Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Starting in the middle
Many times I start in the middle and work in both directions. The reason I’ve found this process useful is because I find that I have difficulty starting at the beginning, or starting at all. Maybe that’s because it is hard to figure out where the actual beginning begins, and starting in the middle doesn’t require any thought at all. In a way, there isn’t anything to lose. The important thing is to start building something. I never know where this will lead me, and I am always delighted to find out. Starting in the middle might mean starting with the most obvious thing. Starting in the middle is to be present with the possibility of traveling back to the past and forward into the future, or back to the beginning, forward to the end ( a new beginning).

A good idea
A good idea can take a year to develop.
Retaining the quality of the sketch I love to make sketches in copper wire. Sometimes I leave pieces of wire on my desk to pick up when I feel like taking a break from something else. I just start bending the wire into curves. Sometimes the sketches result in a new idea or direction, or just an aspect of a new idea. The important thing is not to think too much. My favorite shapes to build are based on circles and ellipses. In the end this may no longer be obvious that these were the starting point, but frequently aspects of these fundamental geometries are still present in the end. Ellipses are my favorite since one radius flows gracefully into another. When translating these sketches to a larger size, I try and follow the sketch. There is an inherent unique and personal quality in a sketch that is essential to capture, and this quality is also easily lost in translation.

Creating a system
I try to think about how to make organic systems. So understanding the geometry is essential. This knowledge facilitates simplicity throughout the process of building. Simplicity is inherent in the most complex geometries. The beauty of a system is the organic qualities. A system is easily expandable, self-correcting, contains various symmetries, and is adaptable..

Developing an idea with sketches, models, and drawings
Since I’m “over fifty,” I figure it’s ok to still use a mechanical pencil, triangle, and scale; and that it is ok to build study models, and even draft on vellum. It is hard to find a mechanical pencil anymore, much less a parallel bar. But I guess I’m determined.

Mock-ups and prototypes used to refine a frame geometry
I often start with sketches on the back of an envelope or in the margin of a magazine page. These simple cryptic sketches sometimes find their way into small wire models and sometimes gravitate into larger structures bent from tubular aluminum. My process is to first build a full-size mock-up, which is relatively accurate to scale with a series of reference points and lines used to translate the model. I first draw the overall geometry on the floor. Then I project points into space related to the bent segments in various radii. I try and retain the continuity of the curves, and often step back to look at the overall shape. The mock-up is really a second sketch. I allow the mock-up to have a life separate from the original study model. This is essential because there is a translation between the things.

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