Three of Nervous System’s Hyphae lamps are currently on display at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in an exhibition called Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital. The show opened on October 16th and continues until July 6th, 2014. The three one-of-a-kind lamps were “grown” specifically for this exhibition and range in size from 18x18x28 cm to 24x24x34 cm. You can read more about our Hyphae Lamps here. Our Cell Cycle design app is also on display in an interactive section of the exhibition.
Out of Hand is the first major museum exhibition to explore the impact of various digital fabrication technologies on human creativity. The exhibition underscores the phenomenon of artists using new technologies to manifest previously intangible digital designs. At the same time, the exhibition illuminates some of the ways digital fabrication is fundamentally altering both the process and the perception of artistic creation. The complexity of many of the pieces on display and the curatorial emphasis on fabrication push questions of manufacture and material to the forefront without offering much commentary on issues of aesthetics, meaning or history.
I found that the show’s focus on final objects and their manufacture had the effect of obscuring the time-consuming, demanding, and original digital design work that went into the pieces on display. Little attention is given to how artists use programming or digital modeling, which may inadvertently lend weight to the common misconception that now, in the age of digital design, computers are doing all the hard work for us.
The Museum of Arts and Design seems well-suited to a show that is primarily focused on manufacture. I found Out of Hand to be well-curated, featuring a broad range of pieces and artists without losing focus. I think many of the pieces included in the showare challenging, evocative, and beautiful. This exhibition makes it clear that the technology used to manufacture an object necessarily guides design choices, even in the world of seemingly endless possibilities ushered in by ubiquitous 3D printing. If the medium is the message, then the message of Out of Hand is clear: humanity is transitioning from a purely physical existence to something between physical and digital that offers us new, exciting, and sometimes unsettling options for how we do everything, including how we create art.
We’ve been working hard the past few months and are excited to share some details on a few of the projects and events that have been keeping us busy!
In May, we exhibited our latest lighting and furniture designs a the International Contemporary Furniture Fair. ICFF is a beautiful and inspiring exhibition and trade show that happens in conjunction with New York Design Week. We were also excited to be involved with a new project called DesignX that focuses on cutting-edge technologies. In the DesignX booth, Jesse and Jessica taught workshops on 3d-printing and online design customization to a group of excited 3d-printing and design enthusiasts.
At our booth, we showed our newest Hyphae lamp designs, including the recently added pendant (shown above) and wall sconce lamp designs. All of our one-of-a-kind lamp designs have been restocked on our retail webpage and several of these designs are available for immediate shipment. We also showed tables created in our soon-to-be-released Radiolaria custom furniture app (Keep reading for more details on our upcoming app release!)
Jesse and Jessica installing our booth display at ICFF
These are our new Hyphae wall sconces – available soon on our retail page!
Our ICFF booth! We love how our display came together so I recently installed it in our showroom
We love the way it looks against our awesome green wall!
Full moon necklaces
Our ever-popular full moon necklaces are back in stock in both stainless steel and 24k gold plated on our retail site. Each of these one-of-a-kind pendants is a pattern generated by aggregating tiny circles of varying sizes into a complex configuration within a circular boundary. The process we use mimics the growth of corals and other branching forms in nature. They make a really unique gift with an edition number etched onto one side of each one-of-a-kind necklace.
Sneak peek! Radiolaria table app
As promised, here is a little more about our soon-to-be-released custom table app!
At ICFF, we enjoyed letting people experiment with our Radiolaria web application for designing furniture. We also showed three prototype tables generated in the app and fabricated from baltic birch plywood using a CNC router. Using the app, you will be able to dynamically sculpt the table’s patterned top and select cells to hold plexiglass inserts. You can also choose your table’s height, number of legs and finish. We are still working on some finishing touches, so stay tuned for an update when the application goes live!
We’re doing several fun events in the upcoming month, and we wanted to tell you about them.
3D Printing Night @Room 68 — April 4, 6-9pm
68 South St, Jamaica Plain, MA
Tomorrow night (April 4th) we’ll be at Room 68 from 6:00-9:00pm. Stores and galleries in Jamaica Plain stay open late on the first Thursday of each month, and our friends at Room 68 invited us to be involved. We love working with the Room 68 team, and we’re excited to be showing off a brand new cellular coffee table designed with our Radiolaria web app. You can also buy Nervous System lamps or jewelry and see a MakerBot 3D printer in action. Maybe we’ll make a 3D-printed cat for you!
Science Crawl @Xylem — April 18, 5-8pm
287 Third St, Cambridge, MA
On Thursday, April 18th, we’ll be hosting one of the stops on the Science Crawl, a Cambridge Science Festival event. We’re thankful to our friends at Xylem for letting us use their store. We hope you’ll come by and see the exhibition: we’re going to transform Xylem into a space where you can explore everything Nervous System. We’ll have all our new stuff on display, including tables, superhard jigsaw puzzles, and neon-colored jewelry. We’re also going to invite visitors to experiment with our interactive design tools, and Jesse and Jessica will be there to explain the math and science behind their designs. Ask them anything!
Somerville Open Studios @Nervous System — May 4-5, 12-6pm
561 Windsor St, Suite A206, Somerville, MA
In May, we’re going to be involved with Somerville Open Studios, a great event where artists all over Somerville invite people to see the spaces where they create. First, Nervous System will be featured at the Somerville Open Studios fashion show on May 1st. The fashion show starts at 7:30pm in the Center for Arts at the Armory. Then, on May 4th and 5th, the Nervous System studio will be open from noon til 6:00pm, and we’d love for you to come visit. We’ll be featuring our interactive design tools, and we plan to show some new experiments as well.
Our business started by accident back in 2007 when people mistook scraps from a laser cut architectural model I was building for bracelets. Intrigued and in need of cash to help cover my burdensome Harvard tuition, I listed some of them on Etsy and to my surprise, they sold…. they sold fast. Since then, we’ve found better manufacturing techniques for most of our work, like photochemical etching, waterjet cutting and 3d-printing. But we’ve never forgotten how easy and fun it was to be able to come up with an idea and prototype it immediately. No waiting weeks for parts to arrive, no excuses to not try something out as soon as it pops into your head. So ever since we stopped being students, we wanted a laser cutter of our own to play and tinker (and to produce some products in house as well!).
original accidental jewelry design, laser cut in the basement of the Harvard Design School
I’m happy to announce that we finally made the jump and purchased one. After we did our taxes, we spent about a month debating which model to get, from what company and what wattage laser. We decided on an Epilog Helix 60 watt machine with an 18″ x 24″ inch bed size. We spent about $20,000 on the machine and some more to build an exhaust system which goes out a window in our studio. We also considered the Mercury II (has a slide through bed!) from GCC Laserpro but in the end we decided on the Epilog because the 2 year warranty covers the optics in addition and the machine would be ready in half the time since they are a USA based company.
With 60 watts we can cut through thick plywood, plastics, rubber, paper, fabric, cork, etc. And it can etch coated metals like anodized aluminum. It also has a lot of useful features that the laser cutters I used in school didn’t have, like auto-focus and a vacuum table for holding down thin materials. We have switched production of our few laser cut products to be completely in house. That means when you order a Radial necklace or an Orchid necklace; we cut it in our studio on demand. We are also looking forward to launching some new applets later in the year that will allow you to customize several laser cut housewares and jewelry products. Unlike our other applets which have a turn around of 2-3 weeks for customized designs, we will be able to ship these products in the same time frame as our off the shelf items, 2-3 days!
To celebrate our new laser cutter, we decided at the last minute to create a new display to show our jewelry at ICFF. We spent one day designing it. The next day laser cutting it. And the last day assembling it. Despite our careful numbering, assembling it was VERY hard. Luckily, our friend Alec was there to help. Thanks Alec!
The design was a riff on our unimplemented designs for the New York Gift Fair from earlier in the year (read about that here). It is sort of a bunch of ellipsoids stitched together into a set of “caves” for hanging necklaces and convex regions for holding earrings and bracelets. But the part we really spent time designing was how each piece would fit together and how each shell would be discretized into panels. The panels are created using a tangent planes method to develop a non-triangular surface discretization. We worked to create a pattern spiraling six-sided panels with a somewhat elongated plant cell type shape.
Jesse wrote a Processing program to create all the connectors, place the holes in the panels and label all the pieces for “easy” construction. The connectors and panels were laser cut from baltic birch plywood and snap together for a tight fit. To cut down on assembly time we only used one connector per edge, but some of the larger panels could have definitely used a second connector.
We will be exhibiting at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Javits Center in New York City from May 14 to 17, 2011. We will be showing our 3d-printed lighting designs in booth 1451 thanks to Shapeways. The Shapeways booth will also feature designs by John Briscella and Chris Hardy. The designs we show will include new pieces from our Reaction and Hyphae collections, all 3d-printed in polyamide plastic or in ceramic material with eco-friendly LED light fixtures.
We will also be exhibiting in the Designboom mart, booth 1266 where you can buy our jewelry and other souvenirs from independent designers.
So please come see our designs in booths 1451 (lighting) and 1266 (jewelry+lamps)!
As some of our long term readers may know, we have a home-made CNC router that lives in our garage. Prior to our reaction exhibit we gave the router a bit of a tune-up and added a dust collection system with the help of our friends from Sprout. Previously, we have only used the router for 2d cutting….mostly due to inaccuracies in the z-axis and lack of time to figure out how to do more complicated code to run the machine….but this time we had a couple extra days to get things going. I designed a shelf using one of our reaction-diffusion programs that had specific spaces where the porcelain prototypes of our new dinnerware line could rest. I think it came out well! The wood is cheap pine bought at our local hardware store.
Below are some in process shots. After routing the surface out with a rough pass we did a finishing pass with a small stepover and some hand sanding as well.
For our Reaction show at Rare Device, we recreated two of our design algorithms as interactive ipad applications that allow visitors in the gallery to engage in our process and try their hand at generative design. The two applications are Cell Cycle, which creates cellular bracelets and rings for 3dprinting, and Xylem which simulates leaf vein formation. The apps were made with the help of the Cinder library.
The Cell Cycle app uses a physics simulation to sculpt a mesh for 3dprinting. Visitors can use multitouch controls to stretch, twist, and scale the basic form. Using the control panel on the left they can change the basic mesh parameters and define boundary curves along the edges of the piece. Most significantly, they can also touch anywhere on the model to subdivide cells and introduce additional springs to the system.
The Xylem app allows people to paint on and erase horomone sources that will effect the venation structure’s growth. Watch the video below to get a sense of what that means.
If you are in the San Francisco area, you can play with these apps in the gallery at Rare Device, 1845 Market St.
Our exhibit at Rare Device in San Francisco starts tomorrow at 7pm. Here are some quick snap shots from the setup. It should be pretty exciting, so please come by if you are in the area. It is located at 1845 Market St.
We have packed the show with lots of new work. There are four types of 3D printing represented including a new ceramic material currently being developed by Viridis3D. We also have traditionally produced ceramic prototypes. There will be two iPad apps and videos to enable people to participate in the exhibition. In addition every piece is accompanied by explanations of the science behind the pieces, the manufacturing techniques, and our design process. For even more information, come to the opening and talk to us.
Nervous System will hold its first gallery exhibition at Rare Device in San Francisco from September 2 to October 10. The exhibition will feature new work, Reaction, in ceramics and showcase their computational designs in jewelry and housewares. The work spans art, products, and interactive media – mixing gallery, store, and playground.
Nervous System’s newest work is Reaction, a line of porcelain pieces based on a chemical patterning system called reaction diffusion which describes a hypothesized mechanism for the synthesis of the diverse patterns seen on animals, from zebra stripes and giraffe spots to the complex coloring of butterflies and tropical fish. The line features slip-cast porcelain housewares as well as ceramic pieces that are 3D printed with a novel technique. These works will be accompanied by video and interactive applications where participants can play with these systems and even create their own designs.
More than simply a display of their end product, this exhibition is about the design process – from conception to program to design to production, showcasing Nervous System’s unique blend of art, science, and craft.
Nervous System was commissioned by Disseny Hub Barcelona to create one of a kind jewelry pieces for Laboratory of Fabrication, an exhibition highlighting the possibilities of rapid prototyping. Using computational design tools we wrote for our cell cycle line, designers at DHUB created 14 unique bracelets and rings. This unprecedented form of collaboration demonstrates some of the new potential afforded by computational design and digital fabrication. The pieces were printed by Shapeways using SLS nylon. The pieces and software will be on exhibit at DHUB in Barcelona from June 15, 2010 until February 27, 2011. Images of the pieces and a video of the applet below.