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How I learned I hate Programming: the making of "Flourishing Decay: Aware"


"Flourishing Decay: Aware" is part of an ongoing series I'm doing that explores the relationship between natural and artifice, life and death, and objects that just aren't....quite right.


This member of Decay series was the project that tested the very edges of my sanity.

My original plan was for it to be 6 feet long and the light was supposed to react to anyone walking by it as they went. As it turns out.....programming is really hard if you've never done it before.




We had 5 weeks to complete this assignment, and I must have spent 4 weeks of that just trying to program it and get the 3d sculpting down. I spent the last week crying and being sure that at any second my tiny computer was going to catch fire or explode.


The backdrop of this piece is just made from scraps of plywood that I layered and carved. The real magic happened with...everything else. This was the first time that I worked with anything electric in a project beyond a simple light bulb.

I also realized that I had to think about things like "how am I going to make these LEDs stay put?"

Enter my first technical design in FormZ.


The hard part was getting the holes right for the eyeglass screws.

You can see that I did not, in fact, "get it right".

(Centered? Never heard of her.)

But it was close enough to function and that's what counts. Until this post, I was the only one who had to live with the knowledge of my sloppy sculpting.


The biggest challenge of this piece was learning how

to program. I realized very quickly that doing a sculpture with hundreds of lights and multiple sensors is not something I am equipped to do on a first try. I paired it down to one sensor and 60 lights.


Even then...



It took me four weeks to get close to what I wanted.


The video below is a good way to skip the four weeks and see what it looked like at various stages in the process.


The fungal nodes were printed with a "natural" filament which has no dye in it, so it diffuses light beautifully. I painted over it with transparent paints. The last clip shows the two separate things that the lamp does when you set off the motion sensor. It was supposed to do one thing, but eventually I looked at my code, tears in my eyes, and said "whatever, it looks sick." My teacher for the class, Leah, kept stressing to me the importance of the MVP, or Minimum Viable Product, and at the end of the day I looked at the product and went "that is viable."

It went on to get selected for the Made at MCAD exhibition, and because of that feeling of accomplishment and vailidation I am currently trying my hand at another programmed lamp.

Apparently I do not understand how to learn a lesson. I looked at my computer and called upon the immortal words of Chumbawumba's Tubthumping: "I get knocked down, but I get up again

You are never gonna keep me down"


I might need to end my programming sessions with a whiskey drink or vodka drink, but you could end up with a sick lamp in the end.


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