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Week 2 - Building the Sculptures

...and just like that, out came the blades and out came the cutting mats. The gun was hot, and the glue was plentiful. The construction of the sculptures began. As outlined in the 5 week plan, this was set to be a pretty straightforward week compared to last week's multi-faceted project management mindset - Cut. Glue. Build. Go up. So I did, over and over, for several days, following my pencil sketch designs from last week, until it resulted in the foundation of 3 new sculptures: The Factory, The Cathedral, and The Cave:

I know, I know... they certainly don't look like much yet, but this means I've definitely stuck to my intended objectives for this week. How so? Well, I did the project management sweating last week, and while doing so I had identified that this was going to be a crucial step in my 5 week plan. I knew that if I didn't get the foundations of each of these new sculptures nailed down by the end of week #2, then I wouldn't be able to accurately gauge how much time would be needed for adding detail to the works, and how much time would be needed to wire up all of the sensors, lights, and motors. The outputs from this week's task have enabled me to physically gauge the workload required for the remaining weeks, which I was then able to trim back to ensure that the upcoming stages remain achievable, taking me from "how long is a piece of string?" to, well... <------> "this long please!" But now for a confession of my failings this week. I was fully expecting any 'new learning' to be minimal (I mean, c'mon I'd used blades and glue before...) but I very quickly discovered that this wouldn't be the case at all.

Cardboard, it turns out (and I'm sure many of you won't be that surprised by this) is an incredible and highly versatile construction resource. Double-layer. Single-layer. Peeled sheets. Exposed corrugation. Twisted. Shredded. Rolled. Tongue and groove. The list goes on and on. You can get this stuff to do anything you want, and with a little hot glue, man alive does it result in strong structures...

The other revelation this week was linked to the environmental aspects of using cardboard for this project. I was constructing these works from a resource that was plentiful, constantly being thrown away, and completely cost-free. When I initially wrote my Arts Council Wales application for this project back in the early summer, I knowingly cited the use of cardboard as being an effective material in regards to potentially making my exhibits more friendly and approachable for my target audiences. This was based on comments from visitors to one of my earlier trial exhibitions for The Windmill. Visitors stated that an artwork made from such a common and familiar material helped make the artwork feel more "relatable" and "less alienating", which was seemingly important to these new audiences within the world of fine art. So, I raised this point within my application as an effort to foster artwork ownership and artwork relatability for individuals within the local community. However, beyond this, I came face to face with the sustainable implications of my choices this week. Here I was creating works that were commissioned with a respectably sized arts grant, using nothing but recycled cardboard that I was finding, or being given to me for free. But get this - construction grade cardboard is something that is manufactured and sold for arts and craft, but it's clear to me now that this really just isn't needed. The stuff is literally everywhere, and as long as it's not water damaged everything you find is more than strong and reliable enough. Even the act of sourcing it has contributed towards the community engagement elements of Playces, even before the public exhibition has even had the chance to begin! As a result, many local people and businesses already know about the project and are actively gathering and providing me with cardboard to "get these artworks finished for us to come and play with"- what an uplifting, positive, and sustainable cycle this has turned out to be.

So to conclude a second fruitful week for this current 5 week plan - I'd just like to take this moment and raise a glass to cardboard. I'll certainly be keeping this stuff in mind for future controller prototypes and interactive projects I happen to find myself working on, because when it comes to rapid prototyping and reliable homemade enclosures, it looks like the maker movement isn't just about filaments and 3D printing!


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