Tag Archives: Design

Living organisms, a secret room and a chair – Part 4


We’ve talked about biofabrication, asked the question Why?, and delved into the beautiful design of the chair, but what’s missing is the key ingredient – the fungi!

Peter, I imagine the type of fungi is vital in the success of this chair. Can you tell me what fungi you’ve chosen, why you choose it, where it comes from and, is it safe?


I needed a fungus that would thrive on wood shavings, since filling The Edge with manure would probably have ended things rather quickly! I also wanted to grow something robust and strong. I remembered seeing brightly coloured bracket fungi growing on dead logs while walking the dog through the forests on the Sunshine Coast. It became apparent how tough this fungi was when I tried to prise some off to take home and place artistically in the garden (as you do).

A quick search of my backyard turned up a few likely prospects, and I knocked them off their logs, took them into The Edge and started growing them on agar plates. Agar is a jelly like stuff made from seaweed, which keeps things moist and can be mixed with whatever food source you require. They took off! Fungi just want to grow, it seems.

Once I had them growing, I scoured Fungimap to find out what they were, and sent my preliminary ideas to a kind expert at the Queensland Herbarium. He confirmed that I had cultures of Pycnoporus coccineus which is a beautiful orange bracket fungi, and Laetiporus portentosus which is a very robust and tough white one – so tough, that Aboriginal people used this fungi as tinder to start fires that could be carried and moved, and would smoulder all day. I felt I was onto a winner!

The third one turned out to be Schizophyllum, it grew the fastest, but unfortunately not a fungi that we’d like to keep around at The Edge. Schizophylum is being used by some European designers for their biofabrication experiments, but they have managed to get hold of a sterile form, with no potential health problems.

The Pycnoporus is used in industry (they extract enzymes from it to make beer), and shows even some promise in detoxifying contaminated soils – it eats PCBs apparently. This is the one I am concentrating on now, mainly because I like the colour.


Image Credit: Arthur Chapman “Pycnoporus coccineus (Orange Bracket)

Cubby Houses: 4 days in 2 minutes

We’ve captured four crazy days on camera, and sped it up so much that it now exists in just 2 minutes!

Last week The Edge crew spent two days undercoating over 100 sheets of MDF, and then the parents followed this up with a further two days constructing, painting and decorating their cubby houses.

While it feels just plain mean to reduce all this hard work to just two minutes, it does capture the team work, dedication and amazing job done by all.

(And don’t forget to share)

To catch up on the full story, read Cubby Houses for Community and Community Support for Cubby House Project.

Community Support for Cubby House Project

So far we’ve shared a little bit about the Cubby Houses for Community project, and in the earlier post it was mentioned how important the support was from community and local businesses. This project wouldn’t have been the success it was, if it wasn’t for the contribution of some very special people and their businesses.

Without further ado, The Edge, and the families would like to sincerely thank the following generous contributors to the Cubby Houses for Community project:

Jillian Breadmore, a very talented designer and facilitator who worked closely with the families to design and prototype their cubby houses. Plus, support from Jillian’s student network at Griffith, a heartfelt thanks to Cassie Tapper, Elvira Sebegatoullina and Troy Baverstock.

Laminex Australia, for providing all the MDF we needed to deliver this project, which turned out to be over 100 MDF sheets! A special mention to the Toolra factory and their plant Manager, Matthew Dunphy.

McClintock’s Transport in Gympie, for allowing us to store our materials in their shed while we scheduled deliveries and providing a great service.

And finally, Michael Miscamble from www.mmake.me, who generously offered his CNC routers and workshop to The Edge team to cut over 100 pieces of MDF! That was no mean feat!

A very big thank you to everyone involved!


Cubby Houses for Community

The Edge has kept a little (well actually, not so little) project under wraps for the past few months. However, if you are active on our social pages, you may have seen a little snippet of our very exciting and rewarding Cubby Houses for Community project. And now, as we enter the final phases, we are ready to share a little more about this very special project.

The story begins back in October last year. The Edge team put the call out for parents to get involved with an upcoming DIY project. The idea was to collaborate with the parents and work with them to design, prototype and construct custom cubby houses for their children. This process put the spotlight on education and upskilling; developing skills in conceptualisation, design and manufacturing. Plus, from the outset, the end goal was to release the finalised, ready to manufacture, digital files under a Creative Commons license.

With the families on board, the next step was to reach out to the community and connect with local businesses. A project of this size cannot be done without the support of other organisations. So, in steps some incredible people and their businesses to help The Edge and the families see this project realised.

Through a series of workshops, our facilitators worked with the parents to develop, design and prototype the cubby houses, with the final two days concluding last week as the houses were constructed and painted. Each cubby house was designed in modules with self-supporting walls and uses no glue, no nails and no screws! The entire house clicks, drops and slides together using the design of just three joints. With a set-up and pack down time of around 15 minutes, these small spaces are intelligently designed and fit together like building blocks.

There is a lot more to share about this project, including the stories from the families, and the release of the design files. But for now, enjoy some of the action shots that were taken over the past few months, and keep an eye out for our next instalment of Cubby Houses for Community.

Update: We have a video up now, you can view it here.

Living organisms, a secret room and a chair – Part 3


Coming from a design background, we often throw around the phrase ‘form follows function’.
Peter, how did you come up with this design? Is it functional and what makes it superior to other designs?


Form does follow function in effective design, but when you move from concept to concrete, then you also have to think of practical problems related to materials – strength, flexibility and cost all have an impact on the final product.

McLay designWhen I was thinking about how to use a fungal mycelium (which is the name for the body of the fungus, rather than the mushrooms which are really like flowers, since they are fungal reproductive organs), a few preliminary experiments gave me a feel for the properties of the material. It’s light, soft and fairly strong, but more fragile than wood or steel. A key advantage of using this grown material is that it will expand to fill the available food source; it is more mouldable than joinable.

The next factor in choosing a design was that we wanted to reference something Australian, since the mushroom came from my Australian back yard. A bit of Googling later, and I chanced upon the Kone chair design of Roger McLay; a significant Sydney designer of the late 20th Century. McLay produced a beautiful, simple and innovative design in response to the materials constraints immediately after the Second World War. He moulded plywood left over from building Mosquito bombers – which were the last wooden framed aircraft in wide use – into a simple, strong and comfortable shape. His ideas exemplified the growing modernist movement, and can still be seen in the bucket chairs on many verandahs today.

I felt that this design was able to show the potential for fungal biofabrication; it is much easier to grow the chair in a mould than steam, bend and glue the plywood. It also reflects the recycling ethos that inspired McLay, only I use wood shavings instead of surplus plywood. It is reputedly very comfortable (good for doing knitting apparently), and lastly, I really love the shape!


Image Credit: http://from.ph/200802


If you missed the first part of this series, read Part One and Part Two here:
Living organisms, a secret room and a chair – Part 1

Living organisms, a secret room and a chair – Part 2

Sound Extrusions: Porcelain Reloaded

Plaster molds for the porcelain speakers

Plaster molds for the porcelain speakers
Plaster molds for the porcelain speakers

The “hero shot” in this post (above) is a picture of clay models of the porcelain shapes. They were used to create actual plaster moulds. This is one of the first steps towards the final porcelain speaker shells  the main features of the project. The idea behind creating a porcelain object is very straight forward: once we finish a model in clay, we are ready to cast a plaster mould and use it as a negative shape for later porcelain slip casting. This is the most common approach. The beauty of plaster mould is in the fact that we can replicate the objects many times afterwards (3D printing is also pretty good in that regard, as we saw in the last post!), and that we are able to refine our object to finer detail while editing the plaster mould too. But the biggest advantage compared to a direct modelling approach, is the far greater chance of fault free product in the end, thanks to the process of slip casting.

The intriguing story of the Meissen porcelain manufacture workshop, from the beginning of 18th Century, was covered in one of the previous posts. It gave us an unusual introduction to this exciting material. But let’s leave the mystery of European manufacturing behind us for now, and let’s have a look at the process of porcelain making itself!

Making plaster moulds is in fact an art in itself. The reason for this claim is that complicated shapes require plaster moulds to be “assembled” out of many interlocking pieces. The reason for that is that you have to be able to take the mould apart once the object is casted. The only way to achieve this is to divide the clay model into virtual plains and cast the mould step by step, creating separate interlocking pieces as you go. Even some of the finest porcelain makers and designers leave this process to experienced mould makers.

Another step in the production is the magic of porcelain slip casting — in fact it’s fairly simple, but you wouldn’t know unless you knew what to ask for! By pouring liquid porcelain into the plaster mould we create the porcelain slip. But the real secret is in the plaster itself — more specifically, in the porosity of the material. Plaster in fact, is made of a maze of little tunnels and microscopic cavities, which are ready to absorb water. And here the magic starts. By pouring the liquid porcelain into plaster mould, the water in the porcelain gets absorbed into plaster and we are left with thin sediment crust. (Yes, this is already your favorite translucent coffee cup with a dragon!) After a few minutes we are left with a few millimetres thickness of porcelain wall. The rest of the liquid is poured away and the casted slip starts to shrink and pops easily out of the mould.

Sounds simple, but we are not done yet! The secrets of kiln and glaze firing are the most intriguing and guarded secrets. Porcelain firing temperatures reach up to 1280C, while the whole process is divided into two steps — the bisque firing (makes the whole object hard and reveals any material impurities like micro-cracks — oh no!) and the final glaze firing, which gives the porcelain body the glass like qualities and creates the sleek look of the porcelain objects.

In such a short introduction to the material, there was already lots of information. But let’s have a look, for a change, at how the old fashion decorative porcelain concept turns into a challenging adventure in contemporary design!


There’s one more “detail” to porcelain production. While watching a short documentary on Bugatti Veyron L’Or Blanc and the use of unusual porcelain interior decorations, be aware, that porcelain shrinks by 14-16% throughout the whole production. In other words, matching precisely crafted interior car parts with porcelain custom shapes must have been an adventure of its own!

Sound Extrusions: Oh Deer! (Introduction to Porcelain)

Porcelain ceramic casting workshop in Brisbane sound experimental ceramic speakers

Porcelain Casting Workshop Brisbane

In the last blog post we went through the overall idea of the Sound Extrusions project at The Edge. Before we dive deeper into some of the more technical issues, such as MAX/MSP programming, this post is dedicated to the introduction of porcelain as an exciting material to work with. All the visible parts inspired by the organic shape of avocados and beans — the actual individual components you saw in the visualisation in the last post — will be casted in porcelain.

Anyway, how cool is that? Crafting your own porcelain shapes! But it wasn’t always as easy as that… European porcelain is a fairly young phenomenon, emerging as late as the beginning of the 18th Century in Meissen, Germany. Before that, porcelain was solely imported from China and bought by European aristocracy at the weight price of gold at times. This is the reason why the creation of porcelain was such sought after technology. The Chinese had long known the secret to making porcelain, with modern style porcelain emerging around the 12th century, thanks to a specific mix of clay readily available in China. The actual research in Europe into recreating white translucent Chinese porcelain would have been a high-tech, top secret enterprise back in 1708 (just like The Edge today!), and only few people would have known about it.

The later Meissen porcelain production was in a self contained workshop with very strict regulations from 1710, when a team lead by Johann Friedrich Böttger made the final discovery. The second wave of porcelain making in Europe started only after a few workshop members “exported” the very secret knowledge to Vienna and started to operate their own businesses.

There’s one irony in the whole search for the real porcelain in Europe — one of the main porcelain material components, the kaolin clay, was always at the fingertips of the aristocracy who were importing the pottery from China at extraordinary prices. And I mean literally — kaolin was mostly used as a facial perfecting white powder back then, in the pale make-up of aristocratic beauties, who were sipping hot drinks from expensive Chinese porcelain — imagine that!

Besides kaolin clay, the other main component is silica. That’s why after the firing, porcelain is closer in consistency to glass than to regular pottery, the most sought after feature being the translucency in the thin walls or edges. This attribute is explored in contemporary design as well — taking the technology to its limits from translucent coffee cups to innovative variations on lamp shades for example. Porcelain is also an inert and very dense material, which makes it ideal to work with sound as well. This feature hasn’t been explored to any greater extent yet and that’s also one of the surprise elements in the Sound Extrusions project at The Edge — the porcelain and sound interaction project feature!

Please stay tuned for other posts to come. The announced interview with Mick on 3D printing is ready as well (Thanks Mick!), but we’ll probably cover the actual porcelain production process next — let’s see how we go anyway. The good news is that porcelain is not a top secret, guarded behind the medieval walls of Meissen any more! We’ll get into an introduction of clay modelling, plaster casting & porcelain slip casting later. Maybe we’ll get even into the process where the porcelain magic actually happens — the kiln firing and glazing. Let the porcelain deer be with you!

Sound Extrusions: Let’s Get Started!

Let me introduce you to the sound residency project at the Edge — the project is called Sound Extrusions and is about creating organic and living sonic elements within The Edge itself. What does this mean? Basically it’s a multichannel sound installation with custom made porcelain speakers. Once it’s up and running it will deliver natural ambient sounds. The actual sounds will be synced to selected natural phenomena through realtime online data flow. We will dive into the details shortly and I will take you through the creative and assembly process in the blog posts to follow. Expect an exciting trip, so please buckle up!

As for the start, expect blog posts in three diverse fields such as: porcelain design, sound design & music technology. There’s also a plan to throw in a workshop on multichannel audio installation setups featuring online lecture entry with Hans Tammen from HarvestWorks in NYC, later on.

In the porcelain design posts I will introduce you to the basic workflow techniques used in ceramic production, namely porcelain. The porcelain slips will be the main visible part of the installation and they will be fitted with solid drive speakers. The sound design and music technology posts will cover a wide range of topics, from sound design concepts to MAX/MSP programming, along with sound & technical issues emerging during the production process of the installation. I would like to get a few interviews done as well, to introduce to you some great artists and musicians you might not have heard about before!

There could also be other themes emerging, for example the use of 3D printing. I have asked Mick from the Edge to do a short introductory text on 3D printing with me already, as we found 3D printing handy for quick prototyping last week.

Stay tuned and the next blog post is going to be dedicated to basic workflow techniques in ceramic production!

Meet our new Sound Resident, Daniel Bartos


Daniel Bartos is our new Sound resident. He’s arrived here in Brisbane from the Czech Republic (via Central America and Arnhem land) to complete his PhD in multimedia. On the side he will be joining us for six months to build and install Sound Extrusions, an organic sonic project combining porcelain crafting with sound design. We sat down for a chat to get to know Daniel a little better.

Can you give us a little glimpse into your background and where you inspiration comes from?

My current focus is on live electronic music blended with an electro-acoustic music. I was originally inspired by the electronic music from the end of 90’s; the new and emerging sounds of Bjork, The Prodigy and even Jimi Hendrix. From there a music technology course in London familiarised me with guitar pedals and tape echo machine building. I then learned C++ programing, and began to create virtual instruments such as a sitar sound string generator based on Karplus-Strong algorithm.  After a while I needed to switch from computers to totally physical music instrument and the Australian didjeridoo came as a natural choice for me. If you look at this instrument, it’s basically an incredible breath controlled synthesizer – playing it is also very addictive!

That was the first time I came to Australia, to see it for myself. My trip to Arnhem Land is another story on its own, but I came full circle few years ago when I started thinking about blending the MAX/MSP environment with my acoustic playing. I got into live electronic music, got inspired by multichannel setups and also had the idea to develop new instruments using porcelain material. From there it’s only a little step from contemplating multichannel installations and using porcelain in the process.

How long will you be at The Edge and what will you be doing?

The Sound Residency with The Edge gives me an incredible six months to work on the installation proposal. It’s pretty much a dream coming true! I have always wanted to be part of such a crazy and creative space with arty and hi-tech flavor. My residency proposal involves sound installation working with set of porcelain design speakers and real-time data sonification patch in MAX/MSP. It’s called Sound Extrusions and it’s basically about creating organic and living sonic element within the realm of the Edge community through visually appealing porcelain installation.

What was your role before you came to The Edge? And before that? And before that?

I’ve always done the things which inspired me, be it five months of private research into yidaki in Arnhem Land or exploring surfing in Central America. I have sound programing and CGI background – there was also a pretty cool job I had in Prague some time ago, that was being part of a digitalization team of Prague’s 18th century paper Langweil model. Another cool job? Probably watching out for satellites, while doing conservation job around North East Arnhem Land! Besides that I’m part of Griffith University as an PhD exchange student here in Brisbane at the moment, in a multimedia collaboration with FAMU (Film School in Prague).

In my spare time I like to… go surfing or cassowary tracking in Northern Queensland. I wouldn’t dare to bother those birds, no worries!

My favourite food is…European style fried potato pancakes, avocados – or sushi with lots of wasabi, of course! I made up new special dish lately: french crapes with avocado and honey (that’s a Brazilian influence, I heard about mixing avos with sugar so I had to give it a go!)

If you were to give me $10 I would spend it on… CD from a street musician… or some unknown tropical fruit from the West End markets!

If you were to give me $1000 I would spend it on… Probably on a sailboat trip to the Pacific islands, while recording the trip on underwater mics… 🙂

First Character Concepts

We’re heading straight for the first real phase of production where the previous milestone was all about concepts, preparations, planning and settling in. The last few weeks have gone better than expected and we’re currently ahead of schedule, something that will be beneficial in the coming milestone which is a “tad” ambitious. The plan has always been to get a playable build of the game out to a select few as soon as possible. The date we’re currently aiming for is the 24 January.

During the first month we experimented with the art in regards to style and screen layout. While getting inspiration from other successful games, we created our own style and have gotten well on our way to producing the placeholder art for the assets in the game. Once everything has a placeholder, the polishing phase will begin.

On the technical side of things much time has been put into planning and setting up the structure of the game. Looking at all the mechanics, features and systems we’re implementing it is important to have a slid grasp of how everything will work together. This will also make implementation of unforeseen features and adapting the project a lot easier.

We wanted to share something with you and thought it was a good idea to introduce our main character and what his deal is.

A Witch Doctor from a remote and mysterious island is forced to leave his home. Global warming has caused the ocean to swallow the island and he has no other choice than to move to the big city. Having to start over, he opens a store and continues doing what he does best; helping people solve their problems, be it a broken heart, a stomach ache or altering their future! With the aid of his trusty assistant he must work to once again become the pillar of the community.

Here’s a sneak peak of some of the concepts we experimented with in regards to The Doc. Visit our blog and vote for your favourite! We’ll also be posting more art and concepts on our blog as the project progresses.

We’re open for suggestions, questions and feedback at any time! If you happen to pass by and want to see what we’re up to, we’re usually at The Edge on Tuesdays!

Thanks for reading,