Tag Archives: maker art

The ‘Pataphysical Time Machine

We are creating a Time Machine at ‘Pataphysical Studios, our art collective in Mill Valley, where surrealism meets the maker culture.

The ‘Pataphysical Time Machine invites you to travel through time and meet characters from the past, present and future. We hope to engage our guests in a fun interactive experience that combines art, multimedia, theater and technology.

This 3D fly through video illustrates the experience we are creating. We invite our guests to go through a short interactive ritual during their visit: walk around the exhibit, step into our magic portal, pick a time to visit, travel to that time, meet its characters and return back to the present.

Through this experience, we hope to enchant guests of all ages and cultures. We typically host time travel expeditions with small groups of up to six people at a time, lasting between 10 and 20 minutes. To insure we don’t disrupt the delicate fabric of time, we ask that our guests do not exit the machine during our time travel journeys. We usually return our guests safely back to the time they came in from. Time travel is not for the faint of heart! 🙂

Press the buttons on this time travel dashboard to jump to different periods, which are shown on the illuminated screen above. 

Exhibit

Our Time Machine exhibit is inspired by steampunk and art movements from the early 20th century: Pataphysics, dada and surrealism.

Here are some of the artifacts we’re now building for our exhibit:

  • a mysterious, glimmering time capsule and cockpit
  • a violin-shaped dashboard with time travel buttons
  • an illuminated main screen to view scenes from distant times
  • animated figures of Anubis and the Creature from the Future Lagoon
  • frescoes of hieroglyphic characters from across the ages
  • crazy clocks spinning at random and singing about time
  • collages of time travel images and stories against the walls
  • mechanical iris portholes revealing mysterious apparitions


 and many more time travel artifacts!

To see our work in progress, view photos below, and our photo album for the Time Machine. To learn about other artifacts, visit our exhibit design spec for the physical structures. To learn more about the interactive experience, read our time travel design spec.

If you liked our ‘Pataphysical Slot Machine, we think this new art exhibit will transport you even further. Fire in the hole!

Animated figures of the ancient god Anubis and the Creature from the Future Lagoon are here to guide your journey through time.

To make our art come to life, we are now developing new media and technologies that will animate the exhibit with animated characters, lights, sounds, motion and videos of the different times you will travel to.

Media

Our growing video library already includes dozens of short clips for different time periods, to create the illusion of time travel.

This Belle Époque video takes you back in time to Paris at the start of the 20th century, when the arts and sciences flourished, along with a “joie de vivre” (joy of living) that is music to our ears.

This short video is just one of the scenes you can visit with the Time Machine, and its authenticity is confirmed by copious historical footage from a variety of sources. Other scenes in our prototype  include videos of the Big Bang, Dinosaurs, Ancient Egypt, the French Revolution, A Trip to the Moon, Dada Cafe Voltaire, Trumpocalypse — and many more. Here are some of the other time scenes we‘re considering for the next version.

Meanwhile, our sounds library now includes many time travel soundtracks, as well as musical quotes about time (e.g. “Time!” by the Chambers Brothers, “Crying Time” by Ray Charles, etc.).

To learn about our multimedia plans, visit this media overview.

Technology

We will combine many different digital technologies to support the Time Machine experience: Arduino and Raspberry Pi for artifact devices, NodeRed for the central host, MQTT for the messaging protocol, EasyESP firmware and other tech.

Learn more in this infrastructure document, programming guide and technology overview.

Meet the team

About a dozen creators are building the Time Machine together. We’re artists, engineers, makers, performers, poets, organizers and multimedia innovators. Over the years, we have grown into a world-class troupe of interactive artists, who like to make things together and learn from each other. Most of us are members of Pataphysical Studios and listed in this community page. 

We work in small creative teams to design and build the different parts of the Time Machine, combining interactive art with lights, sounds, motion, and videos of different times. Besides Pataphysical Studios, some of our fabrication work takes place at at Tam Makers, our community makerspace in Mill Valley, where we use a wide range of tools, from laser cutters to CNC routers and milling equipment.

Learn more on our planning page and project lists.

Join us

This is the most complex art project that our team has taken on, and we could use more help. We are now recruiting a few more creators to contribute to our community project, so we can complete it together in coming years.

If you would like to help build this interactive art experience with us, email us at info@pataphysics.us. We’re particularly interested in collaborators who you live in the Bay Area and can join our weekly work sessions in Mill Valley on Saturday afternoons. But if you live outside the Bay Area, we can also collaborate on a variety of tech and media projects. Let’s talk!

It’s a true pleasure to help new teams come together to design and build the various parts of our Time Machine. That’s what collective art is about. We can’t wait to see what it will look like in a year!

For more project updates, we invite you to subscribe to our mailing list — and/or follow us on Facebook. Learn more at pataphysics.us. We hope to see you soon, online or in person.

Vive la ‘pataphysique!

Fabrice Florin (a.k.a. Dr. Fabio)

On behalf of Pataphysical Studios

_____________________________________________

PHOTOS OF THE TIME MACHINE CREATION

To see more photos of our work in progress, visit our photo album for the Time Machine.

This page was republished from our Pataphysical Studios site.

Art Float for Social Change

The Art Float for Social Change approaches the judges at the Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade, where we won the ‘Best Community Spirit Award’. Photo by Dana Dworin.

Behold the Art Float for Social Change! 

We created this unique parade float to engage more people to participate in democracy. It features a spinning earth, waving hands and an art carousel, pulled by a colorful dragon. Live performers on our podium invite you to sing along, vote and “be the change.”

The Art Float has inspired thousands of people to participate in community life, through its original display of art, music, and technology. This year, we presented it at Earth Day, the Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade (where we won the ‘Best Community Spirit Award’), the Fairfax Parade and the Fourth of July Parade in Corte Madera (where we won First Prize for Adult Motorized Floats). We hope to bring our traveling art show to other events in coming months.

As shown in this video, our Art Float delighted thousands of spectators at the Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade, with performances by Emma Spike and the Freedom Singers. Video by Luis Costa, Fabrice Florin and Marin Weatherspoon.

Over a hundred volunteers of all ages built the Art Float at Tam Makers, our makerspace in Mill Valley, with the support of Good Earth Natural Foods, the Mill Valley Community Action Network (MVCAN) and Tamalpais High School.

This community art project was led by artists Fabrice Florin and Geo Monley, along with our creative partners at Tam Makers, Pataphysical Studios and the Youth Poster Contest — and live performances by the Freedom Singers, Emma Spike and Cooper & Bounds, to name but a few.


The Art Float for Social Change performs in front of the judges at the Fairfax Parade. Photo by Dana Dworin.

To see the float in action, visit the Art Float Photos and Video page, with our favorite images from each event and development phase. For more photo coverage, visit our full albums for Fourth of July, the Fairfax Parade, Memorial Day, Earth Day and Art Float Creation.

A group picture of the Art Float cast, crew and supporters at the Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade. Photo by Suz Lipman.

Thank you!

Thanks to all our friends, neighbors, partners and community members who made this project possible! 

Kudos to our float construction crew, led by David Barr, Pierina Dell’Avo, Chris Krueger, James Long, Chris Scofield, Pam and Stan Weatherspoon, to name but a few — they all worked tirelessly, above and beyond the call of duty, to bring you this experience. Tip of the hat as well to Howard Rheingold for creating the colorful Quetzy dragon, in collaboration with Fabrice Florin, Freddy Hahne, Jean Bolte, Phyllis Florin, Mark Petrakis and others at Pataphysical Studios.

Our parade cast and crew at the July Fourth Parade in Corte Madera (where we won First Prize for Adult Motorized Floats): Gary Appell, Ruthanne Ranz Appell, Greg Brockbank, Dana Dworin, Wayne Lechner, Teresa Marquez, Geo Monley, Tim Pozar, Marilyn Price, Grace Severtson and Emma Spike. Photo by Dana Dworin.

Many thanks to our talented performers Emma Spike, Sheri Cooper and Clancy Bounds, Reed Fromer, as well as Greg Brodbank, Wayne Lechner, Marilyn Price and all the Freedom Singers. We are also very grateful to our wonderful videographers Luis Costa, David Donnenfield, Bob Harlow, Tim Pozar, Kim Spencer and Marin Witherspoon, as well as our gracious photographers Dana Dworin, Vickisa Feinberg, Fabrice Florin, Suz Lipman, Howard Rheingold, Grace Severtson and Martha Ture.

Special thanks as well to our partners Jessica Hurtado at Good Earth, Eileen Fisher at MVCAN and Bruce Burtch at the Youth Poster Contest. We are deeply grateful to our event team Carol Korenbrot and Marilyn Price — and to our ‘art float widows’ Phyllis Florin and Meryl Rubenstein — for keeping us organized, happy and well fed. Last but not least, we wish to thank all our gracious parade organizers: Larry ‘The Hat’ Lautzker, Paul Moe and Erma Murphy (Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade), Cynthia Briggs (Fairfax Festival), Judy and all the nice folks at the Corte Madera Fourth of July Parade for hosting these important community events, year after year.

We really appreciate all your creativity, enthusiasm and generous support. We hope this community art project will inspire even more people to participate in democracy.

Learn more on our Art Float Photos and Videos page, planning page, slides and design spec, as well as in this Independent Journal article. For more info, email us at float@tammakers.org. 

Be the change!

Fabrice Florin and Geo Monley

Co-founders/Teachers, Tam Makers
Team Leaders, Art Float for Social Change

This page was adapted from our project page on the Tam Makers site.

Robot World

Create your own artistic robot! Learn how to make your robot move in a variety of ways, using a programmable Arduino board. Decorate your animated character, give it a story, and create a magical world for it to live in. All materials are included in this course: you can take your robot home when the class ends.

This Maker Art class for grades 4-5 took place at the Lycée Français in Sausalito. We met every Tuesday for 12 weeks, from 3:30 to 5pm, between September and December 2017.

Students developed new skills in playful ways: science, technology, engineering, art and math skills (STEAM), as well as creativity, problem-solving and communication skills.

Teachers were multimedia innovator Fabrice Florin and software designer Edward Janne.To learn more, view our photo album, course slides and student guide — and check our course page for updates.

For a quick overview, watch the short video below.

This short video of our Robot World class was created by Fabian at the Lycée Français. Merci!

Who is it for?

This program was for lower school children in grades 4 and 5 (ages 8-10). Four students participated in our afternoon class in Sausalito in fall 2017.

Where and when is it?

This class took place at Lycée Français in Sausalito, in the Innovation Lab (Room #340). The school entrance is 660 Coloma Street, Sausalito, CA 94945.

We met every Tuesday for 12 weeks, from September 12 to December 5, 2017, from 3:30pm to 5:00pm, at the Lycée Français in Sausalito.

Here was our course schedule:

  • Sep-12: Plan the robot world
  • Sep-19: Learn about robots
  • Sep-26: Build your robot 1
  • Oct-3: Build your robot 2
  • Oct-10: Program your robot 1
  • Oct-17: Program your robot 2
  • Oct-24: Break: No Class
  • Oct-31:Program your robot 2
  • Nov-7: Break: No Class
  • Nov-14: Finish your robot
  • Nov-21: Create the robot world
  • Nov-28: Rehearse your show
  • Dec-5: Shoot videos
  • Dec-12: Show & Tell

 

Can we see pictures from the classes?

Here are photos from our last “show and tell” class, when students performed a little play with their robots, based on their own original story: Devil Bot stole a secret recipe from Chef Bot, who runs the bakery where all the food is prepared in Food Ville. Police Bot and Swat Bot then chased the devil and locked him up, restoring peace in their little world, with “pizza for all.” 

Here are some photos from our first classes.

You can see more pictures in our photo album.

What are students learning?

Students are creating their own robot and interactive art, in a playful way that makes learning more fun. Working collaboratively, they make their bots move, bringing characters to life and interacting with others in their new ‘robot world.’

This unique combination of art and technology helps them develop a range of new skills:

  • critical thinking and problem solving
  • Arduino, robotics and programming
  • science, technology, engineering, art and math skills (STEAM)
  • creative expression, communication & collaboration skills

Learn more in our course slides and student guide.

 

Do you also teach this class for adults?

Yes! We taught a Create a Robot class for adults and teens at Tam Makers in Mill Valley.

In just two evenings in September 2017, we showed students how to build their own artistic robot with Arduino, make it move around, shake its head and wave. And they got to take their animated creature home with you, to impress friends and family. 🙂  We may teach more adult classes in the future. Check out our classes page at Tam Makers.

 

What materials are included?

Each student received a robot kit, which they learned to assemble, control and program.

For this class, we created our own robot kit, using an Arduino Feather M0 for the robot, an Pro Micro for the remote, a custom chassis, plus three additional servos and more parts. Our robot kit was similar to commercial kits, but with a lot more features at a lower cost. This robot kit was decorated by the students to create an interesting animated character. Learn more about our robot kit in our student guide.

This robot kit supports these features:
‱ Roaming – the bot can move around under user control
‱ Moving – the bot can move some body parts (turn its head, wave its arms, using servos)
‱ Inputs – the bot has a variety of buttons (on/off button, buttons for different gestures, etc.)
‱ Remote – the bot can be controlled remotely (using a remote control or desktop app)
‱ Lights – the bot can have lights in its body (LEDs that blink, glow, or fade on and off)
‱ Sounds – the bot can play audio (using piezo buzzer to play simple beeps and tunes)
‱ Programming – the bot is easy to code (with visual programming tool like Snap4Arduino)
‱ Flexibility – the bot can be expanded (with extra parts to be ordered separately)
‱ Pricing – the bot is affordable (we’re aiming for a maximum of $75 per robot)

They programmed their robots with Snap4Arduino and made them move in different ways with servo motors. We used the school’s Macs to program the robots, using the Arduino software and Snap4Arduino, a visual programming tool. Arduino code was shared with parents when class ended, so they can help students to continue to program their robot at home.

What do the robots look like?

Students created some cool characters for their Robot World: Chef Bot, Devil Bot, Police Bot and Swat Bot

Each student received their own robot kit, which they learned to assemble, control and program. They built a chassis, wired up the Arduino electronics, made their own remote control, added a head and arms (laser cut based on their designs). Last but not least, they painted and decorated them to give them unique personalities. You can track their progress in our photo album.

The video above shows what our robots looked like in early stages of development. Our fun robots can roam around, shake their heads and flap their wings, at the touch of a button. 

Below are a few photos of our first prototypes, made with laser-cut wood figures and servo motors (to see them in action, watch our video). We call them ‘Bambots’. This name is short for ‘Bamboodu Robot’: it is inspired by the fictional Bamboodu tribe we created for art projects like the Bamboodu Float and the Pataphysical Slot Machine.

Bambots like to shake their heads and flap their wings back and forth. The photos below show other prototypes of a Bambot Angel and an Bambot Dude, in different stages of construction.

For more pictures of this course, see our photo album.

 

What does the robot world look like?

We invited students to design a magical world for their robots, then build it and decorate it.

They imagined a future wonderland called FoodVille: a peaceful world filled with food, to insure a life of ‘everlasting fun.’ They created a colorful landscape centered around a volcano spilling out candy lava, with robot homes and a bright red soda fountain.

We asked students to decorate their robots so they looked like characters in that fantasy world. For a closer look, see our photo album for this course.

Who are the teachers?

Multimedia innovator Fabrice Florin and software designer Edward Janne taught this course.

Fabrice Florin

Fabrice is an art maker and social entrepreneur who creates unique experiences to inform and engage communities through digital and physical media. He has led the development of many pioneering products in education, news and entertainment, working with innovators such as Apple, Macromedia and Wikipedia. He is now a teacher and artist at Tam Makers in Mill Valley, where he teaches maker art to adults and kids. Learn more at fabriceflorin.com .

 

Edward Janne

Edward is a software developer and teacher at Tam Makers. He has an extensive background in interactive design and engineering. Prior to joining us, he was a technical animator at Bonfire Labs, a creative content agency. He also studied at the Academy of Art University and the University of San Francisco. Edward has taught several Maker Art classes with us, and will lead more classes for adults and teens at Tam Makers this fall.

 

How can I learn more?

To learn more, view our photo album, course slides and student guide — and check our course page for updates.

Also read this overview of our Maker Art classes, and visit our site for Tam Makers, our community makerspace in Mill Valley.

For more info, email Fabrice at fabriceflorin-at-gmail-dot-com.

Ubu’s Dreams

Ubu’s Dreams is a shadow puppet show featuring Pùre Ubu and surreal characters from his unconscious. This play was created by Mark Petrakis and Fabrice Florin, with Edward Janne, Dan Cantrell, Phyllis Florin, Jean Bolte and our friends at Pataphysical Studios.

We premiered Ubu’s Dreams at the Canessa Gallery in North Beach, San Francisco on November 3, 5 and 12, 2016. Watch the video here. The show was part of the ‘Pataphysics of Dada exhibit for the Dada World Faire hosted by City Lights Books.

What’s it about?

Ubu’s Dreams stars Pùre Ubu, the protagonist of Alfred Jarry’s plays at the turn of the 19th century. This shadow puppet show features many surreal characters from his unconscious: big faces, talking ravens, exploding cows and other creatures from the wild ubu-beyond.

Ubu’s Dreams explores new ways of telling stories with shadows, combining laser-cut wood figures, mechanical automata, a rich musical soundtrack as well as video and multimedia scenery. This 12-minute show consists of three separate plays with music interludes.

Watch the video below. For more details about this first show, check out this scripts page.

Where was it shown?

We premiered Ubu’s Dreams on November 3rd, 5th and 12th, 2016, 6-8pm, during our ’Pataphysics of Dada exhibit at the Canessa Gallery in North Beach, for the Dada World Faire.

We may perform Ubu’s Dreams again in 2017. Please contact us at info@pataphysics.us with any questions or suggestions of possible venues for our next show.

In the meantime, you can watch the video of our first performance here on Vimeo.

And here is our photo album from recent shows, including the ‘making of’ Ubu’s Dreams.

How are the characters made?

The shadow puppets in Ubu’s Dreams are made of wooden figures and shapes created in Adobe Illustrator and laser cut onto ⅛” birch plywood. We animate these puppets by hand from behind the screen, holding them on thin vertical sticks planted on animation stands. A few of the characters have moving parts, such as arms or mouths — and some of the parts light up.

We plan to bring some of these figures to life by making them move with small motors. We’re also experimenting with spotlights and other forms of automation. Some long-term aspirations for this experiment are outlined in this Theatre MĂ©canique blog post.   

 

What does the show look like?

Here are photos for each scene in the show.

See more pictures in this photo album — including the ‘making of’ Ubu’s Dreams.

What is going on behind the screen?

Here are photos of the performers and their puppets.

How does it work?

This shadow puppet show takes place inside the Magic Theater, a mobile stage for interactive storytelling we created for this project.

The Magic Theater is based on a wooden cart with a PVC framework. It includes a powerful projector over the performers’ heads, which illuminate the top of the screen, so the show can be seen even in a crowded room.

 

Who created this?

Here are the fine folks who created this project:

Created by Mark Petrakis and Fabrice Florin

Written, Performed and Directed by Mark Petrakis

Designed and Produced by Fabrice Florin

Animated and Engineered by Edward Janne

Music by Dan Cantrell

Stage Design and Construction by Fabrice Florin, Phyllis Florin, Edward Janne, Mark Petrakis and Jean Bolte

Special Thanks to our friends at Pataphysical Studios

 

How can I learn more?

Watch the video here. See also: photo album, scripts page and timeline.

 

Bamboodu Float at the Parade

People loved our Bamboodu Float at the 2017 Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade!

I created this political art performance with the Mill Valley Community Action Network (MVCAN), to express our frustration with the Trump regime.

Our puppet theater on wheels stars Lady Liberty and Tiny Trump: each time Trump tweets fake news, Liberty bonks him on his thick bobble head.

Here’s a video of our parade with dozens of artists and MVCAN members:

Thousands of spectators cheered and sang along with us: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses 
” This lovely poem by Emma Lazarus was turned into song by Gareth Loy and performed by local singers, including members of the Shady Ladies.

Veteran journalist Paul Liberatore wrote this fine cover story for the Independent Journal, the largest newspaper in the North Bay. ABC 7 News featured our political art throughout their Memorial Day coverage (a clip from their news report is included in the above video). Our video also includes footage from a wonderful parade montage by Gary Yost, with a moving guitar solo by young musician Matt Jaffe.

This Memorial Day Parade was organized by Larry “the Hat” Lautzker, Mill Valley’s colorful clothier. The parade judges gave us the “Best Community Spirit Award.” One judge, Eric Christensen, explained why he voted for our entry: “I thought it was a very appropriate message to send on Memorial Day: if people don’t stand up to Trump and his policies, our future will be filled with many more war dead to memorialize.” 

Our friends at MVCAN invited me to give a talk about this project and the importance of art in politics at their monthly MVCAN meeting. Here are my takeaways:

  • Art engages us at a deeper level
  • It unites us around shared emotions
  • We identify with the characters of our stories
  • We spread our message to a wider audience
  • It invites people of all ages to participate
  • It sparks our imagination to invent the future
  • Making art together is fun and inspiring
  • It encourages playful collaborations
  • It builds community and strengthens our bonds

Here’s the video of my talk. See our slides for more info.

I’m very grateful to all the MVCAN friends and neighbors who helped build this float in our front yard: Danny Altman, Laura Boles, Phyllis Florin, David Glad, Peter Graumann, Edward Janne, Suz Lipman, Charlene Lundgren, Jean Marie Murphy, Mark Petrakis and Martha Roush, to name but a few. See the team in action in our photo album.

Special thanks to my amazing friend and associate Edward Janne, who designed and engineered the technology behind this float, using an Arduino, an MP3 shield and NeoPixel matrices. He coded the Bamboodu Player, the custom software which allowed me to choreograph our live performance, using this simple script. If you’d like to learn how to build systems like these, we’ll teach another Arduino class together this fall at Tam Makers.

Many thanks as well to our friends at Pataphysical Studios, our art collective, who marched ahead of us holding a large Traffic Jam sign, from an earlier caper memorialized in this video. We all wore our purple lab coats and funny hats, to set the tone for this new political art march.

I’m really happy that so many people enjoyed our Bamboodu Theater — and that our performance helped promote the Mill Valley Community Action Network — a grassroots political group that helps us coordinate our resistance to right-wing attacks on our liberties. 

Through this interactive art experience, we hope to engage people of all ages to get engaged in political action. If you live in the North Bay, sign up here on the MVCAN site — and join your neighbors to keep democracy alive!

Vive la liberté!

Fabrice

Learn more about the Bamboodu Float:

#art #bamboodu #indivisible #mvcan #politics #puppets #resist #theater

Bamboodu Theater

Behold the Bamboodu Theater, my new puppet stage for civic events and art shows.

This interactive theater experience features the Bamboodu spirit, a mythical creature rising from the earth to expose the troubles facing America and the world. Above his head are some of the characters that haunt his dreams, playing out the eternal fight between fear and hope.

Our first scene stars Lady Liberty and Mr. Trump. As surreal music plays, Mr. Trump’s recent tweets and alternative facts scroll by on a news ticker below the stage. Each time Trump says something wrong, Liberty hits him on his thick, bobbing head — until his oversize jacket falls off, revealing that the emperor truly has no clothes.

At the end of this short play, we invite our guests to sing along the inspiring words of Emma Lazarus’s poem about the Statue of Liberty (“Give me your tired, your poor 
”). Through this interactive experience, we hope to engage people of all ages to think about the values we share — and help change the world through civic action.

Bamboodu Theater is a work-in-progress, combining mixed-media art with radical puppetry, along with electronic text, lights and sounds powered by Arduino. We customize the experience for each public appearance, whether it is shown as a stand-alone exhibit, a parade float or a street theater performance.

We premiered this interactive theater experience at Signs of Hope, an inspiring exhibit of political art that ran from April 14th to 29th at Art Works Downtown in San Rafael. See photos of our theater in that exhibit. Learn more on our project page.

We are now building a special float to feature the Bamboodu Theater at the Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 29, 2017. To create this float, I am working with a wonderful team at the Mill Valley Community Action Network (MVCAN), a local political group which I recently joined to resist the conservative takeover of our country.

Our new Bamboodu Float is coming along very nicely, as shown in this photo album. Learn more on our project page. In coming months, we plan to show it at other civic events and political rallies.

Bamboodu Theater was created by Fabrice Florin, in collaboration with Phyllis Florin, Edward Janne, Mark Petrakis, Geo Monley, Jean Bolte, Howard Rheingold and our friends at Pataphysical Studios and Tam Makers. Special thanks to Gareth Loy for permission to use his Mother of Exiles song, and to all the MVCAN members who are helping build our parade float: Danny Altman, Laura Boles, David Glad, Peter Graumann, Suz Lipman and Jean Marie Murphy, to name but a few. I’m deeply grateful to you all.

It’s been a true pleasure to work with so many friends and neighbors to keep democracy alive through art and theater.
Vive la liberté!

Teaching Maker Art

Students show off their Halloween Wonderbox at our first 'maker art' workshop at the Mill Valley Library.

Students show off their Halloween Wonderbox at our first ‘maker art’ workshop at the Mill Valley Library.

For the past couple years, I have been teaching ‘maker art’ to lower and middle school children, to help them create interactive art with electronics and storytelling.

In our after-school classes, we build magical worlds together: a city of the future, a haunted house, a time machine or a halloween wonderbox. We show students how to bring them to life with animated characters, light them up, make them move, play sounds and tell their stories.

This hands-on, project-based activity invites children to learn by doing, in a playful way that engages all their senses and puts them in charge of their own learning.

Here’s an overview of our first  classes for elementary and middle school students ages 6 to 14, in four different Bay Area schools and libraries (see list below).

Watch the video below for an overview on Maker Art. See also our separate report on the Time Machine, which we created with our 4th and 5th graders at the Lycée Français in 2017. Later this year, I will post more reports on our other projects (Haunted House, City of the Future).

Watch this video of Fabrice’s talk about our Maker Art classes at the 2017 Maker Faire.

 

What is Maker Art?

In our Maker Art classes, we invite children to create magical worlds together, combining art, technology and storytelling. Our students get really engaged in the process, which helps them develop their creative, problem-solving and social skills.

Here’s what we have learned so far from these Maker Art classes:

  • Maker art is deeply engaging
  • Art + tech + stories appeal to more learners
  • They identify with their characters
  • Creative freedom gives them license to play
  • Student-driven projects build their confidence
  • Collaborations are fun and productive
  • Family activities level the age gap
  • Wonderboxes help frame our imagination

This is what school should be like: project-based, hands-on, student-driven and collaborative.

To learn more, watch the above video of my talk on Maker Art at the 2017 Maker Faire. This 20 min. presentation gives a good overview of this promising new way to encourage children to develop their creative, problem-solving and collaborative skills (see slides).

I will give another talk about our Maker Art classes at the ReMake Education Summit in August 2017. In the meantime, check the above videos and slides, as well as these photos of our classes. I plan to write a more in-depth blog post about these findings in coming weeks. For now, here are more lessons learned, written by our team during our first experiments.

Update: In winter 2017, our Maker Art class built a Time Machine, a new time travel experience created by 4th and 5th graders at the Lycée Français. As shown in this video, our interactive art exhibit invites you to travel through time and meet characters from the past, present and future: participants created nine diorama scenes, from the age of dinosaurs to the 50th century. Read our full report on this class.

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, we invite you to come visit us at Tam Makers, our new makerspace in Mill Valley. We offer a range of maker classes for adults and teens. Join one of our free meetups on the First Thursday of every month, starting in September. Making art together is fun and educational!

 

Young art maker Josephine Maeght shows off the Chinese New Year Wonderbox she is creating with another student at the Lycée Français.

Young art maker Josephine Maeght shows off the Chinese New Year Wonderbox she created with another student at the Lycée Français in Sausalito.

Create Your Own Wonderbox

In our workshops, we give each student a small cardboard ‘wonderbox’ and ask them to create an interesting scene in that box, on a given theme (e.g. Chinese New Year, see below). They learn to design and build their artworks, then bring them to life with lights, motion and sound. At the end of the course, we assemble all their boxes together and ask students to tell their stories for a short video ‘show and tell’. We provide all the materials for this course and students can take their wonderbox home at the end.

This educational program invites children to develop a wide range of new skills, across multiple disciplines: from creative expression to science and engineering. They seem really engaged by the freedom to create their own interactive art, which gives them more control over their learning experience. And working collaboratively, they get to experiment together and help each other create something greater than any of them could do on their own.

Learn more about our Wonderbox workshops here. For more info, read about our first Wonderbox workshop at the Mill Valley Library, then view this video and photo album, as well as the workshop instructions. This program was developed by artists and educators at Pataphysical Studios, creators of the ‘Pataphysical Slot Machine.

 

Maker art students are creating Chinese New Year Wonderboxes with different animals from the Chinese Zodiac at the Lycée Français in Sausalito.

Maker art students created Chinese New Year Wonderboxes with different animals from the Chinese Zodiac at the Lycée Français in Sausalito.

Chinese New Year Wonderbox

Celebrate the Chinese New Year by making an art wonderbox with a paper lantern and animated character.

In this course, students get to pick an animal from the Chinese Zodiac (e.g.: dragon, horse, tiger, snake). We give them a laser-cut wood figure as a framework to build on, as well as lots of art & crafts supplies and electronic parts. Kids bring them to life by making their characters move, light up, play sound — then coloring and decorating them with markers, fabric, feathers and jewels (see photo).

Children learn to:
‱ Light up a paper lantern
‱ Make a button and circuit
‱ Make their animal move
‱ Decorate their box
‱ Play sounds
‱ Tell their story

To learn more, watch this prototype video of the Chinese New Year Wonderbox — as well as this video of our first experiments with making animals move. You’ll also find more details in our course overview.

Our lower school students seem to love this fun and educational activity. They enjoy lighting up their lanterns and making their art move — and they gain a deeper understanding of electrical and mechanical engineering, as well as creative design and innovation.

Young art maker Theodore Carman built a cardboard propeller to move his flying dragon for the Chinese New Year Wonderbox he is making at the Lycée Français.

Young art maker Theodore Carman built a cardboard propeller to move his flying dragon for the Chinese New Year Wonderbox he is making at the Lycée Français.

For example, to make their animals move, they had to explore different ways to animate their creatures: using glue sticks to make them vibrate, or hand-made paper propellers to push them forward and make other objects move (see photo). In the process, we’re all learning to create simple ‘poetic robots’ — with just a few affordable parts that anyone can assemble together.

The Chinese New Year is our theme for January and February 2016. Our next theme from March to July 2016 will be to build a City of the Future, as outlined below.

 

What will life be like in the 22nd century? Help dream up a better world and build a City of the Future. Art by Boombastik3 via Deviant Art.

What will life be like in the 22nd century? Help dream up a better world and build a City of the Future.
Future City Art by Boombastik3 via Deviant Art, freely licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA.

City of the Future

Create a city of the future with arts and electronics!

In this course, children will imagine what the world will be like in 100 years, then build a futuristic model together.

This spring, I am teaming up with teacher and builder Geo Monley to teach this cool after-school maker course for middle-school students, held in his fabulous wood shop at Tam High. We will invite kids to invent the future by building it with art and electronics, making models of what life might be like in the next century. Starting March 30, we will meet every Wednesday from 3:30pm to 5:30pm at Tam High School in Mill Valley.

Students will first make a futuristic home with a cardboard ‘wonderbox’ and a small character, featuring a new invention that might change our lives in the 22nd century. They will then bring them to life by making their characters move, lights blink and sounds play. Next, they will work with other students to assemble their boxes into a small city of the future. At the end of the course, we will make a short video of their creations — which they get to keep.

Here is a first example of what our city of the future could look like.

The City of the Future will include a row of 'wonderbox' homes in the foreground, and a city landscape in the background. It will be about 6 feet wide, 3 feet deep and up to 4 feet high, and be placed on a rolling 'maker art cart.'

This 3D model shows a first visualization for our city of the future, to be designed with our students.
Created by Fabrice Florin with Sketchup, CC-BY-SA.

Our city of the future will include a row of ‘wonderbox’ homes in the foreground, and a city landscape in the background. The model will be about 6 feet wide, 3 feet deep and up to 4 feet high, and be showcased on a ‘maker art cart’.

Learn more about this City of the Future course here.

 

2016 Courses

We taught 5 different ‘maker art’ courses and workshops in 2016, in Marin and the Bay Area:

(Update: courses grayed out below are either full or have already occurred)

‱ Maker Art Class
LycĂ©e Français in Sausalito – Jan. to June 2016
Weekly after-school class for children ages 6-10
Themes: Chinese New Year | City of the Future
Thursday afternoons for 90 minutes
For enrolled students of the Lycée only
Learn more

‱ Wonderbox Workshop
LycĂ©e Français in San Francisco – Feb. 15, 17 and 19
Special workshop for children ages 7-10
Theme: Chinese New Year
Three classes of 90 minutes each during ski week
For enrolled students of the Lycée only
Learn more

‱ Create Your Own Wonderbox
Mill Valley Public Library – Feb 16 and 18
FREE workshop for children ages 8-10
Theme: Chinese New Year
Two classes of 2 hours each during ski week.
No experience required. Grades 3-5 only. Parents welcome.
Learn more

‱ City of the Future
Tamalpais High School – March to May 2016
Weekly after-school class for children ages 10-14
Wednesdays at 3:30pm, for 2 hours
No experience required. Parents welcome.
With Geo Monley at Tam Makers
Learn more

‱ Create a Haunted House
LycĂ©e Français in Sausalito – Sep. to Dec. 2016
After-school class for ages 7-10 (grades 4-5)

Thursdays at 3:30pm, for 90 minutes
For enrolled students of the Lycée only
Learn more

 

Learn more about the maker art program in this project overview — and follow our progress in this photo album.

Next steps

Overall, this ‘maker art’ program seems like a great way to teach art and technology to school children, in a playful way that makes their learning experience more fun. So far, the students are responding well to this hands-on, project-based activity: they seem engaged by the freedom to create their own interactive art, which is music to my ears. And their parents also seem to really appreciate this fun and educational program.

To experiment with this vision, I am leading these pilot courses in 2016, with the help of my maker art community. We will determine next steps for this program after evaluating our first pilot results. Possible outcomes might include more Wonderbox workshops, a public maker space in Marin, a full line of Wonderbox kits, an online Wonderbox site for videos — and/or training programs for educators. We also hope that this program can help grow an ‘art maker movement’ over time.

For now, I am really enjoying this new chapter of my life as a maker art teacher. Designing and leading this program has been very fulfilling so far — even if it can be exhausting at times. In a sense, this is a culmination of all the work I’ve done in my career, from education to entertainment and technology, bringing together the physical and digital worlds to support better collaborations and deeper understandings.

Every decade or so, I try to re-invent myself and take a new challenge. My last decade was focused on facts and how to tell them apart from fiction — first with our NewsTrust experiment, then on a much wider scale with Wikipedia. It’s very likely that my next decade will be all about art, learning and community.

 

Art makers from Pataphysical Studios help prototype different ways to make animals move for the Chinese New Year Wonderbox course.

Art makers from Pataphysical Studios help prototype different ways to make animals move for the Chinese New Year Wonderbox course.

Thank you

I would like to thank my art and learning communities and the great team of friends who are working with me to offer these classes.

First off, I’m very grateful to the schools and libraries who are hosting this program: Andrew Sobol, Marjolaine Debord and Wladymir Wladymir Paiva and everyone at the LycĂ©e Français; Anji Brenner and Karen Clarke at the Mill Valley Library — and Chris McCune and Betty Sue Johnson at the Tam High Union District. This classes would not be possible without their wonderful support of our cause.

I’m particularly grateful to my partners in the classroom: Cynthia Gilbert at the LycĂ©e Français; and Geo Monley at Tam High School. Heartfelt thanks as well to my wife Phyllis for preparing the art supplies for this class, and to my art friends from Pataphysical Studios: Howard Rheingold, Jean Bolte and her daughter Natalina for their advice, creative prototypes, art supplies and help assembling the kits. Kudos as well to Tara Brown at Kithub for supplying the electronic parts.

Last but not least, it’s a real pleasure to meet parents of our students, and getting them engaged in the process. And it’s a real pleasure to be teaching their children, whose curiosity, creativity and enthusiasm are an inspiration to me.

I’m so happy to see a little community grow around our first maker art courses: I hope that over time we can turn this initiative into a vibrant community learning network.

Onwards!

Fabrice

Maker Art: Build a City of the Future

What will life be like in the 22nd century? Help dream up a better world and build a City of the Future. Art by Boombastik3 via Deviant Art.

Create a city of the future in this cool after-school activity.
Future Art by Boombastik3, CC-BY-NC-SA.

Update: This spring, we created a city of the future with lower and middle school children, ages 7-14.

We invited them to imagine what the world will be like in 100 years, combining art, technology and storytelling to express themselves and develop new skills.

We taught this after-school ‘maker art’ class in two different schools:

Children were deeply engaged by this hands-on, project-based, student-driven, collaborative activity. We think this ‘maker art’ program is a great way to learn by doing, and we would like to offer it to more children and educational partners.

Here’s our original overview for this fun and educational after-school activity.

What is it?

Create a city of the future with arts and electronics!

In this maker art course, you will build a cool model of what our world could be like in 100 years. You will first make a futuristic home with a cardboard ‘wonderbox’ and an animated character. You will then bring it to life by making your character move, lights blink and sounds play.

Next, you will assemble your boxes into a small city of the future, and landscape it together. At the end of the course, we will make a short video of your creations — and you get to keep your box when the course ends.

Who is it for?

This after-school course is for middle-school students, ages 10 to 14 (6th to 9th grades). No experience necessary!

What will students learn?

Our classes combine art and technology to help you develop a range of skills: science, technology, engineering, art and math skills (STEAM); creative expression and communication skills.

You will create your own interactive art, in a playful way that makes learning more fun. You will also collaborate with other students to build something greater than you could do on your own.

When is it?

During our spring course, we meet every Wednesday from 3:30 to 5:30pm at Tam High School’s wood shop in Mill Valley. This 2-hour class runs for 8 weeks, from March 30 to May 25, 2016.

What will it look like?

Here is a first example of what our city of the future could look like.

The City of the Future will include a row of 'wonderbox' homes in the foreground, and a city landscape in the background. It will be about 6 feet wide, 3 feet deep and up to 4 feet high, and be placed on a rolling 'maker art cart.'

This 3D model shows a first visualization for our city of the future, to be designed with our students.
Created by Fabrice Florin with Sketchup, CC-BY-SA.

Our city of the future will include a row of ‘wonderbox’ homes in the foreground, and a city landscape in the background. The model will be about 6 feet wide, 3 feet deep and up to 4 feet high, and be showcased on a ‘maker art cart’. See our course slides for more images.

Who is teaching this?

Fabrice Florin is teaching this course with Geo Monley, Cynthia Gilbert and other art makers.

As a multimedia innovator, Fabrice has led the development of many pioneering products in education, news and entertainment, working with Apple, Macromedia, Wikipedia and other digital media groups. He is a lead designer at Pataphysical Studios and is teaching several maker art courses in the Bay Area.

The Tam High course for middle school children is hosted by Chris McCune and Betty Sue Johnson at Tam District Community Education. Advisors include Jean Bolte, Tara Brown, Donald Day, Dale Dougherty, Phyllis Florin, Natalina Frederick, Cynthia Gilbert, Howard Rheingold and our art maker community. We’re grateful to them all for making this course possible!

Will you teach more courses?

Yes! We will also teach a week-long ‘maker camp’ the week of July 11, every weekday from 9am to 1pm: in this camp, we will learn to program Arduino boards to build our city of the future.

Sign up here for this summer camp.
Tuition: $325 per student. Materials and Arduino board included.

How can I learn more?

You can learn more about this project in this course overview — and read about our other ‘maker art‘ courses in 2016.

For our spring courses, you can track our progress in each school here:

If you have any questions, you’re welcome to email me — and we invite you to spread the word in your community.

We look forward to coaching more children to become art makers!

Fabrice