Sunday, October 30, 2011

October 2011 Happenings in the Studio

Welcome to H.I.T.S., (Happenings In The Studio), where I share what I did artistically over the last 31 days. I'm mid-project working on a commission to make hanging lights, which I called Cactus Lights (click to discover what is a Cactus Light).

Since how I just want to finish the lights, I'm going to have a super short H.I.T.S. for this month. I'll make it up to you next month with a video of the installed lights.

To give you scale the strand on the right is as tall as me. There are going to be three hanging lights: 7', 5.5' and 3.5' tall strands.

This is a color test and an experiment with different types of bulbs.

To give you an idea of what they are going to look like check out this post on the progress I made on the lights during October.

If you want to read more check out the Table of Contents for the H.I.T.S.

See you December 1st, 2011 for the next posting of Happenings in the Studio.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Jae Rhim Lee: My mushroom burial suit

Mushrooms will save the world

In 2011 I heard Paul Stamets speak at the environmental conference, Bioneers, about how mushrooms will save the world. They are the most ancient, keystone species and yet the least studied.

In the above photo Paul is holding an Agarikon, which is the oldest mushroom. It can live for up to a 100 years and when it's diluted to 1% it's the effective way to treat the Bird flu.

The photo was borrowed from the wiki article on Paul Stamets.

Paul Stamets considers himself the voice for fungi. From his research he's discovered mushrooms that can eat oil spills and nuclear waste, along with a mushroom who's fiber is good for making clothes, and a mushroom that is super dense in vitamin D.

Paul has several patents pending on uses for mushrooms. I was curious to see what exactly he discovered, so I looked up his application on by searching by his last name.

Free Documentary Films

I found this site, Free Documentary Films, where I can stream 1,800 documentaries. Plus they are commercial free.

I'm seriously considering cancelling my netflix account. Why pay $8 when I can stream for free?

On Free Documentary Films, I just watched The World According to Monsanto, which talks about this multinational company who's trying to control the world by owning all of the seed.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thoughts from Bioneers Conference 2011

Bioneers is the largest, annual environmental conference in the USA. It’s like TED talks, except with a hope filled focus on how to take care of the earth. The three day conference happens every October in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The one session that I connected with took place in a small tent, that seated a couple hundred people. Everyone was barefoot and sitting on the ground. We held a council and shared our knowledge on how we have experienced the divine feminine and the divine masculine.

To me the divine feminine isn’t a goddess. Instead it’s a balance of traits that I‘m searching for, the ones that will make me most effective and content in life. Women are known for being nurturing, but they are also fiercely protect their loved ones. Within myself, I want to be a whole person, both a cook and a bread winner. Then if it happens, find a man who is also actualized and together we’ll be like iron sharpening iron.

Just as women have natural strengths, men do to. I think of the divine masculine as a benchmark for the men I look to date. Are they gentle? Do they know when and how to protect? Are they humble? Are they compassionate? Do they guard their health as being the most important, for how else can you serve without life?

We talked about the imbalance of masculine versus feminine power and how men and women need to treat each other as equals. The session was co-facilitated by a man who looked like my late grate-grandfather, Popsi. He said it was up to the men to honor and respect the women by giving us space to do what we do best: taking things deeper, being creative, forming communities, sharing feelings…

Hearing from this Popsi look-alike that ladies should be praised and valued as essential, was edifying. I felt important. I felt vital. Being apart of this circle meeting gave me the further conviction to better myself, to find that balance of traits within.

Janet Echelman: Taking imagination seriously | Video on

Friday, October 14, 2011

What are Cactus Lights?

Cactus Lights are hanging lights that have either glass or plastic repurposed containers for lampshades that are then shoved inside of a black, knit matrix.

After knitting the black cord into a giant sock like shape, I color the glass containers, drill holes in them for the electrical and for the support structure to go through, and then wire the lights with LEDs and hook them up to a touch pad.

Each light that I've crafted is unique to fit its home. All of the elements are variable: the length, the scale of the containers, the number of strands per cluster, the theme, the color of light… The light is soothing, like sitting around a Christmas tree.

duo cactus lights
worms viewWS

More about the Cactus Lights:

Andrew’s 12 foot tall Cactus Lights
Glass Cactus Light Commission 
More of my colorful art, on my portfolio site,

progress on glass Cactus Lights

Since 2009 I've created different versions of my Cactus Light. It's a simple design that is like a Chinese Finger trap game. I knit an elastic tube and shove containers for lampshades inside of the tube. When they are hanging the objects stay in place, just like when you are pulling really hard to get your finger out of the trap, making it more lodged in place. I then wire the lights with LEDs and hook up to a dimmer touch pad.

My current commission for Cactus Lights are the first of their kind- I'm using glass containers for the first time instead of plastic. That has brought on all sorts of fun challenges to solve. These are photos of the progress for the glass Cactus Lights. There will be three strings of hanging lights, the longest being 7 feet tall.

I collected glass from thrift stores and arranged them on the floor to figure out the order they would hang in.

Then I photographed them and edited out the background, to give myself a visual of what the light could look like. I played around with coloring the lights in digitally, only to find that's not how I enjoy working. I'm analog. Give me markers and paper!

The biggest challenge was locating a supplier for the elastic cord, since how I had run out of the cord I found from a thrift store back in 2009. After three years of looking, a seamstress, Carolyn Craft, with her wonderful industry knowledge knew exactly where to get it made. Within two weeks of talking to her I bought the fabric and had it cut into cord. The three year long search was over! Time to start knitting!

This is a mock install to see how the colors, shapes and length looked in the space. It was super helpful working on-site as apposed to my home studio. I could get a feel for the room and what would work in there.

The lights will hang in between three of the windows on the left. The space is a music room with the world's most comfy love sac (aka enormous beanbag like chair that is stuffed with memory foam). The comfy sac is just out of picture on the right. I'm going to enjoy lying in it looking at the lights.

I used rags and tshirts as reference for figuring out the color scheme. It helped immensely to see the colors instead of imagining them.

Playing around with the idea of going monochromatic.

My home studio- WOW! Talk about a disaster. You can read my mental state and gauge how busy I am by the tidiness of my home. Those of you that know me, know I keep my house very clean.

Note the orange handled pliers on the left. They put the wine bottle into scale. The wine bottle is huge and ridiculously heavy, but oh so cool looking.

Another challenge for this project was learning how to drill holes into glass, so I can wire and hang them. Thanks to the local stained glass store and one of my engineering friends, Paul Franke, I learned that the trick is to use a dremel with a diamond drill bit and water. The water is to keep the glass from getting airborne and into your lungs. I found an eye dropper works best for adding water. I tired using a hose. I ended up very, very cold.

I rarely justify buying tools, but for this project I bought a diamond drill bit set of 50 bits. My cheapo bits were about $20 and they take about 15 minutes to drill a hole 1/8" deep. As opposed to expensive bits, they take a minute to drill a hole. I look forward to upgrading.

After the mock install, I took my color scheme ideas and translated them into marker drawings.

Then I spray painted sample containers, so I can then mix and match and see which colors vibrate off of each other. The trick to lighting design is making a striking light when it is on and when it is off.

As for the wiring, I am playing around with more compact LEDs then I've used in the past. I'm not sure which ones I will go with, but there's time to figure it out.

The plan is to finish these glass Cactus Lights over the next few weeks. Thanks for reading. I'll keep you posted on the progress.

In case you want to look at pretty pictures, check out these photos of Cactus Lights from 2009-Present.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Make your own Shrinky Dinks

After calling around for shrinky dinks and only finding precut shapes, I discovered online that you can easily make your own! Instead of buying the expensive plastic sheets, you can use plastic containers that are either #5 or #6.

You can use markers or if you want to decorate them with pencils first roughen up the surface with sandpaper.

click here to learn how make your own shrinky dinks

I drew this Goliath frog onto a thin sheet of plastic and shrunk it in the oven, making it 1/3 the original size. Shrinking the plastic also makes the plastic super compact and thick (and a tad brittle).

You should look up the Goliath frog. He's the world's biggest frog measuring 2 feet long and of course he's endangered. He's too cool to not be collected. ;-( He is also a delicacy, hence the miniature knives and forks circling him.