All posts for the month December, 2010

I would like to take some time to explain the process I’ve been through with my craft so that others may learn from these methods, and play with them perhaps.  Particularly, I will focus on how I have created polyhedral models over time. 

The first polyhedral model I can recall creating was a cube from this image on the right (click to get a downloadable version).  The caption reads:

Here is a foldable of a “Magic Cube”, which can also be physically constructed using 27 dice. I found this trick in a book entitled “Mathemagic” by Martin Gardner. He quotes “the sum of any row, column, main diagonal (upper left to lower right), or off-diagonal around all four lateral faces is always 42″. The meaning of life revealed !

This is one of the simplest polyhedra to construct… I’m surprised that I hadn’t encountered it in grade school….I do have some memory of mini-marshmallows and toothpicks… to vague to describe though.

That was before I even conceived of making a polyhedra the canvas for digital art.  Before I began working with 3D shapes, I was writing software to develop geometrically defined 2D vector graphics images.  I even developed my own set of libraries to help me generate .svg vector graphics files from  computer algorithms I had written …. geeeek !  Those programs don’t actually work any more because they depended on another piece of software that doesn’t work any more.  However, the algorithms are still inside the play-svg project on SourceForge and I’ve started to convert them into programs that work inside of the Processing graphics environment (see “My OpenProcessing account” link on right for examples). 

The last example was what inspired me to start building 3D model art.  After creating it, I thought to myself, hey, if I made a cube out of this, it would be like a hypercube, a 4-dimensional cube (square:cube::cube:hypercube).  Take a look:

I entitled such a model a “paradox box” because “when you’re looking on the outside of the box, you’re also looking…. inside of a box.” The first model was constructed out of a thick solid cardboard squares with an printed image glued onto it. I hot-glued all of the edges together…it was a pretty messy attempt at SpaceCrafting to say the least.   I recently adapted this script to OpenProcessing to create the following video:

I went on to construct the Platonic Solids using the images I generated with my scripts here:

For the dodecahedron…

for the tetrahedron…

for the icosahedron…

for the octahedron…

and for the hexahedron (cube)…

all available in their native .svg format in the recesses of my DeviantArt account.

Shortly after constructing this, I found out about the Lumiere Ottawa event and thought it would be great if I could make lanterns out of these designs.  This is where I first had the idea of creating a polyhedral frame and attaching printed paper faces onto this frame .  I cut bamboo skewers painted with black india ink and taped them together using hockey tape to create wireframe 3D models.  I then printed and cut out the images above and hot-glued them onto the frame.  Each one was about the size of an orange.  To light them, I stuck a dollar store led reading light inside each one.  It was too late to make a submission to be one of the featured artists (and perhaps I wasn’t ready) so I offered to exhibit voluntarily.  I hung the shapes from a coat rack making a mobile out of  them.  I had learned that Plato ascribed the 5 Platonic Solids to the 5 elements, so I put each element’s representation in its corresponding compas direction (according to the Western mystery tradition).  The next year I applied as an artist to the festival and was accepted for a grant to build a larger, better-lit version of the same mobile (with some minor tweaks to  the images) for the festival.  It got rained on and subsequently fell apart.

After my first exhibition at Lumiere, I felt unsatisfied with the rough edges in my craft, so I went back to that old method I used in that magic cube, developing methods of automating the process of generating decorated “polyhedral nets”, single images that can be folded up into 3D shapes.  I wrote plugins for The GIMP to enable me to generate tilings of an image that could be folded into each of the platonic solids and wrote instructions on how to do this on

Any way you look at it... a star !My next major project was the decoration of Umi Cafe in Ottawa.  Some of my friends were founding members of this co-op business, who did a lot to promote arts and culture community, so I decided to volunteer my SpaceCrafting skills to create some sculptures to bring a playful ambiance to what became for a while like a second home to me.  I wanted to make bigger structures, so I had to go back to using frames for most of them.  However, I realized that with a thicker paper I could create a Great Dodecahedron without using the skewers as seen to the right.  The other pieces I produced for Umi Cafe:

Chilly Doily StarEarthship AscentionMmmm, Dodecahedral StelationsBuck 60 ImpressionsPlatonic Solids Lighly Manifested

The first 4 models were build using the bamboo skewer method.  For the first 3 models listed, instead of building a frame of the whole shape, I build component pyramids that were held together by pipe cleaners or wire attached to each corner of each pyramid.  I tried to clean up the corners of the shapes by taping them with electrical tape but it didn’t look so nice, as it started to peel away as you can see in the picture.  Some of these shapes still remain in Umi Cafe to this day… the tape came away from the bamboo for some of them after a couple years though.

Developing these shapes was rather time-consuming, so I set about finding more efficient building methods for them.  I found that I could create the component pyramids by printing a foldable arrangement of tiles onto a heavy cardstock, and to my surprise, still got some light to pass through it.  I then glued wire or pipe cleaners into the corners of each pyramid, twisting them together to connect each corner. 

This was the method that took me full force into doing decorations for the dance festival scene this summer (my Past features page indicates where this work/play took me).  Unfortunately many of these paper models were destroyed in places where they were subject to rain; even though I attempted to waterproof them will spray arcrylic and painted-on arcrylic gel, they turned to mush when they got wet.  However, with the help of my other alter ego Cubeball the Magical Jester, I made the best of what might have seemed like a tragedy, as you can see here:

I later made party hats out of this smashing addition to my costume.

Aften several similar embarrassments, I realized what I needed to was to laminate my images.   Lamination services were totally out of the question at around $3 per page, and even lamination supplies at retail seemed to be an exorbitant cost with little or no budget for my creations.  However, I found out that contact paper was relatively cheap compared to laminate, and so I tried it out on a couple of models.  It proved to lack the waterproofness and rigidity that lamination offers.  Later I found out that at wholesale price, pouch laminate supplies from GBC were about a quarter of what they were in office supply stores.  So I ordered some through a friend who let me use his t-shirt making hot stamper to laminate my images.  It was definitely a “hack” that did not look as nice as laminate run through a laminator, but it worked alright and withstood the test of Lumiere Ottawa 2010′s heavy rain and wind.    Although there has been a slight problem with hot glue not sticking to laminate for the attachment of the pipe cleaners, I have found this problem to be fixed by applying the glue directly onto the laminate rather than putting it on the pipe cleaner and pushing it into place.

Over the course of the summer I had several people express interest in buying my pieces.  Although at this stage I had workable craft that I could sell to people in one piece, what I have most recently been striving for is a product that can break down into flat panels to be shipped to anywhere in the world.  And it seems I have just about figured that out.