you never know what comes in handy when

I never expected my work on Cadmium would one day come in handy for my thesis MRP, but I just realized the question of how to lay out Cadmium was exactly the same problem as how to lay out the questionnaire needed for my thesis MRP. And the funny thing is that I don’t even need to build a prototype to test whether the thickness will work, because I already know: The issue of Cadmium that I designed is my prototype, with precisely the thickness that I need to test. The only difference is that I’m now doing it half size; that’s all.

i just realized i should not have thrown away my many failed casts

Earlier today I mentioned to Martha (the one who’s doing the plates) that things aren’t looking good for me because I’m having too many rejects. (“I don’t know. Maybe I’m trying to do something that’s really hard.”) And what did she say? She’s having lots of rejects too. “This is ceramics,” she quipped. But throwing isn’t like this. I’ve never had so many rejects when I throw and I can even reclaim the clay if a piece turns out to be a reject, so long as it hasn’t been fired. But for my thesis MRP I find the number of failed casts simply staggering. I was mentioning to Danielle (I think) yesterday that I was starting to worry about running out of slip, even though I have been using the studio’s giant bucket of reclaimed slip instead of my own. At this rate I will very soon use up all the slip in there. So a couple of hours ago a thought suddenly came upon me: What if I translated those damaged casts back into print? I even did a mental rundown of what I would do to the failed cast I was holding. But obviously, I didn’t think too much about it, because right afterwards I just threw that failed cast into the trash can. Then while I was on my way home I suddenly realized I should not have thrown away any of those casts because they can be repurposed as an installation. And—imagine my surprise—that would even be a very “32 Pigeons” installation. Martha thought I was in Sculpture and Installation. I guess there’s a reason. Or maybe it was Martha’s guess that was what got my idea going.

A dream (yes, I actually remembered this...)

It’s 9:05am and I just woke up from a dream. Not exactly a nightmare but not a pleasant thing. The dream went like this before I woke up: I was at school working (never mind the building in the dream didn’t actually look like any building in OCAD) while there was going to be a ticketed event of some kind going on, then I went out of the building for a break of some kind. When I was going to get back in I found that the doors were already locked. It was like 6:50pm and it was also Thursday in the dream. (Or maybe Wednesday, I don’t remember any more.) (The event had not started yet. It was going to start at 7pm or so.) And it was extended hours also in the dream. So I was shocked. I was not exactly angry but definitely wanted to complain, so I sort of started walking around the building and trying to remember how to spell security’s Twitter handle; I also wanted to text a friend to open the doors for me but I wasn’t sure who was inside. (Obviously I still had a flip phone in the dream.) And while I was looking around I saw below me (remember, I mentioned the campus in the dream didn’t actually look like OCAD, I was on a terrace of some kind looking at some sort of wide stairs going down leading to an entrance below me. This doesn’t exist in OCAD. More like some sort of civic building or maybe some university in Hong Kong.) trying to walk towards the stairs leading to the building and the students below me found the entire edge of the building locked with a glass wall. As they turned around (presumably giving up and leaving) a back door to the building next to me opened. (As I mentioned this didn’t look like OCAD. It was a white building instead of a building with a glass wall.) I ran towards the door and got in, and yelled to the students at the entrance that Security had already locked the doors but they didn’t seem to get what I was saying from their blank looks (probably because they also didn’t expect this so they thought I was crazy). I ran up the stairs and saw another group of students working on some sort of a flattish piece of installation (never mind it was still inside the stairwell and that one of the students was Bing :) and I again yelled at them The doors has been locked. Everyone don’t get out. Then I continued running up the stairs trying to think about how to tweet a complaint or somehow write one. Then I reached the floor I wanted to reach and opened the door. (Yes, a single door. Weird. And never mind it was the wrong building. Maybe the OCAD in my dream finally built tunnels between its buildings.) It was a grand interior (remember, the campus I saw in the dream didn’t look like OCAD. It looked more like the lobby of a big convention centre or maybe UW’s new student centre.) with a ceiling that’s at least two storeys high with huge floor-to-floor glass walls looking at the pretty sky outside…. Then I woke up. I was dazed for a few seconds, then I looked at the clock. It was 9:05. Not early. But not exactly too late, I suppose.

fourth test mould

It looks like a ball tool is not the best choice for carving into plaster, simply because you can’t carve into plaster with a ball; you need a knife of some kind. At this point it looks like a small drill bit might actually do it, though whether this is true won’t be known until 2 days later when I make a test cast. And while doing a pilot “drill” with the needle tool looks like an attractive idea, it looks like it’s a really bad idea because when you hear that reassuring “pop” sound the needle has already gone too far into the plaster. So how do I do the pilot drill with something else? I’m not too sure. And I don’t really like the idea of making more and more test moulds. I don’t have time. I won’t have access to the shops very soon.

random fantastical thought

A random fantastical thought literally just came upon me a few minutes ago: When I was in the studio earlier today I briefly contemplated making some slipcast bowls, so what if I went further and merged my thesis MRP with Empty Bowls? I really don’t know how feasible that would be: This seems to be a lot of work for a “small scale experiment”, and there will probably be a ton of problems doing this for thesis MRP. But this will actually be a very “32 Pigeons” thing to do (that is, “any work we do must be in response to a real art call”), which is actually kind of cool—but odd, since 32 Pigeons has not been active for almost a year already. Maybe the simple slipcast bowls will be the real “small scale experiment” (and if that works out I will attempt “blocking and casing” and then carving into the mould), and if that works out I’ll propose merging my thesis MRP with Empty Bowls. Somehow.

Dabbling with plaster

So I took some time to try making something with plaster the first time, without any guidance. It’s kind of a disaster. First I had no “feel” or when I have added enough plaster, so I stirred the plaster mixture too early. I didn’t realize I had to vaseline the base, and I probably poured the plaster twice. Then the school building closed for the day, so I could not work on it when it was still workable. So when I got back to the plaster studio today I was surprised the thing was still wet. But of course I couldn’t do anything with it any more. If I use a scraper to dislodge it from the base, it just breaks, and weirdly enough the plaster seems to be in two layers. Anyway, I could still do my experiment, so I took my ball tool and tried to poke some dots on the plaster, and the dots were not well-formed. I really don’t know what to say now. It seems that I can’t really work on the mould as I originally planned, or maybe it’s just because I was not working it when it was still workable. So I suppose this calls for a second experiment—one where I would have enough time to try working the plaster when it was still workable. In the meantime, my project now looks even less feasible than I thought.

I’m probably going to pass probation

Tuesday I bumped into Jane, one of the gammas, and told her that technically I still don’t have an advisor because I’m just on probation, so to speak. Yesterday I had another consultation, and the good news is that it looks like I’m going to go out of probation soon, which while in itself is significant, it’s also important because it’s an objective evaluation that I’m probably really back on track—even if it looks like everything it still hosed up. Hopefully it will be the first option I told Jane instead of the second option.

Autopilot on, destination trainwreck

So the eagerly anticipated meeting happened. And during the meeting I became as confused as two months ago. And after the meeting I felt depressed. Maybe depressed isn’t the right word, since I didn’t think of literally dying or killing myself. But I had stuff to finish and I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it. I just headed to the studio to calm down. One hour into wedging I realized what I had gotten really was just a crit. It just meant there’s something wrong with my concept and I just needed to work on it. But that was the best I was able to put out after literally half a year of confusion. I strongly doubted I could put out anything better, especially if it’s going to likely involve another drastic shift in direction. There were no pins. The bat shifted. The coils didn’t work. The bat shifted. The bat kept shifting and I couldn’t fix it. After what felt like eternity I just took out the bat, wrapped it in two layers of plastic, and put it aside. I’m going to get some screws from home and see if any will fit the holes. I need to remember starting the day trying to throw anything complicated is a really bad idea. Obviously, by the time I left it was almost 12. No more time left to think. Or write, for that matter. On the train back home I checked my texts. “When is the first class?”


Today is December 14 and it is now 5pm, so basically I have to leave now. I have so far accomplished absolutely nothing today. When it was 3pm I was thinking about whether to go down to school or to stay. The decision felt logical: Go down and lose an hour, and it takes an hour and 45 minutes to get back, so I would have only 60 minutes to do work. Or stay home and have 3 hours to try to do some work. Staying home felt logical. But it was my conversation with Brandon a few weeks ago that was more logical: After class he asked if I would be going home, and I told him I wanted to stay behind and go to the studio to try to do some work. I told him if I went home there would be a 0% chance I would do any work, and if I stayed in the studio I might have a 50% work of getting some work done. Stay behind, he reasoned, 0% chance vs 50% chance, 50% chance was clearly better. Too bad I have fallen prey to my illogical reasoning today. I should have gone down and have that 50% chance of getting an hour’s worth of work done; I should have known if I stayed home there was 0% chance of getting anything done…

Thoughts on RGD’s webinar on accessible design

So I told Lester that I’ll wait until today’s webinar is over and then I’ll decide. I showed up a few minutes late, but stayed through the end. It was a pretty rushed session, so I’m not sure if I had my questions answered (and honestly I don’t even know what my questions are, or I’d have zeroed in my thesis topic on one of those questions), but I guess in terms of inspiration there probably was something there. But getting the couple of questions that I managed to ask asked was like playing a game of Telephone. The questions were sort of rephrased, and you can’t fix things if you realize what you had put into words was not really what you intended to say. I’ll email, I think. In any case, a few things stuck out really bad:
  • The presenter mentioned two dyslexic typefaces that I had never heard of (Read Regular and Fabula), both of which are available only on request, with the web site of one of the two apparently having been taken over by a plastic surgeon and so must be no longer available. The two I know about were not mentioned even though they are available in more normal ways. I find this extremely curious.
  • Not unexpectedly, “plain language” and a “conversational style” were recommended. However, Louise Ravelli has long pointed out that conversational styles are not simple and in fact as complex as non-conversational styles, only in different ways.
  • The ADOD was suggested as a reference for creating accessible documents. While I don’t think there is anything better, I’m not sure if a failure to mention what it cannot do (which is not unimportant) says anything.
  • AChecker was mentioned. But as our AChecker assignment from last Fall shows, AChecker is hardly useful for anything but trivial sites. I am extremely concerned this has not been pointed out, or the fact that AChecker made it to the list of recommended tools despite its serious shortcomings.
In fact the presenter seems to really like the work that the IDRC has produced. Which is of course great from an ego standpoint, but very disturbing from a graphic design practitioner’s standpoint. If the presenter used these tools and failed to recognize there are huge problems, something must be deeply wrong (which suggests there are thesis topics buried in here, but I don’t know how to find them…). On a side note, the presenter used “roman” as the opposite of “italic.” This is rare gold; I need to ask him if he’s got some sort of printed reference somewhere so that I can to stash it in Wikipedia references.
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