Category Archives: reflections

Materials Exploration


I went on a materials exploration both at the CMTEL (Colors Material Trend Exploration Laboratory) at Art Center and downtown in the fabric district. I was in search of materials that would work well with one of my exhibition projects. I looked at strings, wires, organic fibers, plastics, fiber-optic cable, hollow tubing…

I purchased a few samples of string and satin from the fabric district and plan on doing some simple sample tests with them. The goal is to test how these materials interact with the wind or with people brushing their hands through them. I’ve also been looking for materials that appear and feel delicate but are still visible as a mass from afar. Enough of these hanging in one area could appear like a haze or cloud. I’ve been working with conductive thread for this particular project and was advised to sample other types of non-conductive threads and fishing  wire.

You might be asking what project am I conducting these materials explorations for?  I have sketches and preliminary mock-ups, but am waiting to post a more clear explanation of this particular project until it is developed out a little more. That is not to say that I have nothing to show; rather, to be honest, this opens up a whole other question about the protection of ideas and the rights of a designer/maker. At what point is it safe to expose my work? At the moment, I feel a bit uncomfortable putting my sketches on the web. I will definitely post them in a few weeks, along with a more flushed out prototype or study of my project.


May 25 Statement

This is a statement I wrote on May 25, 2009 to help clarify the goals for my thesis project.

I cannot say I have a point of origin for my thesis work. I can neither say I have had a linear process. Exploration has been about a mishmash of experimentation, chance moves, research and making. Even doing things that don’t seem quite succinct to the path of my work have been important in helping develop and edit my focus – going to workshops, spending a day at a fiddle and banjo contest, watching the shadows grow on the wall as the sun sets…

 My biggest challenge has been how to articulate my thoughts into words. I see things, I feel things, I have visuals in my head, but the one thing that I’ve been trying to do lately is anchor down my thesis work into plain English. So, what is my work all about? Sure, I’m interested in lighting and it’s relationship to human presence, but why? What do I want to evoke? What meaning do I want to convey? What’s different and how do my ideas relate to media design? 

What I am about to say is still a work in progress. The words will evolve along with the work. After sifting through my work from this previous four terms several times, and going into a mental reclusion these past two weeks, I have pulled these points together (in no particular order): 

1. I have an interest in existential experiences or in the idea that there’s something else in our surroundings that we are ignoring.

2. Light and motion are key technical elements in my work.

3. My work is inspired very much from nature and creatures in nature (i.e fireflies, water, jellyfish, translucent and bioluminescent organisms, etc.)

4. I want to create a body of work, or rather, a collection of pieces that can contrast between the macro and micro. The pieces in this collection will differ in form or scale, but will communicate a singular message. The exactness of that message is still being formulated – the first goals are to formulate a working elevator pitch and title. 

5. I want those who interact with my work to notice things not usually noticeable, that are above and below our line of sight. 

6. Things that are seemingly “empty” or blank still hold animate qualities that are microscopic or neglected by us – these are things I want to emphasize in my work.

It’s not so much that I want to surprise people, but more so that I want people to expand their range of perception and consciousness. How much do we really absorb our surroundings? Do we walk into a space and really look at every nook and cranny of that space? What subtleties can I bring into a space that will allow one to scan it more thoroughly, that will allow a person to be drawn to the otherwise ignored? I am interested in the seemingly invisible, in the things that go unnoticed but appear when they are “disturbed” by a certain level of our presence – by our vibrations, our sounds, our body heat, our physical contact with that space or object. 

My goal is to create a collection of work (as stated in point no. 4) that relate to one another in their message, but are dissimilar in scale and form. I would like to create one to two installation projects, and one to two small to medium scaled objects. I want these projects to expand the perception that one has to that particular object or the particular space (which, in this case, will be the Media Design Studio in the Wind Tunnel for the duration of this thesis), in a way that gives a sense of life or breath to that object or space. It is the idea that something else exists in that space other than oneself.

Storytelling through Shadows



I had the great opportunity to attend a workshop called If These Walls Could Talk a few weeks ago at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles. The workshop started off with a show by Leslie Gray, depicting stories of her family’s Japanese American heritage. The show was self-narrated and choreographed with the use of three high capacity flashlights. She was influenced by the ancient Mithila wall paintings of India, which were on display at the museum.

Leslie spent the remainder of the workshop talking to us about shadow puppetry, lighting and movement. She discussed the cutting techniques she used in order to create the details and effects for each of her pieces. She also took the time to talk about storytelling, and its relationship to myth, culture and history.

The reason why I took this workshop was because of my interest in storytelling. Since lighting and shadows were involved in this workshop, I thought this would provide me with inspiration for my own thesis work. I learned a lot about the effectiveness of scale and movement, and was provided with an informative breakdown of the cultural and religious Mithila paintings in India.

“Storytelling” is an element in my work that is still needing to be addressed. I am not even sure if storytelling is the proper word I am trying to integrate into my work. Rather, I believe it is more that I have a curiosity to evoke imagination and recollection of memories stemmed from nature and natural phenomena in the people that will interact with my work.

Some thoughts on my very many questions

Last week, I listed seventeen questions that I collected over the course of this term. I decided to try and give my own self some feedback and I think it really helped me focus what needed to be further explored, what needed to be put on the backburner and what needed to be set aside to be addressed  later on when my thesis becomes more evolved. Here are some thoughts below:

1. What would be the content of the stories?
I think the word “stories” might need rewording. Something to do with a collection of opinions, statements. A space to tell what is not normally told in a way that is related to media.

2. How will I shape the storytelling?
So far, I am focused on collecting and editing, but not necessarily with the intent to reinterpret what the person is saying. Rather, I want to get to the core of what is being said. I’d like the “storytelling” to take on as much life on its own with as little influence from me as possible. Though, this leads to the question of the space/place this exists. 

3. How does a public space facilitate new relationships?
The Text Wall project was an example of a public area that helped facilitate new relationships amongst a family. It’s not a question about if a public space CAN but rather it’s about HOW it provokes new relationships. I’m still unsure about the space/place and am leaning towards this being an installation. But I also have been exploring the idea of corners, ceilings, nooks…often “underutilized spaces”.

4. What are methods of integrating multiple narratives and multiple interpretations of those narratives in one place?
In my past work, I compiled a large sum of voices in one place – a wall (view past work blog entry). The interaction with my wall projects could be either singular or multiple, and each interaction evoked different outcomes with the participants. I think about my past work and know that there are takeaways I can utilize. I think the  voices were effective, but I think the medium (the wall) needs to be explored.  

5. How do my artifacts and visual collections connect to one another? 
This term, I experimented with projections, light augmentation/refraction, shadows, motion and paper sculptures. All my projects had an organic feeling to them and a feeling of growth. Visually, my experiments have been blurred and distorted, sometimes dreamlike. They were all small/medium in size, and I think one of the next steps is to enlarge the scale of my work. I am attracted to large scale projects, and think that perhaps lighting might play a major role in this. 

The shadows, scale and distorted feel of my work have been points of attraction for those that have seen my experiments. They have sparked curiosity and intrigue and I want to push these elements further.

6. How does the physical space merge with the body and why is that important?
A place of familiarity or a place of welcome. A place that seems like it’s somewhere else. A cross between James Turrell and Tara Donovan? These are inspiration artists for my work.

7. Can I get people to implicate themselves with the larger topics of the day?
Pass. This is something I can’t answer right now. Or maybe this is just a badly phrased question.

8. What if the information triggered a change in the shape of the interface, allowing one to better understand the meaning and mood of the content?
How would the so-called “interface” change in shape? Does it physically move or is movement illusionary because of a change in lighting? I am actually not interested in a moving interface, but do have an interest in lighting, particularly a mix of artificial and natural lighting. I think lighting can assist in both changing the ambiance of a space/place, but I’d have to say that lighting will be one of the factors that I will address towards the later half of my M5 term. 

9. Integrating cultural traditions (i.e. taking shoes off, leaving artifacts, etc.)?
I think the integration of “cultural traditions” is also something I will address later. For example, taking shoes off to enter a space/place (namely, the exhibition) is something perhaps of a detail that I will keep on a side list of “things to do” throughout M5.

10. A space where you can imagine the existence of another place?
I want to evoke a feeling of another place, perhaps even another dimension. I’ve had an interest in “the beyond”, the horizon right as the sun sets, “the otherside”…I think stories relate to these interests because stories relate to another time – either the past or the future – and of something fictional or true. 

In particular, personal questions (i.e. wall projects that asked about rants/raves and about predictions of the future) that are not often outwardly expressed or discussed are often encapsulated in a different place of the body and mind, almost in a different almost unshared or private dimension of the self.

11. How can we use existing spaces as an interface?
Is it about interface? I think I can use existing spaces, in particular the “underutilized spaces” of corners, ceilings and nooks. I think my main interests are about stories and dimensions. 

12. What if it’s about a new space for reflection? What if it’s about a social network specifically meant to make people more conscious or accountable to one another?
I don’t think it’s about social networking. I think it can be a new space for reflection, listening and contemplation. What I like about time is not about how fast we can go, but more about how much we need to slow down. (Einstein’s Dreams)

13. “Who am I? How do I know that I am more?” 
This was a question posed by Eckhart Tolle and I’m going to have to pass on this one.

14. What do we quest for? How does our spirituality reveal itself in the objects we own, the food we eat, the rituals we perform, the way we dress, the way we talk? Are we committed to an overall ancient truth or do we customize what we want to believe in?
“Spirituality” was an entry point. It is no longer the main drive in my thesis project, but relates to the idea of “the otherside”. I was trying to find a word to replace “spirituality” and I’m leaning towards the word “dimension”. Regarding rituals or customs, I do think rituals might be an element that could compliment my work. Or perhaps it’s just a detail better left out of the picture…once again, a thing to put in my side list.

15. What could happen on different scales? What would happen if a person’s perspective was inverted? (i.e. make people feel small or upside down, or high above…)
Is there a benefit to feeling enclosed (like in a cocoon) or feeling like there’s more of something in that space? Perhaps it’s about sculpture and tellings, which relates to the organic aspect of some of my explorations.

16. How much is ambient and how much is actually triggered by interaction?
I don’t know the answer to this yet, but will address this issue next.
17. Where would this exist? An exhibition? A building?…
I’m thinking that this will most likely be an exhibition/ temporary installation piece that could have the potential to exist in a more permanent space in the future. Again, I have an interest in larger scaled projects, so I’m thinking this may be an installation large enough for several people to exist at the same time. I know this will evolve over the course of the upcoming Spring and early Summer months.

Backstage Inspiration




All photos taken by Mari Nakano. All rights reserved.

Inspiration weaves itself in and out of the self. I believe some inspiration emerges from the innate self, but also gets absorbed and then translated from our surrounding interactions with objects and beings. As a designer and maker, I believe it is imperative that I remain in a consistent state of observation and absorption. I also believe that discovery and realizations of our deeper interests comes from varying where one seeks that inspiration. 

I had the great opportunity to spend the other day photographing and hanging out with some inspiring performing artists: On-Ensemble, a contemporary taiko quartet, taiko player Kenny Endo, flautist Kaoru Watanabe, violinist Ysanne Spevack and vibraphone player Brad Dutz. I spent a lot of time not only watching their rehearsals and the main performance at the Cerritos Performing Arts Centre, but also spent a lot of backstage and down time chatting with them about their views on performance, personal interaction and design. Could they be my thesis advisors for the year? Just kidding. Well… .

All of these performers are not just good at their art and their music, but they are in tune with the people to whom they present their work, their art, their craft. They have the capability to give all of themselves, but understand that there is a space between them and the audience that they cannot control, that is left to be interpreted by the individual. I learned a lot from my conversations with these artists and agree that my work is not something I want to fully “control” either. I believe in serendipity, in emergence, in self-interpretation. I believe that meaningfulness is created because that particular individual chooses to interpret and decide a song for themselves. And if not a song, then a story, an interaction, a moment however long or short. 

I also realized that these people were storytellers who had the capability of bringing a person into another world. I am not the type to be taken aback by performances, – and I’m not saying this to flatter anyone or promote my friends – but I was taken away by their performance. Many of the pieces were often premised with a backstory (i.e. a song dedicated to the birth of a new son, a piece in dedication to a place in which they grew up, rhythms about traditional foods…), and the delivery and curation of all of this really allowed for me to connect with the musicians on different levels. At times, I felt nostalgic, sentimental, romanced, entranced and excited.  I really did! Now, the question is, how can I evoke similar experiences through whatever I create? What am I learning about storytelling from these performers and how has the arena of music and performance assisted in my understanding of my own work?

D.H. Lawrence said…

“I am part of the sun as my eye is part of me. That I am part of the earth my feet know perfectly, and my blood is part of the sea…There is nothing of me that is alone and absolute except my mind, and we shall find that the mind has no existence by itself, it is only the glitter of the sun on the surface of the waters.”

Blog + Note Scan


I took a walk down memory lane, and decided to scan through my entire blog and my notebook from front to back. I wanted to organize words and categories in a way that could act as a quick–read summary  of what I’ve been processing this term. I’ll probably hang this on my ceiling above my bed and maybe cover my car windshield with it (just kidding). I broke down my collection of words into four categories: Content, Technical Elements, Space/Form and From Nature. These seemed to have emerged as my main areas of interest over the past few months. Granted, a few or many of these will be crossed out or swopped for something new as I continue my explorations, but I feel this list helped me find clarity and a clean base to build upon.

Pulling from these, I think some of the more major attractions I have are: