I LOVE it when I get to see art and technology play together.
A fellow artist and good friend, Chris Reid Flock has been chatting with me over the last few months about incorporating 3D printing into his practice as a ceramic artist. Reid was the 2014 winner of the Winifred Shantz Award for ceramics. The award will allow Flock to undertake an eight-week residency at the Medalta International Artists in Residence Program at the Historic Clay District in Medicine Hat, Alberta where he plans to increase the scale of his works and explore rapid prototyping technologies. You can see some examples of Reid's work here, or maybe here.
The current focus of Reid's work has been to scan an Ancient Japanese Jomon vase, and use that scanned data to both help restore the vase (it has some significant damage to the base) and to manipulate the data and use it in his exploration of rapid prototyping and ceramic art. I've been happy to share what I know. Among other things, I told Reid that for the purposes he was describing, he needed some pretty accurate scanning technology. A hobby 3D scanner or converted Xbox Kinect just was't going to cut it.
This advice led to a pretty rare invitation earlier this week to observe some impressive scanning technology doing some unusual work. With a lot of networking, a little bit of hustle, and some pretty unbelievable timing, Reid was able to secure time on a brand new, state of the art CT scanner at the Trillium Health Centre in Mississauga. This just out of the box machine was so new in fact that the operators were being trained in its use. This left Reid a perfect window to have the Ceramic vessel scanned as part of the testing process. Reid's request could not have come at a better time. I shudder to think what he would normally have paid to have this done.
Now an priceless ancient artifact has been documented on a level beyond what the human eye could ever record. Just a quick glance at the scans reveals the variations of the clay wall thickness, All the voids in the internal structure of the pottery were captured, as well as all the flecks of metal and their distribution in the clay body. A closer examination of the data should be even more revealing. Reid has said that he'd give me and I am eager to take a look. More importantly I look forward to seeing what he comes up with for his residency. The early concepts he's shared with me promise to be fun and irreverent work.
For the tech nerds: It blows my mind that this CT scanner records its information in Voxels (think 3d pixels). That's what I convert my scanned data into in order to manipulate it, but it just has homogeneously filled space where the interal structure is. Imagine manipulating an object with a complex internal structure.
For the art nerds:Jomon Pottery was cutting edge technology in its day...and that day was sometime between 10500 and 300 BC (Yep...BC). Based on Reid's description (and my own pitiful attempts at research) the piece that he brought to scan was from the Early Jomon period (ca 5000-2500 B.C.). The term "Jomon" means "rope-patterned" in Japanese. This term derives from the markings on the pots that were created by patting the malleable clay with paddles wrapped in rope.