Maker in Residence Q&A

Maker in Residence Beck OBrien 3d model

So many exciting projects simmering away in the laboratory that is our residency programme here at Machines Room. Beck O’Brien is here on a month-long residency, and we caught up with her to see how it’s going:

Can you tell us a bit about your background as a maker, your practice and areas of interest?
I come from a fine art background with a broad set of training in painting, printmaking, sculpture and photography. I also have an MA in 3D computer animation. All of these different skills inform my practice as an artist when using the computer and 3D software. The possibilities created by digital technology never cease to amaze and delight me and the digital space provides endless access to different materials with minimal material waste. I’m constantly experimenting with new techniques. Machines Room, with its people and facilities, creates the perfect environment for me to do this.
My inspiration comes from exploring themes of spirituality, community and aspects of modern society through the lens of playful 3D sculpted characters, patterns and scenarios. I try to make work that is relentlessly positive to encourage others to think of the love, kindness and fun around them in the world. It’s a reminder to myself as much as anyone else.
Can you tell us a bit about what you’ve been working on, and what you will be working on, at Machines Room?
I began my Machines Room residency with the goal of exploring ways to integrate desktop 3D printing into my artistic practice and was open to letting the work form naturally to suit this over the course of the month. As it turns out I’ve ended up developing two projects which achieve very different outputs from the same 3D printing machine.
The first project is a collaboration with Ross Atkin of The Crafty Robot. I began by prototyping designs that could work with Ross’ Fizzbit. I had great fun designing characters and exploring the limitations of what designs the 3D printer could produce. I had two focuses in mind when testing the early designs. One was how to sculpt the characters with my patterns and style that 3D printed with a nice surface quality. The second element was playing around with how the shapes of the character effected the movement  of the robots when combined with the Fizzbit. Some designs had great ‘fizzy’ movement but fell over whilst some were stable but only moved in small circles. It was great fun exploring ways to get a design that had interesting movement but still functioned well.  Following these experiments we decided to develop an app where people can build their own crafty robot out of of body parts I have designed.
Alongside working on The Crafty Robot designs and app I have been experimenting with using the 3D printer to make plates which could be used with traditional printmaking techniques. Results are mixed but demonstrate some exciting possibilities.

Maker in Residence Beck OBrien Crafty Robot 3dPrint
Does having access to the machines, expertise and community at Machines Room influence your work and practice, if so then how?
It was amazing seeing my designs go from 3D software to being 3D printed and becoming animated with the Fizzbit within the space of a few hours. This is exactly the kind of thing that Machines Room is great for. Having access to machines and also the people here really help to bring projects to life in a small amount of time. It allows for an experimental and playful approach to producing work and if you bring an open mind and some skills to the space then it’s amazing to see what happens when you combine it with other projects taking place.
What are you finding most challenging?
So many things to do and so little time! It would have been fun to explore more of the machines and different projects but there are only so many hours in the day.  Alongside the projects I already mentioned I was also able to self build my own 3D printer during the residency. It drained time but gave me some new and important insights into the technology.  Time management is a big challenge!

Maker in Residence Beck OBrien 3dPrint
What is the highlight of the experience?
Meeting new people working on such a diverse range of projects is really inspiring and great fun. I saw so many people working on cool projects over the month and I’d love to have gotten involved with more of them. As a freelance digital artist it’s easy to spend a lot a lot of time isolated with only the computer for company but coming to Machines Room blows that wide open in the best of ways.
I’m so happy to have had the chance to collaborate with Ross Atkin on The Crafty Robot. It’s really fun for me to apply my style and imagination to someone else’s project to see what comes out. I hope he’s happy with his new additions to The Crafty Robot family.

What is next for you? Are you planning to continue this stream of work or start a new project? 
Machines Room residency was a great experience and I will be continuing to work on a couple of the specific projects including the Crafty Robot App.  The 3D printing is an important strand of my practice right now and this will also continue. My immediate next step is a two week residency in the Makers programme at Weiden and Kennedy where a key focus will also be 3D printing.

Maker in Residence Beck OBrien Crafty Robot 3dPrint