We are packing the models that we are taking to SIGGRAPH today and I wanted to show you a really cool one. It is Bathsheba's Klein Bottle. This is a mind blowing model and it is a really distracting object to have about the office. You see people pick it up, scratch their head and try to wrap their minds around it all the time. I don't know if you can see it properly from the photographs but a Klein Bottle is a "non-orientable surface". It does not have a distinct 'inside' and outside. You can read more about it here or check it out on Shapeways here.
Bram Cohen is not only the creator of BitTorrent, the protocol responsible for between 25% and 55% of all internet traffic, but also the creator and co-creator of a number of great puzzles that he sells on his Shapeways Shop. Intrigued by yet another Shapeways Community Member with their own wikipedia article (5 and counting) and the obvious dichotomy between someone that has done more than almost anyone else to make Intellectual Property immediately and widely available for free while whilst now selling his own IP online, I decided to interview Bram.
Joris: Bit Torrent makes it possible for anyone to download content from the web. People critical of it say that it is a tool for infringing Intellectual Property. At the same time you have a Shapeways Shop where you basically sell models based on your own intellectual property? Do you see the duality?
Thomas Thwaites is trying to build a toaster from scratch, by hand, by himself. As I tried to explain in the previous post I think that this is just about the coolest art project ever. Luckily for us he thinks Shapeways is, "totally great, bringing on of the future!" and so he answered a few of my questions.
He takes a simple cheap every day household item the "Argos Value Range 2 Slice Toaster" and bombards it with all the fetishism and bombast usually reserved for more 'deserving' things such as cars. It shows us that he is serious about his subject, his challenge.
Joris: What was the most difficult thing to do so far?
Thomas: Making the iron (originally i was planning on making steel, but as iron
was so difficult i realised that steel for now, is well out of reach of
'the common man'). My first attempt at smelting in a furnace burning
coke melted the ore - and i think i refined it to some degree, but the
black hard, magnetic, metallic tasting lump that i got out at the end
wasn't workable into toaster shapes. I therefore resorted to the
microwave smelting - that took a lot of experimentation with different
times, crucibles, mixtures of coke and partially refined ore, etc. I
got workable iron in the end though, but it was a long process.
Joris: Are you bored with mass production?
Thomas: I think mass production is quite amazing as a system, the look of most
products is quite boring... and
even highly 'designed' stuff by 'designers' I find a bit dull; I went
into one of those
'design' shops in Rotterdam and was just quite bored by the kind of
witty takes on objects that it was filled with. I think the aesthetic
of 'products' needs to become a bit more raw - less smooth cases
covering everything. I also think that the authenticity of making
something yourself is extremely important.
Joris: What made you take on this project? People getting out of touch with technology and divorced from it because of its complexity?
Thomas: I was curious to see if I could do it, but I also wanted to add
something to the debate around the environmental/economic crisis The
need to buy less stuff to protect the environment, and the 'need' to
buy more stuff to maintain the economy seem to be on a collision
course. There's a feeling in some circles that we should retreat to
self-sufficient ways of life - I wanted to investigate what this would
Joris: Could I buy your toaster?
Thomas: Yes, but it would cost A LOT more than the £3.94 'value' version on which it was based! It is after all, unique...
Congrats to Thomas for his now working toaster and this fantastic project! He is basically doing by himself for one thing what Shapeways, in due time, wants to do together with you for all things. I'm now off to convince my girlfriend that his toaster is a household appliance that we need.