Monday, April 19, 2010

Leather prototypes & a revelation about space

On the back of thinking about the potential of rapid prototyping, I did some tests where I tried to replicate some of the ideas it made me think of. I wanted to stick the small leather scraps together somehow, and decided silicone would work (something I used in an undergrad project). I started by trying to just patchwork the pieces together with small overlaps. It is kind of successful, but the main problem is the loss of "leatherness". It's kind of an extreme example of the re coated leather that I was talking about in an earlier post.

I then tried layering the pieces, in the way that I imagined that the rapid prototype printer would layer up the material as it prints, albeit on a much larger scale! It really was not successful as it just affirmed the problems with using the waste as it is and trying to get pieces to relate to each other.
Out of frustration I picked up some small random leather scraps and mashed them together like a hamburger with the silicone acting as a binder. It is kind of cool and sticks together really well when dry, however there are still massive limitations to this, again the leatherness is lost. What I'm creating here also is like a composite leather - a downcycling of the resource. The other problem I see with these tests, is that it relies on the introduction of another material element, whereas my aim is to find the inherent potential in the material as it is, without relying on something that completely changes it's properties.
Alongside these tests, I made up a model with some strips of leather (scraps from cutting away waistband excess) - this was to demonstrate what I thought would be possible to model in 3D, of course on a large scale. I modelled the strips over a can, in a woven structure, and then removed the can when the silicone was dry.

I reflected on these tests about 2 weeks after making them and asked some questions...
Why does this last model collapse?
It collapses because I let it go....but the main reason is because the can is no longer there.
The can is like the body...and this is kind of how it works in 3D modelling i.e. you need to model the can too.
The negative space is AS important as the positive. It is what is not there that allows articulation and the ability to react. As well as the can not being there, it is the space between the woven structures that enables reactivity. This is the big problem with the earlier siliconed samples - there is no space, no way for the particles to "speak" and interrelate with each other. This takes me back to the John Jones leather animation - the pieces have independence but speak to each other to create a whole. Otherwise, the pieces become part of an amalgam, like this Japanese pancake where the individual ingredients are difficult to discern.

Rapid prototyping potentials

On the 30/03/10 I did the laser training on Level 11 with Andrew Thompson. Andrew locked the machine but left his keys downstairs, so we were lucky that he brought some rapid prototypes back with him when he went to go and get the keys. I was blown away by them - my first thoughts when seeing the white powdery ones was how it was made up of particles glued together, and the similarities with the small pieces of the leather waste I'm working with. I'm struggling with how I can organise the leather pieces because there is a complete lack of control - from the shape of the leather being cut from, the flaws in the leather that I cut and around, and what is being cut from the leather. I was thinking about leather particles blowing into a shape to make up a 3D form...and it reminded me of the animations produced by artist John Jones:

This shows the sum of many parts - which together show uniformity, but singularly, are individual, unique and surrounded by space...more on this later!

The printed polymer rapid prototypes were even more amazing and what struck me the most is the potential of being able to model negative space - which becomes the filler material when the model is printed. I saw the bicycle chain prototype, and it's articulation is what amazed me - especially coming after my own experiments with tessellations/articulations in textile forms. I realised the possibility of prototyping textiles, as most woven and knitted structures depend on space between yarns/threads which forms the tension of the cloth, and therefore can be modeled in the 3D environment.

Informative marks n scars

Back to looking at the potential of the waste. Some of the leather is rejected because of it's flaws - marks and holes which actually show the history of the animal from which the skin came. When I filmed myself marking and cutting a side of leather for L&D, it had a brand mark which I cut around with the letters "OA"
It is interesting that although leather is a natural product and hence will bear the natural imperfections which are evidential of the acts of the animal which formed the skin, customers of leather products expect the leather to be perfect with no marks. Hence leather is often refinished with a plastic life coating after the marks are abraded.

I think that these marks show a connection between the material and the source - which is something that can have real value. These parts are rejected, but maybe they are the best parts?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Third tessellation test

The final position of the reversed tessellation test is where I start in this last test on the stand. It shows how the articulation works as it shapes over the body. I have started adding some commentary to these last 2 videos - a strange and hard thing for me to do and hear, but hopefully something I will get better at. It is giving me some insight as to how I sound when I talk about my work, so hopefully will help me to express my thoughts in a concise way.
I will use these video's to sketch from, in order to release more of the ideas that there might be here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Reversed tessellation

This is the tessellated sample reversed....
When it is turned inside out, the materiality of the leather is embodied in the scultural form. The leather helps make the shapes....the leatherness is about form rather than feel or appearance

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tessellation on the body

Just having a little play around with the tessellated leather piece on the stand.
After being able to see some of the inside when playing, I decided to use the inside as the outside on the second try (video on the next post). I think this is an interesting concept as the leather creates form only and kind of acts as the bones of the model. I need to reflect on this I'll come back to this later.

Further thoughts (which I may add to):

- the piece falls away from the body where it is attached - the attachment is the start of the interaction with the body and it continues as the articulations work over the body and interact where the angles touch.

Tessellated leather

After the confetti sample, I decided I needed to make a more controlled model. I followed the example in the origami book again, cutting the shapes exactly this time. I had some some leather samples gleaned from NSW leather - these are foiled/perforated leathers - really lovely.

The leather samples divide almost perfectly into 8 squares, with only a small strip of waste down the side. The pieces for the model are right angled isosceles triangles, so I cut the squares in half diagonally.
I decided to use glue (foss - contact adhesive used for leather), as I can get a crisp finish and fix the pieces all the way to the edges without messy/crafty looking stitching. I glued them onto scrap lycra in the origami configuration.

The result is very beautiful and as you can see fun to play with! It interacts with your own movement - and this articulation is created by the spaces. It is an interesting contrast to the paper version which holds it's own weight, and also the direction of the articulations is controlled, which is what holds the form. This is an example of the material fitting the use - this leather is very firm and cardboard like, which lends itself well to this. The waste leather I have been using is a garment weight leather which is more malleable and organic in feel - which are usable properties in it's own right, but not suited to this. So, this exercise has shown that clean and crisp is more visually successful, something difficult for me to achieve with my regular waste. Also, there is something in the articulation and the gaps....what?....there is room for more work here.
Another thing....videoing myself was very intriguing. Viewing myself afterwards doing something gives a different perspective, and I think this could be a valuable way of capturing and understanding what I'm doing, and even changing how I feel about what I've done.

p.s. I just watched the video again and it has triggered further thoughts....
- there is something in watching my hands "doing"
- the collapsing of the model and the way it folds on itself is in itself "uncontrolled", especially in contrast to the paper model. This started out as being very controlled in the material and make, but the outcome has much less stagnancy and a life that none of the other experiments have so

Confetti tessellations

As soon as I saw the tessellated Miyake bag, it reminded me straight away of a fantastic origami book I've had for ages called Home Decorating with origami (Fuse, T 2000, Home decorating with origami, Japan Publications Trading Co., Tokyo, Japan.)
Here's a piccy of the particular model that the bag reminded me of:

I decided to try making something based on this idea using the tiny triangles that are cut when making leather things.
I tried to line up the triangles in a pattern similar to the fold lines of the model.
 I layed the bits onto a scrap piece of lycra (left overs from making hoods).  It started getting very random though as I was using the pieces as they came, and the symmetical pattern went out the window!   They are taped down with double sided tape, and I tried stitching around some, but the edges of the leather pieces really need to be fixed right down otherwise they get "flappy"
I used the zig zag machine to stitch around each piece to fix the edges down well.  The effect is visually good, but the articulation doesn't really happen because the pieces are irregular and too small.  It is a nice use of these very small waste pieces though - it looks like a scattering of leaves or confetti.  The randomness can have a beauty akin to nature, but I think there needs to be some cleanness/control to be really sucessful.  A possible categoristion for this kind of waste is "confetti" or maybe "irregular confetti"

A tessellated bag

When thinking about patchwork things and using small pieces, Denise told me about an Issey Miyake bag that I should look it is, found at

Friday, April 9, 2010

Early articulation and some control

This is an interpretation of an idea from a pattern making book called pattern magic - one of my favs.  I love how the fall of the fabric references the seam line and the simplicity of how the pattern is taken from the flat drawing - the relationship between the flat and the 3d is beautiful.

I made up a version of this using unaltered pieces that approximated the correct shapes in the first example.  I used scrap lycra fabric which I had from making lycra hoods to join the leather at the fold lines - my first try at articulation between the scrap.
It didn't quite sit correctly as the middle piece is too large.  It also really looks like a bunch of junk still because of all the raw edges.
I realised though, that the 1st and 3rd pieces can be random/any shape and the 2nd piece is the bridging piece that needs to be made to fit. This was interesting to me, as it means out of 3 pieces, 2 can be uncontrolled and only 1 has to be controlled, which makes some inroads into my lack of control over this stuff!
This is my second attempt where I controlled the middle piece - it still looks a bit messy, and hard to see what is happening in the picture, however this has potential for further exploration and has started me thinking about in between spaces.  It is the space that I can control and maybe the space is what is more important in allowing the waste to have some expression.

Context Play

This is a little play with context using leather swatches gleaned from NSW leather...I'm not sure if there is any potential it proving or showing anything, or is it just speculation???
Two layers glued together to make reversible badges.  Cute, but is that it?

Thursday, April 8, 2010


After a discussion with Peter Allan on the 5/03/10 about my work, he suggested the idea of gleaning to frame my activity of using post production waste.
A good definition of gleaning and it's background can be found here, where this picture on the left was sourced from.
The correlation between what I'm doing and gleaning is very clear, and I think what I'm doing is staging a design intervention at the point when production waste would normally be discarded.  It means that there is a symbiotic, but dichotomic relationship between my manufacturing activity and the proposed design intervention.

To aid my understanding of gleaning, I watched Agnes Varda's documentaries on the subject - which I loved - more on that later.

I found Simon Lloyd's MA research titled gleaning potentials, which gives me some solid precedence in this area.  The major difference between Simon's and my work, is how he uses gleaning to source found objects in his surrounds, rather than from post production.  Of great interest to me is how he discovers the potential of the gleaned materials through their expression.  The reading of objects through their informative marks has relevance to looking at the properties of leather pieces as certain leather qualities relate directly to the animal from which it was sourced i.e. scars, stretchy belly parts.

This picture of "a typical skin with the best part of the leather outlined" is sourced from Parker, XL 1972, Working with leather, Scribner, New York, p21.

It illustrates how while the pic on the right has the best part shaded, perhaps it can be the area outside the outline - shaded in the pic on the left, that can be the "best" part.  How will I define what is "best" when it comes to leathery expression?

Speculative Recontextulisation

On the 5/3/10 I happed upon the workshop/showroom of Alex Earl on sackville st in Collingwood after going to NSW leather.  This caught my eye and made me go and investigate further.  It is an interesting example of recontextualisation of post production waste - it becomes a piece of art when it is hung on the wall.  However, this is merely a speculation, something has been noticed, but it hasn't led to a design consideration.  It made me reflect on other examples of recontextulisation, with the question as to how many of these have much more going on other than change of context, and how legitimate this is as a design tool.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Joining randoms and a string of flags

I decided to have another go at joining pieces together in a random way, but this time decided to use sewing as the joining method.  Amongst the bunch of scraps I had on the table, I found some pieces joined together like a string - this happens often around the edges of the leather hide when the corners of the cut pieces don't quite reach the edges.
I joined the piece by putting together adjacent edges and stitching, and working my way around in this manner.  I kept joining until I there were no more stringy bits or angles to join up.

The result definitely has potential - rather than recreating a textile, this method uses the shape of the cut pieces to create form.  Something like this could form part of a garment.  I decided to repeat the exercise with another piece of similar scrap.

Another good result.  This started me thinking about how I could perhaps categorise the waste in order to get some control over what is seeming very uncontrollable - i.e. the hide I cut from is always different, I don't know what i'll be cutting from the leather, I don't know why the leather will be unsuable for anything else.  The last point is the thing that I'm thinking I may be able to start predicting, and therefore design a strategy for how I will use certain types of leather waste.  The waste that was the starting point for these exercises reminds me of a "string of flags", which might be a nice way of describing this type of waste :o)
This also got me thinking about classifying the types of things that I'm exploring.  I call this "joining randoms" and have also experiemented with "approximation of desired shapes" and "jigsawing".  The other area is "use of unaltered scrap", which is something I've been attempting to do with every exercise, to try to develop different strategies within this intention.

A lovely bag

I wanted to get some inspiration from some beautiful leather objects, and remembered this bag with belongs to my sister and dates to around the 1st half of the century - not sure of an exact date.  The workmanship is outstanding and it has an interesting functional but aesthetically lovely design.

I attempted to make a version of this bag using some of the leather waste.  I tried to find pieces that would approximate what the pattern pieces would be for the bag - hence using the scrap without alteration.  There were a few off cuts when I sewed the piece together, but mostly I managed to do this with no other waste.
The piece ended up being a crazy warped shape and I didn't capture the beautiful shape of the original bag at all, but again it showed the limitations with using the scrap as it is, and illustrated the lack of control that I have.

Catching up on some findings

This was an exercise where I took the jigsawing idea from cutting the jockstraps and jigsawed the pieces back together - when I'm cutting pieces out I try to reduce the amount of space between, and here I'm trying to reduce the space between the scrap pieces.  It was hard, and I have new appreciation for all those patchworked examples I found earlier.  Also, I was trying to do this without altering the pieces - using them as I found them and trying to find a place they would fit.
To join the pieces together I fused them onto a fabric using vliesofix - a double sided fusing.
Just as an experiment I cut into the created textile and made part of a jockstrap.  It wasn't sucessful - it looked naff, and the leather started peeling off, and was not a use of the leather that had any point (I don't think!).  The jigsawing is an interesting idea, and I think, as Denise pointed out, the interesting thing about this is the spaces in between the scrap and perhaps what they can do. I'm having an issue with the scrappy appearance, and this is a problem with trying to use the pieces unaltered.  The examples of patchwork leather that are most sucessful, work because of the uniformity of pieces, and the crispness, and beautiful finish - something that is difficult to achieve with this kind of leather...this is starting to make me wonder what this leather would be good for...????