Grading/Assignments overview

Class participation = 10 points

Research, reading, and writing on your blog = 10 points

Assignment 1 = 20 points (Transmaterial Interchange) Designing, 3D modeling, Laser cutting, rapid prototyping, constructing and posting to your blog

Assignment 2 = 25 points (Anthropogenic Stalactites) Designing, 3D modeling, rendering, printing, framing and posting to your blog.

Assignment 3 = 25 points (Transpecies Growth, Virtual/Real/experiential Skins, virtual sculpture/installation) Designing, 3D modeling. Not required though possible are:  laser cutting, rapid prototyping and stop-motion video documentation in creating a final project

Participation in Final Exhibition = 10 points

Assignment 1 (Transmaterial Interchange) Conceptualizing, designing, sketching, 3D modeling, laser cutting, rapid prototyping, constructing, writing about, documenting and posting to your blog. The assignment is inspired by the speech titled, “When Blobjects Rule the Earth,” where Science Fiction writer Bruce Sterling speculates in the future of graphics simulation, that practical differences no longer exist between computer-generated models and physically manufactured objects.

The secret of drawing. Watch how drawing can change the world.

Procedure/Protocol: Conceptualize, research and then do three high-quality pencil drawings in your sketchbook thinking about how you can use your art/science research agenda and the tools of 3d modeling, laser cutting and rapid prototyping on our 3D printers to create a relationship between the cube and blobject. Add at least a few paragraphs of well-researched writing with keywords in your blog. Post links to at least a few artists or scientists, that you found inspirational to this blog proposal and design.

The three sketches fo rare to be 1) perspective view 2) top view and 3) side view of both the cube and may allow the blobject to enter the cube or hold onto it.

Update your sketching abilities by watching this tutorial. 

Critical questions as you imagine your design: What is the scale of the blobject?  The word itself is held to be a portmanteau, a contraction of “blob” and “object.” How do the materials it would be constructed of impact the meaning of work? How might form, color, and site play a role in this work? Is there potential socio/political or art/science implications of what you are doing and proposing?

Does your form reference other things metaphorically? With the box being wooden and the rapid prototype being plastic or rubber, what are the environmental concerns and life cycle of each object and what are the manufacturing exchanges?

Will you paint your wooden box or 3d printed object? What kind of skin might you imagine on your cube? Will it be alive or dead or decaying?

Think about additive growth or subtractive processes in making this. What color monofilament will you use? Will the two objects come together in unexpected ways? Will you light the interior of your project or will it move in some way?

Do the inflatable and miniature objects reference a larger object such as a work of architecture?

New Book: Bubbletecture: Inflatable Architecture and Design 

Limits. The cube or rectangle or architectural design will be coming from a single sheet of 1/8 inch baltic birch plywood, so plan accordingly in how you do material. A cube of 3 x 3 x 3 inches, for example, will allow you to have enough material given the 12 x 12-inch baltic birch sheet.

Process: Think outside of the box (pun intended) and imagine the next art-science-invention for your Transmaterial Interchange. Take chances and do not be afraid to ask seemingly silly questions.

Projects are to be conceptualized, researched, sketched, modeled, laser-cut, glued, rapid prototyped, constructed, photo-documented, blogged about and critiqued. If you are making a work that fits a particular context such as site then the site can be a part of the model.

Example of Cube and Blobject together

Software/machines; we will use in this project: c4D, Illustrator, Laser cutter, TypeA.

Use 8 1/2 x 12 archival paper sketchbook for three sketches of a cube and abstract form (blobject) coming together. The abstract and the machinic forms coming together should be a metaphor for a research agenda or interest set, that engages your interests.

You can etch on the cube with raster or cut into it with vector cuts. To construct the cube you will be using:

You will create an SVG file format from the Makercase and then modify further into Illustrator for export into a format that the laser cutter can read. This must be saved as Illustrator 8.

Mona Hatoum’s work uses sculptural form and shadow to create evocative and visceral worlds focused on drawing the viewer into emotive and intellectual worlds.

Roxy Paine

Driessen and Verstappen jointly developed a multifaceted oeuvre of software, machines, and objects. They attempt art as a spontaneous phenomenon that creates systematically. Art that is not entirely determined by the subjective choices of a human being, but instead is generated by autonomously operating processes.

Student Blog Examples from the Transmaterial Interchange Assignment

Song Chow

Abbie Zimmer

Lincoln Ficek

Assignment 1 technical links: 

Laser Cutting Resources

Here are some web apps and online generators that create plans/files ready for laser cutting.  A few of these I’ve known for years but much more come from The Ultimate Guide To Laser-Cut Box Generators (Instructable by SparkItUp).  Note that most of these will output files in SVG format, a common vector-based file format readable by most software (including Adobe Illustrator) used for graphics, fabrication, and laser cutting.


MakerCase. My favorite for simple boxes.  Tell it your dimensions and outcomes a box ready to laser cut.  There’s also ConnectionLab and

Festi web interface.  Many curved and fancy styles of boxes, trays, drawers, shelves, and more can be generated.  Haven’t used it yet but it looks very promising.

Joinery.  (Instructable here)  Very interesting online tool to generate joints of all kinds to edges – not just finger joints, but suitable joints for laser cut fabric, cardboard, and paper…!  NOTE: This tool is designed for adding joints to existing non-jointed plans and shapes, not for building plans from scratch.

SparkItUp’s Guide lists additional box-building scripting languages and plugins for Inkscape for the adventurous power user.


GearGenerator.  Great tool for creating “involute spur gears“, i.e. gear wheels with interlocking teeth.


SVG Nest.  Trying not to waste expensive acrylic/materials?  Use this tool to pack (“nest”) your pieces into the smallest area possible before laser cutting.

Wolfie’s SVG Puzzle Generator.  Generates jigsaw puzzles.

Assignment 2 (Anthropogenic Stalactites) Designing, 3D modeling, rendering, 2D printing, documenting and posting to your blog.

Critical issues about the use of plastic and the article here: Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin’s book Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments, and Epistemologies

Procedure/Protocol: Collect 5 junk objects of any kind from the street, trash can or at a thrift store, or from your home collection if you like.  They must not be greasy or toxic and no larger than 3 feet in any direction. Things like cans, glasses and other things commonly found tend to be boring. Try and find objects that have a sense of history or cultural dialogue. Do not bring any bottle of any sort, alcohol or container as one of the objects.

Anything you bring from a thrift store must be cleaned, washed and disinfected before you bring it into the school for modeling. Use your calipers (we will supply these) to measure the objects and you can draw in your sketchbook, or translate live into the software as you model the works on the computer. Take these five modeled objects and place them in a context of the natural environment they are infecting and inhabiting.

Create one 12 x 16-inch print of a render in consultation with the professor. These will be in advance of larger prints on the 2D printers for the final exhibition of the Anthropogenic Stalactites on the 2D printer for the final exhibition. That printer is located in 380A.

Look at an example of actual installations by:

David Mach

Shows the use of multiples to make a statement about over-consumption.

Edward Burtynsky 

Further frames the conceptual aspects of this project in the enormity of the environmental impacts of human consumption.

John Gerrard 

Shows the value of being able to accurately 3D model an environment so a suspension of disbelief is evident.

Questions to ponder: How are the objects I have chosen related to the natural environment? Do they derive substance from the environment or change it in some way? Where do these materials end up in our biological worlds? Are they changing our natural world?

Past student examples:

after crit student changed project

Anthropogenic Stalactites

Choose one of the three projects listed below, A, B or C.

For students taking the course a second time do: 1, 2 or 3 or propose to the professor what you would like to do. 

Assignment 3  A (Trans-species Growth) Designing, 3D modeling,  laser cutting, rapid prototyping, and stop-motion video documentation. 

This will start with 3-quick sketches of 3-different ideas, no matter the choice you make of A, B or C.


Once the student and faculty have determined your idea to pursue: a) Sketch your project three sketches: perspective, side, and top view. b)  3D model c) Render and post to your blog and d) create one 2D print and or rapid prototyped or laser cut work to present at the end of the semester exhibition.

One possible process: Objects can be coated with agar a growth medium and then grown while you do a stop-motion that you record with your phone of that growth. If you use this method: Objects should be small enough to allow you to place in a clear glass jar for the documentation or you can use blown glass or a plastic vitrine and ideally the works must be kept in a dark moist place and out of the sun to allow growth.

Be careful when opening objects to use a dust mask to prevent spores, viruses or other fungi from getting into your nose.

What is PLA plastic? (PLA) is a biodegradable and bioactive thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch (in the United States and Canada), cassava roots, chips or starch (mostly in Asia), or sugarcane (in the rest of the world). In 2010, PLA had the second highest consumption volume of any bioplastic of the world.

Artists Examples

http://www.kenrinaldo.comBorderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash under the projects section

Suzanne Lee: Designer Suzanne Lee shares her experiments in growing a kombucha-based material that can be used like fabric or vegetable leather to make clothing.

Suzanne Anker:  Remote Sensing Series using 3D printers.

Using Fungi to grow materials  Motherboard dives headfirst into the R+D world surrounding the development of fungi as a viable replacement for plastic, and the people who hope it can lead to a better and more sustainable future.

Assignment 3  B (Virtual / Real / Experiential Skins / installations)

Conceptualizing, researching, designing, 3D modeling, rendering, posting to the blog and 2D print and frame.

You can also build the project physically if you like, or virtually and or integrate your models into the Unity Game Engine, with the first-person controller. I do not recommend the Unity focus if you have not done Unity in the past.

Sketches are for a new art installation in a major museum in Helsinki Finland called the Kiasma Museum.

These ideas can fit a broad theme of interactive art, participatory art, VR, installation, material explorations, and then start to conceptualize and imagine what you will build given an unlimited budget.

In discussions with the professor, you will then fully research one of those ideas to add context.

You will then create three high-quality drawings of your concept for the pursuit and creation of the 3D models.

You are required to write and post to your blog a 200-word proposal of what you would like to accomplish with your final piece and this work or project 2 work should be printed on the archival ink printers and framed for the exhibition in Hopkins Hall.

For the drawings, you can use pencil drawings with color in your sketchbook.

Consider first and foremost your audience and the user experience of your work. What do you want them to feel? What do you want them to see? What do you want them to experience? Are their multiple audiences both human and animal?

Artists to consider:

Carsten Höller disturbs his viewers’ assumptions with interactive sculptures that deliberately and playfully induce doubts and confusion. As a former scientist in evolutionary ecology and olfactory communication, Höller uses the audience as subjects of perceptual and psychological experimentation. His work sets out to study a particular concept. In the past, Höller has made series devoted to the ideas of security, children, love, hallucinations, happiness, animals, games, doubt/certainty, and a group of sculpture/vehicles that looked at different modes of travel.

Think about Amy Youngs and her creation of a shell for Hermit Crabs to inhabit:

Iris Van Herpen VOLTAGE

Olafur Eliasson uses light and glass to create transformative perceptual and conceptual works:

Think about Zhang Huan and his meat suit and implied strength as well as the grotesque quality of the work.

Or the Spider Haus by Ken Rinaldo and the artificial plants that allow the spider to inhabit this artificial world: or the Augmented Fish Reality work that allows a fish to drive a robotic fish tank:

Or Nina Katchadorian and her mended webs, which become strange collaborations with spiders:

Think about Carsten Hoeller and his upside-down goggles:

Stelarc is one example of this mode of inquiry and here is a short video of the project Extra Ear:  Stelarcs third hand:

James Turrell uses large-scale installation and light or lack of light to change our perceptual systems. His work encloses the viewer to control and manipulate the way we receive light.

Wim Delvoye:

Ionat Zurr:

Sabrina Raaf:

Assignment 3  C Biophilic design

Objective: To create an object that uses the principles of Biophilic design and is 2D printed and or laser cut or printed on a 3D prototyping machine, as the final output.  Includes 5-renders fully lit and placed in the appropriate context, for presentation during the final crit on your blog.

3 ideas and quick rough sketches of these and then in discussions with the professor will settle on and fully research one of those ideas to further add context. You will then create three highly-detailed drawings of your concept for the pursuit and creation of the 3D models. You are required to turn in a 200 word written proposal of what you would like to accomplish with your final piece and we will go over your proposals to discuss artistic and technical merits.

You should upload these onto your blog at a high enough resolution to fill the computer screen without raster effects. Please do not email these to me.

Research must be a part of this project. i.e., what artists have informed your approach, what art/science movements etc. Be ready to discuss in class, which artists, scientists or philosophers have you researched and which have influenced you and why?

Sketches and a one-page proposal 200 words are a required part of this project once approved.

A good place start is to read this article:

Biophilic Design:  A Review of Principle and Practice

…and to review all the links below.

Key concepts: Symbiosis, living systems, coexistence, sustainability, green living, recycling

For your final presentation, you will be required to print one of your 3D works on a 2D printer in our lab and framed professionally by you or a service. You will be graded on this aspect of the project. Plan on at least one final digital print minimum size 24 x 16 inches or preferably larger, as the scale is an important part of communicating your idea! Please discuss with the professor for larger printouts that can happen on our printers.

While you will be turning in one to two printouts for display in the show and 1-2 rapid-prototyped works you are also required to turn in 5 rendered stills at a minimum size of 1024 x 768 at 72 DPI posted to your blog. Each render should have a different lighting scheme and camera angle.

Additionally, if you do a 3D print of the project you will complete and submit your rapid-prototyped project in the exhibition as sculpture, installation or performance.

Past Student Examples

Review the following links for inspiration:

Genetic Heirloom series

The Farm Fountain

Turren Van Balen and Biotopes

The Microbial Home

Moss Table Carlos Peralta biophotovoltaics

Carnivorous domestic robots