rhythm of making changed


In 2005 I first tried to illustrate the changes to the rhythm of making introduced by digital technologies. I presented it as part of my papers at the Northlands Glass (Sept 05) and the Smart Works Design and the handmade (March 07) conferences. In the following paragraphs the underlying principles, which have helped shaping the flowchart on which this text is based on, will be discussed.

Starting from a common point, the initial design, this flowchart compares the rhythm of making both from a traditional and from a new (digital) technologies perspective, ending again in a common point, the finished object.
Rhythm of Making upper
The first or upper part of this graph shows the traditional working process where the work evolves under the makers hands. Every incremental step of the making process is assessed and will provide a moment of re-interpretation of the initial design. The original drawing will have included the knowledge of an experienced hand and will have considered all necessary processes required to make the object. The maker and the designer are one person with a clear idea of the outcome and how to achieve it.
During the making the design drawing becomes a mere reference, as with every new manual step new solutions emerge, inviting new possibilities to be explored. This is expressed in the flowchart as a closed feedback loop which will only cease in the moment the object is finished.
Rhythm of Making CAD CAM model
The second, lower part of this graph shows the relationship between the idea the CAD (computer aided design) drawing and the final object and how they are influenced by digital technologies. These technologies are the computers used for the design work as well as the computer controlled manufacturing processes CAM (computer aide manufacturing) which translate the CAD drawings into objects.

This is following the argument by Robert Shiel [1] in his ‘Design through making’ (PDF doc) essay, he states: “……the tools of representation (CAD) have merged with the tools of fabrication (CAM) and machines now challenge the drawing as a direct instruction to make”. He continuous: “Whilst CADCAM is neither drawing nor making in the familiar sense, it is a hybrid mode where the investigation of ideas is engaged with the tactile and the physical. What is important about CADCAM is that it connects the drawing to a machine that makes. It is the drawing that has undergone the greater revolution. Acting as an instruction to make, the drawing must now anticipate the performance and resistence of any given material to fabrication processes.”
I find it important to highlight, that the final object exists in the moment the CAD drawing is saved to the computers memory. In other words the draftsman becomes the craftsman, the designer the maker the drawing the object.
Rhythm of Making both models
As new technologies play an ever increasing part in contemporary craft practice, any degree of integration of these different Rhythm are possible. These approaches have and will lead to new objects extending the boundaries of craft.
Integration of new technologies however poses consequences for the individual maker, the necessary skills need to be acquired together – requiring a steep learning curve together with a hefty bill to investment in equipment.While traditional tools will equip ones workshop for a very long time, new technologies are notoriously short lived. They are usually more specialised then universal and require original parts for replacement in case they break down.

An other way to illustrate the difference between the two rhythms is to look what is left after the work is done. In the traditional process, in this case in silversmithing, the scraps are ready to be recycled, while in the case of Rapid Prototyping, the scraps are actual objects which are just not right, left to be thrown out.
silver scrapsRapid Prototyping scraps
Digital technologies certainly open new doors for the maker, but how large the rooms behind these doors are, still needs to be assessed.

[1] Robert Sheil. Design through making (Pdf document)
Accessed 20 September 05 at 3:30 pm

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