grant, William, Alex, Geoff, and Clark.

From 2015, here are some build moments, days before the convention...

The entire foam creation was built on a PVC frame and worn attached to a backpack frame. The mass and height of this design caused a few issues at the convention... including it being too tall to actually enter the venue, and the frame PVC breaking! These are some of the issues being addressed this year, as the BOoM team works on Laputan Robot V2.0... it needs to be lighter, smaller (so the torso can fit in a car roof carrier,) and a lot stronger. Also, this is the garden version, so now it has two complete arms.

Here are some build moments from this year's new and improved big robutt...

A new, smaller torso mold, which will be used as a base to create a paper mâché torso.

Cornstarch and diluted wood glue, and a lot of newspaper strips.

Geoff has been welding an aluminum frame to act as a spine... this will replace the PVC, which snapped under the tension and weight of the original 'bot.

William and Maria with one of the two halves of the Laputan Robot torso. Fortunately, the weather has been cooperating this year, and these drying parts have come together quite nicely. Another change, which you can see in the top photograph, is the slipcover sleeves for the arm panels. Grant sewed each pocket for every panel of the robot's arms.

BTW, Fanime is this week! There's a bit of crunch here, folks! The good news might be that this creation could be seen at the next Maker Faire... we sure hope they accept our application!

Monday, April 18, 2016

North County Mini Maker Faire is Coming

Another Maker Faire is coming to Southern California! Calling all Makers! And if that weren't exciting enough, this event will coincide with the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum's annual Tractor Show! The North County Mini Maker Faire will be a special exhibit of an already awesome and popular event, featuring steam engines, weaving, antique tractors and vehicles, and the fabulous blacksmithing barn.

On any given day, the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum is a terrific place to visit, to meet craftsmen, makers, weavers, engine, tractor, and history enthusiasts. I expect during the Mini Maker Faire and Tractor Show there will be amazing opportunities to connect with creative and enthusiastic makers, tinkerers, friends.

You do not have to be a participant to enjoy a Maker Faire. It's an affordable, interesting, and inspiring way to spend a day or two, to meet new friends, and discover what's new, or old, and who how things work. Very often there are hands on activities, and opportunities to explore the latest technological advances, or the basics of making, from cooking to crafting, forging to farming.

Come celebrate!
2016 Antique Engine & Tractor Show
North County Mini Maker Faire!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Make Memories With Embroidery

When Maria doodled this darling quartet of kitties, I fell in love with their cool cat style. But, art on a white board is interim, and I really wanted these guys to last. First step: I took a picture of them. I love having photographs of my children's art, a keepsake I can share, and enjoy. But, I was still feeling a need to have the kitties around, so I decided to embroider them on a tea towel. It's easy to do, and makes a thoughtful gesture of admiration for anyone's doodle art.

*The cloth I used was from the kitchen supplies (oven mitts, and dishcloth aisle) at Target. Four cotton, square cloths were sold together, and I like them for covering rising dough, drying dishes, wrapping up baked bread, tortillas, covering bowls of prepared food at a picnic. These sort of towels come in different qualities of cotton, and this particular one was a bit too light... the weave is very lose, and almost gauze-like. In retrospect, I would have looked for something a bit heavier, more stable.*


  • Cotton cloth
  • photocopy of art
  • pencil
  • tape
  • embroidery floss
  • embroidery needle
  • embroidery hoop
  • a light box or a bright window pane
Our improvised light box.
I made a black and white print of Maria's kitties, and taped the picture to a bright window pane. Next, I centered the dish towel over the picture, so that I could trace the kitties onto the cloth with a #2 pencil (The pencil lines wash out.) I didn't change the size of the original kitties, but you can choose to increase or decrease the image before printing it, if it will look better, or make embroidering your image easier.
Here are the kitties, traced from my make shift window pane light box! Because this cloth is so light, and the weave is uneven, it wanted to shift around a lot. Holding it down, with my hands, and more tape helped to stabilize it, but you can expect it to be an imperfect reproduction; fix any wayward lines as you go.
The hoop keeps the cloth stable, so I can keep my stitches even and taut. I had to be careful not too over stretch the cloth... again, this was due to how light and open the weave was. The dish towel warped very easily. I used a slip stitch to embroider Maria's drawing, outlining each figure in three strands of black embroidery floss. A back stitch would work nicely, too.
And here they are... looking as adorable as ever. After a run through the wash and dryer, you can see this cotton is quite irregular, and wrinkly, but I think it's all pretty adorable just the same. Embroidery is not hard to learn, and there are beautiful, inspiring books out there, like Alicia Paulson's Embroidery Companion. The charm of this project is how simple it is, but if the idea of embroidering is too much, consider bringing out fabric markers. Your artist can make original art directly on the dish towels, or you can trace a favorite piece using the same light box technique!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Make Stamps

Playing! Experimenting. Messing up. Trying again. Learning...

I am collecting supplies for stamp making, and print making. It can be as simple as having a sheet of rubber, carving tools, and an ink pad. This time, to make the pig, I traced a sticker of a pig, drawing with a pencil. Then I used my Speedball cutting tool (sold for linoleum carving) and slowly, peeled away the outline of the pig and details. The tool is too big for the tiny piece and details I want to carve, so the effect is what I like to call "rustic." Let's be clear: I am not ready to post tutorials, but I am excited to share the beginning of my journey.

The other thing I tried is making a bigger image to print from the lid of a Styrofoam food container. Humbling! I learned this method when I was an art volunteer in Maria's fifth grade class; the students made and printed portraits of themselves. Now that I've tried carving Styrofoam, (pressing firmly into the soft foam with a pencil, or blunt tool) I can see it's not as easy as it looks. It definitely seems to be something that will work better with large images, and few details. Also, I didn't roll ink on my stamp with a brayer, but just dragged it across the surface of the stamp pad. Anyway, I love the children's art, find it very inspiring, and now that I've tried it for myself I am ten times more impressed with what they made! I may be asking them for tips.

Maria and her classmates are really sweet, fun to work with. And they enjoyed this project so much, it seemed to me it could be a fun activity to bring to Maker Faire. Maybe with smaller stamps? I'm still figuring it out, playing. It's fun. Messy, too. If not Bay Area, then something for one of our mini events, here at the Bird House. There are great ideas and suggestions to be found at Pinterest. I searched "scratch foam printing" and found plenty to get things going!

**Important Update**
So, it turns out food container lids are not the same as the crafting foam the students used when they made their portraits. Happily, the stuff I ordered from Blick will be easier to use, so I am very excited to be getting the good stuff. I had my suspicions, because the styrofoam I used to make the bird was behaving very poorly... no smooth lines, only deep and crumbly, jagged cuts. But thanks to Vicki at Art With Kids, I have been reassured that Scratch-Foam printing boards will be much easier to work with.

If we do share this activity in a Maker event, it's essential to have the right tools, and nice quality materials, because when learning how to make things, it's such a bonus for things to go well. Very often in arts and crafts, especially with children, the cheapest supplies come out... of course this cannot always be helped, but whenever possible I think it's important to use the best available supplies, for greater success, and nicer finished products.