Design Frontiers, Rapid Prototyping, The Softness of Things

Putrefashion

Assignment:  Create a material or design an object exploring materiality.

After waiting for several weeks for my silver nitrate (to mirror glass), it was time to cut my losses and come up with a new solution to meet the criteria of this assignment.  Jorge Just had also been looking for inspiration with little time before the deadline.  We decided to work together to hasten the creative process.

We ran the gamut of conductive materials: glue, paint, gack, cloth, paper, etc.  Without a specific function in mind, they seem to fall under the recurring projects at ITP.  Jorge was drawn to making something living.  Originally, he suggested that we make a bracelet from fruit fly cultures.  The bracelet would augment to the flies’ life cycle, as it would hatch eggs and produce new flies.

To give an example of our direction, one of my ideas was to cut glasses frames from raw onions to make masochistic fashion.  At the time, we could not determine a method of making the structure rigid and maintain the airflow of the onions to the eyes.

We chose to play with the role of materiality in fashion.  The original idea, an earthworm necklace, was far simpler than the finished product.  Simply put, a necklace that challenges the fashionista’s comfort level.  We would sew earthworms together, “head to toe,” to make up a link necklace.  This design takes into account the worm’s regenerative properties.

Due to time constraints we were limited to mealworms.  I sprinted from NYU to Union Square to Petco in the ten minutes before closing.  Whew.  Jorge purchased needles and thread and we returned with our materials.  We realized mealworms are far more grotesque and pungent than earthworms.  After the push-pin test (which we intentionally did not document), it became rather obvious that these worms had not the regenerative properties on which our design rested.

pint from mike k on Vimeo.

Replacing earthworms with mealworms essentially redirected the entire project.  How one wear mealworms without having to physically link the insects together?  We chose to display them in plastic.  Luckily, Arturo Viddich, a fellow student who works at the Advanced Media Studio, confirmed there being no queue for the laser cutter, and scheduled us for a morning appointment.

Although there were many ways to design the bangle, we chose a sandwiching approach, to ensure alignment and stability.  Also, glues for plastic give off toxic fumes, so we wanted to avoid using glue thereby safely displaying our new pets.

The problem with receiving laser-cut materials the day of your presentation is that slight inaccuracies in the cuts prove to be more serious. In our case, the .125″ diameter (1/8th) ended up looking more like .112″, which meant we were filing all of the holes or finding new bolts. Adam Lassy hooked us up with some 4-40 screws about a third the length we designed for, but enough to room for a single middle layer (one cavity layer for the worms). Here are some pics of the product we displayed in class.

Putrefashion :: Slim Version from mike k on Vimeo.

Over the break Jorge and I went back for the little buggers with some longer bolts and a Canon G9.
After disassembling the first bracelet, we laid out all of the pieces. Notice the thinner rings. They make up the inner and outer walls for the hollow (middle) sections.

Once we had the gipper ready to load, well, that we did. Bring on the worms dawg.

Putrefashion :: Fill it up from mike k on Vimeo.

Putrefashion :: Side View from mike k on Vimeo.

Putrefashion :: Top View from mike k on Vimeo.

We convinced the lovely Angela Chen to wear our “worm bracelet.” Upon first examination, she questioned the label we offered with: “why ‘worm’ it should be more modular…AAAAH!!” I probably got a kick out of putting worms on a girl’s wrist at the age of five as well. Ah, takes me back. Good work Ang!

Finally, what would a product be without some hot lightbox shots? Nothing. The worms look like they’re sitting behind some baller tints in some of these. “You talkin’ to me Holmes?!?”

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