This is the story of my artistic process, and how I came to it. While the process was laborious when lived in real-time, hopefully several decades will condense into one exciting page!
It began in my sophomore year of college. I was studying biology, but was beginning to find myself unequal to some of the more technical aspects of the subject. Procrastination is a strong motivator, and one night, wanting to pick up anything but my chemistry book*, I picked up a paperclip. I had recently read Edwin Abbot’s Flatland, and so inspired by this, I formed the clip into a hypercube (tesseract). I liked the hypercube as a subject, and used it frequently, since it seemed cool to represent a four dimensional object in a one dimensional medium.
What followed, was a gradual escalation in the scope and sophistication of my wire-bending projects, along with forays into drawing, and wood and soap carving. By the time I graduated (no longer a biology major), I had made some amateurish works in just about every artistic medium possible.
Thus armed with a history degree, and no clue of what to do with it, I began to take night courses in art while working as a cashier at the Science Museum gift shop. This shop was regularly overrun by groups of school- kids, huge numbers of whom would all buy dolphin necklaces. Seeing this necklace as something I, myself, could make, I quickly calculated that within two years I could be a millionaire dolphin-necklace tycoon! Within a few years, I had, indeed, created a variety of necklaces and other trinkets, which the shop was kind enough to sell for me, and so my plan was realized (minus the millionaire part).
The process of creating new products was arduous at this time, and involved getting books on inter-library loan, sketching cephalopods at the aquarium, buying plastic dinosaur figurines, and endless hours of carving tiny chunks of wax. For several years, I continued this way, adding a few products per year to my line. Since the museum was my main customer, the subjects of paleontology and anatomy were a natural fit, and so I began working back towards my original intended subject of science.
Concurrent with these events, I began to work part time for one of my art instructors, who is a prominent public sculptor. My work for this teacher, and his collaborator, who is an engineer/artist, lasted for many years. Although the term had probably not yet been coined, this duo were in many ways SciArt pioneers. Through my work in their studio, I absorbed lots of techniques and interests, and got an early exposure to computer sculpting, 3d printing, and other emerging technologies.
It seemed to me that one obvious outcome of these new technologies, was that my skill-set of painstakingly carving chunks of wax for weeks on end, was about to become obsolete, and so I did my best to adapt! Through years of tedious experimentation, I learned to use countless computer design programs, and worked with countless fabrication techniques, and by the end, I was able to create, in days, what once took months!
Of course, what I could do, many others could do as well, so if I was to keep my business advantage, I would need to do more than simply replicate what I had done before. And so with each new product, I have tried to push the complexity and detail to a new level.
Throughout this evolution of my product line, I have always worked towards increasing the degree to which they function as real educational tools, rather than just amusing trinkets. One important development was the creation of carefully researched scientific diagrams to go with my products. Also, I’ve often sought and received expert scientific help, and I am always grateful and gratified when I am able to include a degree of accuracy and detail in my products that exceeds that of other available educational materials.
And that is a very condensed account of my journey to SciArt!
*It may have been some other subject.