What America Needs Now is a new Mister Rogers

Without question, Mister Rogers was the television personality who had as big an influence on my life as my family. Mister Rogers had a unique way of speaking directly to us, right through the television. He talked to us as peers,  guiding us to be in touch with our emotions, fostering a generation of kids with a curiosity and a vocabulary for talking with others about emotions and things inside. For many, Mister Rogers was the only person who spoke them about these things.

In considering America today, I believe morality and ethics will be the common ground that America and the world will come back to. Truth may be questionable in an era of fake news, but what’s right is always right and decency to others still stands. I’ve probably watched the video of Mister Rogers testifying before a Senate committee determined to stop government funding of PBS a dozen times, and I still tear up every time he recites the lyrics to the song “What Do You Do With The Mad That You Feel?”. To see the way Mister Rogers connected to the most cold hearted politician in such a deeply moving human way shows me there can be hope. There was once a time when an opposing politician would pause, listen, and make an ethical call to benefit children instead of deciding purely along party lines and rhetoric. With so many government programs we have taken for granted on the chopping block, America needs to hold its representatives accountable to listen to us now more than ever.

I never got to meet him, but sharing the name Fred meant that there was a special closeness about the way I identified with Mister Rogers as a child. I think he connected to everyone that way– This 1998 Esquire piece paints a great picture of him, and this piece in Salon is another I found that conjectures about what his positions might have evolved to in our day and age. Over the last few years (through her friendship with Kevin Smith of all people), I have rediscovered someone else from the neighborhood, Betty Aberlin. Her character Lady Aberlin’s royalty was metaphorical for the nobility we all have within ourselves. In this interview, she speaks about the need for more low key and gentle male role models like Mister Rogers, Alan Alda on M*A*S*H, and more recently Obama. I think she’s right.

With the lack of civility in recent public discourse, more than ever we  role models that teach us the importance of mutual respect and living life as a quest for continued personal growth. Kids and adults need to learn to think much more about “we” than “me”, and we all need to eat a slice of humble pie and realize it’s not about divisions, but about coming together, preferably in the real world. Face it, it’s a lot harder to be nasty to one another when we’re not hiding behind our screens. Regardless of what tribes we belong to, it’s time for us to come together as a society with a renewed moral compass, one whose values everyone can agree on. Living with love, integrity, virtue, and respect for others – without a need to impose our views upon them, and holding that the value of the common good is as important as that of our own.

Where are you, Mister Rogers? Come back.
Remind us to keep aiming high.

There is Always Hope: A Love Letter for America

Happy Valentines Day.
America broke my heart in 2016 but I’m committing to this being a year of positive growth and transformation so I’m sending this message of love out to the world in the hopes that collectively we can all channel our anger, hurt and disappointment into constructive avenues that will make a difference in the world. I didn’t want this post to be just more partisan politics, it’s high time people came together to rediscover the common threads that unite us, not divide us. If you’re like me, you feel like you spent the last 3 months in a permanent panic attack, livid with rage, scared, constantly near tears, hurt, isolated and confused by a world of fake news, denial of science, alternative facts and shock events. Facebook proved to be a bubble made up of primarily cheerleaders who shared my politics. I found myself being upset by and upsetting people, some close, some not so close, from both sides of the political fence. Insults were hurled, friendships were lost, families torn apart. I regret some of the things I said and did, and I know I’m not the only one. We need to have a healing moment, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to come from Washington.

Valentine’s Day is here and it sure feels like love has disappeared from the world. I have been looking for the remotest signs of hope, specifically any kind of vision of how red and blue states can find a common ground to come together. This interview with Jon Stewart touches on so many relevant points, but starting at 3:54, on through when he talks what makes America exceptional, I again begin to feel hope that maybe there can be a common ground. His point is that people are naturally tribal and want to segregate into tribes, but what is extraordinary about America is the way it can transcend that.

I also found some inspiration in my Twitter feed this week when I saw Cory Booker tweeting at some harsh critics a message of love and compassion. I can’t seem to find the exact tweet that inspired me, but this article in the Washington Post talks about how he handles haters. New York state governor Andrew Cuomo picked up on themes of love and unity last week when a train full of passengers scrubbed off Nazi graffiti.

This is America at its best. We are a diverse people, but when we come together, magic happens. This is the exceptionalism Jon Stewart is talking about. Maureen Dowd’s recent piece in the NY times also talks about the Trump’s Gold lining and Americans coming together in reaction our new leader’s divisiveness. Flipping the channels last night I happened upon Accidental Courtesy on PBS’ Independant Lens, which profiled musician Daryl Davis, an African American musician who has spent over 30 years befriending members of the KKK. Slowly, through face to face meetings in which both sides talk and listen, he has put a human face on blind hatred and led many of them to shed their robes and renounce their ways. His story was an inspiration and lesson about a path in which all Americans, red and blue could maybe come together after this election.

If you’re like me,  you’ve probably ruffled someone’s feathers one way or another this year, but today may be a good time to reach out and make a plan to meet in the real world for a drink to begin to mend fences.

I love you America.
Happy Valentine’s Day ❤

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Custom Glass Castings from Digital Designs

This post is a follow up to a previous one about techniques that I have been exploring to transfer digital designs into cast glass objects. This began last year at a fellowship at  Wheaton Arts’ Creative Glass Center of America and was expanded upon this year while teaching at Pilchuck Glass School and in a workshop at Detroit’s College of Creative Studies. In particular, I have  focused on one particular technique; using a low cost desktop CNC machine to carve reusable graphite molds for glass casting multiples. There’s a few design limitations to this approach, but it is an amazingly cost effective approach to creating small to medium scale runs of custom designed glass tiles. The molds hold up for hundreds of castings, and possibly even more, so this is an exciting way of creating custom glass design objects and custom tiles for architectural applications. This will be a big focus for much of my work in 2017.

With a clean and simple design, these new geometric tiles channel the 1980’s era video game Qbert, Islamic mosaics, and leverage the material’s clarity and sparkle. I love the simplicity and the illusory way we see through the smooth top surface to see the relief texture on the backside. I am thinking this will become a set of tabletop design objects, with 6″,9″ and 11″ sizes that interlock. However, I am almost more excited to think of them as architectural tile. How cool would it be to have a wall made of these, or have them as accents embedded in concrete?

Below you will see some of this new carved graphite mold work, as well as some student work from teaching at Pilchuck this summer.  Design constraints of this method center around the fact that this process does not support forms with undercuts. Likewise, the machine can only mill material up to ~2.5″ thick and can only do straight plunge cuts as long as the longest router bit you can find. For most 1/8″ bits this means you cannot do any straight cuts more than 1.5″ deep. However, because graphite is a lubricant and it pretty impervious to heat, once the moisture leaves the material after the first few casts, these molds can be used over and over again, with beautiful results. For any schools or glass studios who are looking to create such a setup, I have created a bill of materials for creating such a setup, totalling under $2500. (BTW, I am available to teach workshops! )

The top of the casting is flat, perfectly magnifying the relief texture of the underside.

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CNC milling the graphite mold

Completed rough pass on CNC, ready for finishing pass

Ladling molten glass into the finished mold

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The tile on the left is upside down, showing the relief on the backside. The relief side is as nice as the front and they would make a beautiful glass brick wall.

I’ll end with some images from the TaDDDaa!!! class at The Pilchuck Glass School this summer. It was a three week deep dive into 3D modeling, scanning, printing and CNC carving. Here’s some of the class’ work with graphite for glassmaking:

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This was my first test with this technique at Wheaton Arts and the process used by students for the class at Pilchuck. Here we see rough and smooth CNC carving of the graphite mold, hot glass in the mold, and final product at room temperature.

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The TaDDDaa!!! class at Pilchuck was a three week deep dive into 3D modeling, scanning, printing and CNC carving.

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My TA Christian with Phirak and Rebecca, who will be teaching a 3D printing clay class at Pilchuck next summer

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Rebecca’s mold based on a victorian pattern

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Jameszie made a Ouija planchette

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Brent supervising his first carve

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John, Lee, Phirak and Nikki trying out their molds

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My student John was a master mold maker so he undertook making a two part blow mold and spent quite some time finishing the graphite to a polish

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Blowing glass into the mold

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Michael’s two part blow mold

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A pile of hot casting molds cooling down at the end of the class casting session

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A fishscale tile design I was playing with

CNC Carving Glitch Art

Greetings from the woods of Stanwood Washington where I am teaching in the remote paradise known as the Pilchuck Glass School. Session 2’s theme is Play and our class has been playing with methods of creating glass castings from digitally generated sculptures. 

As part of the class we are CNC carving graphite molds so I brought a bunch of graphite that I bought on eBay. I had previously carved blocks that I had bought from this guy with no problems so I was bamboozled when I started to have carving issues with my molds here. I spent the better part of the last two days wrestling with the XCarve, thinking the axis slipping was mechanical. Then I realized the carbide bit was totally shot and realized the problem. The CNC is finally back to carving the other/ softer graphite like it was butter. I finally carved this mold I’ve been trying to make, but only did the rough pass. I think I like the terraced stepping… What do you think!? 

In the meantime, please enjoy my latest work with graphite glitches….







Doctor Who’s Boneless Inspired By Fredini’s Zombie Army of 3D Print Fails!

This article How 3D printing glitches inspired these Doctor Who effects was recently brought to my attention. The article (and several others like it on the web) talks about how 3D printing “glitches” like my Zombie Army  print fails were the inspiration for the BBC show’s villains, the “Boneless”. To my great surprise and delight, the example 3D print fail being cited as influential on the Boneless was one of my earliest self portraits! As a Doctor Who Fan going all the way back to middle school, its quite an honor to have been of service to the Doctor.

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“Boneless” was the name the Doctor gave to creatures from a two-dimensional universe. They were able to reduce both lifeforms and other three-dimensional objects to two-dimensional. After taking on three-dimensional forms themselves, they were also able to restore objects back from two-dimensional to three-dimensional.

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This 3D Printed self portrait (I call it “Max Fredroom”) was one of my earliest print failures on my original Printrbot printer, and has been cited as influential on the visual style of Doctor Who’s Boneless.

Come Learn 3D Modeling, Scanning, Printing & Glass Casting with me at Pilchuck in June!

There’s only a few weeks until my class TaDDDaa!, which covers a range of digital processes for glass casting at the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood Washington and there’s still a couple slots available! Session 2 runs May 30-June 17. The course will combine a 3D modeling, scanning and 3D printing/CNC routing track with a physical track for glass casting with lost PLA kiln casting and hot casting into CNC carved graphite molds.

Apply today and join me in the woods for the time of your life!

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This sequence shows the progression of a 3D scan being manipulated digitally, the 3D printed sculpture, and its final incarnation as a cast glass object.

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This sequence shows a CNC routed mold that can be used for hot glass casting.

Putting the NefertitiHack Scan-Dal to Bed

This article is an apology to Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles’. I hope my questioning of your methods doesn’t land you in hot water. Last week, my post There’s Something Fishy About the Other Nerfertiti really blew the lid off a debate that has recently had a lot of chatter in online 3D scanning, printing and art circles. My post debunked the possibility that your art project The Other Nefertiti was scanned using an Xbox Kinect sensor. Immediately after my posting, the internet seemingly exploded with commentary about how the “Nefertitihack” had to be a hoax. At the end of the day, I don’t think it matters whether you scanned the artifact with a Kinect or procured a file from other sources because what you have created is a wonderful dialogue about the provenance of antiquities, ownership, copying and a strong argument for openness and sharing of data. What’s great is that this priceless antiquity is now within reach of anyone who cares to experience it and people are interacting with Nefertiti in unique and personal ways they never have been able to before.

The repercussions of my post began with Hacker News picking up on my post, which produced a ton of traffic and some great comments. The Nefertiti Hack: Digital Repatriation or Theft? was the first press I’m aware of that began to seriously consider that things with the story didn’t add up. Hyperallergic’s Claire Voon then produced some of the most insightful commentary Could the Nefertiti Scan Be a Hoax — and Does that Matter?, and it all culminated with the Times’ Charly Wilder’s follow up  Nefertiti 3-D Scanning Project in Germany Raises Doubts (She was aghast that none of the three experts she had spoken to for her original article had picked up on the possibility that the data was too good for their capture method).

So we may never know the truth about the true origin of the file. I tend to think that it is somehow derived from an official museum scan, which was somehow copied in the creation of their 3D printed edition). However, the real conclusion I’ve come to is that it doesn’t matter. What matters is something the internet has taught us all along. From Wikileaks to Nefertiti, information wants to be free. Already, a quick google search will turn up a range of Nefertiti derivative works ranging from interactive art to Lego Minifig  and Pez heads, voronoi (swiss cheese) versions, Nefertiti vases and many more. What will be done in the future with her data, only time will tell.

Some Nefertiti inspired works that are already making the rounds. The best is yet to come.


Perhaps the best argument for museums being open with their data is the talk below that was just posted by Cosmo Wenman. Cosmo is an artist who has been active in scanning antiquities from museum collections for several years now. He has scanned a number of famous objects and casts made from objects, including the Venus de Milo and Winged Victory of Samothrace. The talk likens these 3D scans to the 19th century tradition of making plaster casts from classical sculptures and makes a strong case by showing several examples of how people have used the data he shared. This is a position that has been shared by many museums, including the Media Lab of the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in NYC, and I sincerely hope this trend will continue. The promise of the internet is that all of man’s knowledge will be at our fingertips. The Neues Museum would be wise to take note.