Tag Archives: the edge

INTERNal Dialogue: Thinking with words

Today marks the end of my first week as an intern with The Edge (I’ve been told my official title is negotiable, though business cards will not be provided. Check this space later for any further development.)

The first thing I noticed about The Edge was how fantastic the space is; nestled between State Library and the Queensland Art Gallery, you’d not be blamed for missing it. Although I’d moseyed along the boardwalk, right past the office windows countless times, I’d never had the foggiest as to what lay beyond the glass. Inside on the first level are are a bunch of wondrous spaces, filled with couches, beanbags and projector screens that appear out of the ceiling! Combine this with an awesome view of the city and you’ve got a recipe for collaboration and inspiration (or maybe just distraction). But the coolest area, I think, is the basement, where the offices and other dark and mysterious corners can be found.

At one end of the basement is Lab 4, where, amongst other things, you can find a batch of Kombucha Tea (see photo), which the team have used to manufacture a unique fashion line (I’m still trying to get my head around it). At the other end you can find a Nerf Gun surplus, left overs from the last Zombie Climate Apocalypse that the building suffered (I tried to hide my devastation when hearing it was unlikely there would be another during my time here. I may have failed). The Edge is full of the weird and wonderful and has me anxious to start next week.

kombucha tea sustainable clothing

More wonderful and slightly less weird, are the inhabitants of the basement: the staff. The first task I’ve been given is to begin re-drafting staff profiles for the new website. This meant I first needed to spend some time getting to know everyone. Although I could give you a spiel about the particularities of each of the staff I’ve spoken with thus far, it’s suffice to say that they’re about as clever and diverse a bunch of people as you’re likely to find in any basement. Aside from an excellent opportunity to introduce myself and get to know the team, my first task gives me an opportunity to use some of my skills (no one has challenged me to a staring competition yet) in a professional context. It’s very rewarding to be able to begin making connections between your university education and how you might be able to apply it in the real world (thank you QUT).

It’s Friday and 5pm is quickly approaching so you’ll have to wait to hear more about this creative-wonder-factory. Otherwise I’d suggest coming down and having a look for yourself.

Intern out.

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: Interview – 3D Printing, Prototyping & Muffins with Mick Byrne

I have come across another obstacle in the proposed porcelain speaker design recently — how to actually attach an inductive speaker onto the interior surface of the proposed porcelain shape … Mick Byrne from The Edge came up with a great idea to use a 3D printer at The Edge to do the job. We found out that it probably won’t print the final piece for the installation (it’s quite fragile and wouldn’t hold the weight properly), but it would be great for making a prototype and help with latex mould creation for later resin casting of the part itself!

After the bold introduction to porcelain making in the last blog post, here’s another topic, yet again very much connected with object design and modelling. This technique, completely new to the creative tool box, is based on recreation of digital models through printing, using various materials.

I have caught up with Mick Byrne for a short interview on 3D printing, just to give you a quick glimpse into this new emerging creative hi-tech universe, mixing computer graphics and design into one. Thank you Mick, for also sharing with us a great document covering the sintering experiment by Markus Kayse. Powered by the sun and using sand as printing material in the Sahara desert, it looks like a great adventure!

How far away are we from printing our muffins for breakfast in the morning, Mick?

In fact the technology is already out there, it just wouldn’t make sense to do it money-wise I would say!

Being in Australia right now makes me think about printing even surfboards on demand!

Yeah, you are right, the scale of 3D printers changed quite a lot recently. There are already some building companies using it for computer controlled injection of materials  which is pretty much the same thing as a filament printing process we do use here at The Edge.

It feels somehow, that 3D printing has a bit too much hype  being this new and seductive an element is an almost fetish approach to technology, don’t you think?!

I would say it’s more about narrowing the technology divide and allowing pretty much everybody to try it out. Not just the big companies with research parks behind them. In a way it’s democratizing the creative industry right now (on-line jewellery boutique shops, etc.). It’s a bit similar to what happened in the movie production some years ago.

This brings me to a tricky question, which has arisen quite recently  the publication of a 3D printed gun on the internet. What’s your point of view on that?

It’s not a real issue from my point of view. It was just a single use gun. It still has to be loaded with regular and controlled ammunition anyway …

Anyway, what is the most intriguing object you have come across concerning 3D printing?

It’s actually a sintering machine powered only by solar heat using mirrors and lenses. That is quite cool!

What’s the sintering process anyway? We have been talking about filament printing, which makes use of liquefied plastic cords what’s the difference then?

It’s a very different printing process: consecutively laid layers of powder on top of each other (which could be anything from plastic to titanium!) are heated in a very precise way with a laser to form the object. The beauty in that is that each layer of the actual powder adds a supportive structure to the originating element. In the end you just blow off the dust & away you go!

Is it very different to traditional production methods, such as mould casting or block subtractive manufacturing?

Sure, big time! You are able to build quite complex even interlocking structures, which are not possible to achieve with traditional industrial design approaches.

What are the current trends in 3D printing?

I know about amazing medical applications  basically you would print a shape of an organ, as an ear for example, out of cellulose. Then you “invite” the cells to grow onto it to form the actual organ, great idea!

Let’s finish off the interview with connection to my actual Sound Extrusion project! What are the workflow ideas in this case for me?!

It’s pretty straight forward  first of all you have to clean your model (we use Tinker CAD, but any other 3D or CAD software will do), export it to 3D printer and print the prototype. The next step would be to cover the printed object in a release agent (to prevent it from sticking to the actual mould) and use a two part latex putty to create a casting mould. Then you can use regular resin to produce the object for real life use.

Thank you Mick, for your time and the workflow ideas!

solar sinster video
Markus Kayser – Solar Sinter Project from Markus Kayser on Vimeo

Seriously infected! …

I decided to have a look at my cheek cells and spit under the microscope. I’ve been feeling a bit sick with flu, so I was interested to see if there is any difference from previous viewings and also to look for bacterial presence. I was shocked to see crazy fungus contamination on the slide. OMG!  No wonder I’ve been feeling so terrible.

Cheek cells with wierd spore clusters and fibres

Cheek cells with weird spore clusters and fibresmouth19313_2

I must admit, I had a bit of a freak out…but then thought about it and came to the conclusion that it was more likely that the slide was dirty or contaminated rather than myself.

Indeed, I once had SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope) images taken of my skin, boogas, ear wax and menstrual fluid only to find no evidence of bacteria or other organisms!!!!  I was really surprised. It was still pretty cool to see my bodily excretions this close up!

Ear wax

Ear wax



Menstral fluid blood clot

Menstral fluid blood clot

Although I was really disappointed not to find evidence of strange crawly creatures like this:

Scabies mite.  Image Source: Healthy Life Blog

Scabies mite. Image Source: Healthy Life Blog

Then again….probably good that I don’t actually have scabies!

The notable absence of bacteria and other microflora was however, quite perplexing especially given that we are outnumbered by an estimated 10:1 by non-self cells in our bodies. There are a few possible reasons for the absence of bacteria and other microbes:

  •  The samples were collected at home and processed later at Uni.  This may have resulted in microbes moving on to greener pastures.
  • The preparation process washed surface elements from the surface of the samples. (This is probably more likely as I do not have much experience with sample processing and may have been too rough with my pipetting).

It also seems that that the majority of microbes occupy the interior spaces of our body, rather than just the surface.

Different human microflora

Human microbiome. Image source: Rational Discovery Blog

Indeed, a large number of non-self cells are located in our gut. These bacteria are super important to ensure efficient nutrient processing and digestive health. I remember hearing Dr Karl talk about poo transplants (or fecal bacteriotherapy) on Triple J. Apparently, receiving a ‘reverse enema’ of poo from a healthy ‘digester’ can help individuals with chronic diarrhea and other digestive issues caused by ‘bad’ bacteria.  Gross…and yet kinda cool! (I have yet to find someone who wants my poo – I do offer whenever anyone complains about stomach problems).

Anyway…after checking my cheek cells again with a clean slide, it turns out that everything is A-OK!

Mouth cells.

Mouth cells.

Nothing to worry about and no evidence of bacteria or other creepy things.  (The black dots are spots on the camera lense!) My Edge colleagues can breath easy….for now…

Slime mould madness – coming soon!


Slime mould (Physarum polycephalum).  Image credit: ABC

Slime mould (Physarum polycephalum). Image credit: ABC: Audrey Dussutour

The Fringes program is kicking off soon and we are in the process of organising/finalising workshops that respond to the cross-overs between Art, Science and Technology. As part of this organisation Mick and I had a meeting with microbiologist Dr Carrie Hauxwell from QUT the other week. Together we decided to develop a slime mould 3D printed maze workshop. The workshop is based on numerous studies that have found that slime moulds (despite lacking a central nervous system or brain) are able to solve mazes, by finding the shortest available distance to a food source.

Slime Mould solving a maze - finding the shortest distance to food source. Image source: Forgetomori

Slime Mould solving a maze – finding the shortest distance to food source. Image source: Forgetomori

You can read more about the amazing maze solving abilities in this Nature article.

Since they tend to find the shortest route to a food source they have also been used in studies of traffic systems to find the best connection between two destinations.

A BIT ABOUT SLIME MOULD: Slime moulds, despite their somewhat unfortunate name, are actually really awesome organisms that are relatively easy to culture and pretty darn fascinating to observe.  While they are often thought of as Fungi, they are in fact part of the Protista family. There are a huge variety of slime moulds. My favourite would have to be the cellular slime moulds.  They live most of their life as single celled organisms, but if nutrients run low and they receive the correct chemical signals, they clump together into a slug-like creature. Once they have moved to a new, more favourable location, they produce fruiting bodies and release new spores. Truly amazing!

For the workshop we will be using the more lab friendly variety: Physarum plycephalum. It has been used as a model organism in labs for a while now. As such, it has established culturing requirements and is a low risk organism to work with.  While it can be purchased from numerous biology supply companies including Southern Biological and Bio-Tek, it is also possible to find them lurking about in the botanical gardens or other woody and shaded places. Indeed, as part of the workshop, we will hopefully go on a field trip with Carrie to find our own ‘wild’ specimens. Super Fun!

We’ll be using Photoshop, InkScape and Tinkercad to design the maze and then we’ll print them with the cool 3D printers at The Edge.

An Update: Organising Spaces and Materials

Organised space in Edge basement for kombucha growing and art/biology workshops

Organised space in Edge basement for kombucha growing and art/biology workshops

Well…it is all starting to happen. I have started to organise the basement area to enable a better workflow for Kombucha growing and other bio-related activities. I’ve done most of the groundwork for setting up a plant micropropagation work area and hope to begin actively experimenting in the next few weeks. I will start my exploration of plant cell culture using African Violets. They seem to be a pretty standard “getting started in plant culture” option and Jane’s African Violets online store has some really beautiful varieties available including double-flower and variegated varieties. They are sold by leaf for micropropagation and can be shipped to most Australian states excl. WA and Tas. I am particularly impressed by the amazing names: Blue Dragon, Galactic Star, Ghost Dance and Rainbow’s Quiet Riot — brilliant!

Along with organising a space to start experimenting, I have also begun actively mapping out the plant/bacteria growth pod. I was originally planning to build the whole thing from scratch to learn more about electronics and wiring, but it is actually much, much cheaper to buy pre-built components and cobble them together. Most of the equipment can be bought online from Ebay at a fraction of the cost of electronics stores. The main trick will be designing the housing and keeping the elements flexible to enable a variety of specimens for sampling.

We will be buying the main components this week, which means that I can get started on the actual pod pretty soon. At this point, I anticipate that the prototype will be pretty simple (and ugly), but once the specifications have been worked out it will be easier to fit them into a custom and more visually appealing structure.

Aeroponics set up.  Image credit: Thin Arir Growing Systes.

Aeroponics set up. Image credit: Thin Air Growing Systems.

Along with these elements I am also hoping to explore aeroponics. This method is similar to hydroponics, and involves the growth of plants without soil in a moisture rich environment. I am going to trial aeroponics with bonsai trees and a basic water misting/fog device from Ebay. It should (cross fingers) work in terms of sustaining the bonsai, but I also think it would look pretty spectacular!

Happiness runs in my family – The My Happiness Film Project


When I overheard Matt Fallon (Edge promgrammer extraordinaire) discussing the My Happiness Film Project (Ideas Festival), I was intrigued. The concept of happiness and what that means to different people has always interested me but the idea of making a film to portray that seemed like a bit of a challenge. Then Matt suggested I talk to my 87 yr old Papa about what makes him happy. When I broached this topic with my column-writing-script-editing-film-producing mother her first response was “But Katie! How can you interview Papa about happiness?! He’s a grumpy old man!” This is far from the truth – although he would love to make you believe that it was in fact he who stole Christmas with his disarming charm and wit.

So I dove into the challenge. I decided to broaden the spectrum a little and open it up to my family – not just Papa. I think the trickiest part of it all was making sure my mini doco didn’t turn into one of those frightfully boring home videos that your mother shows at your 21st birthday or other significant occasions. (The time that Aunt Gertrude spilt pepper sauce on her best floral dress isn’t half as hilarious to the rest of the world as it is to Aunt Gertrude. )

And the quest began to find out what makes my family happy. I took a bit of a haphazard approach – my family all sitting on their respective couches or floors and candidly telling me what makes them smile from ear to ear. Thankfully I have two very sweet and highly intelligent cousins who, when the camera started rolling, collapsed into fits of giggles which was the perfect beginning to what turned out to be quite an insight into my family.

I always knew our family laughed a lot and were predominantly happy people but somehow seeing it on YouTube  made it that more tangible – happiness runs in my family.  I hope that my little attempt at this great competition run by the Ideas Festival (www.ideasfestival.com.au/) brings a little bit of that happiness to anyone who watches it – happiness never decreases by being shared. Now I don’t know if I quite managed to avoid the ‘home-video’ status but I do believe that Aunt Gertrude (bless her heart) would be proud.

Check out my entry here….  Happiness Runs in My Family – My Happiness Film Project

And enter the festival or see the entries here…. http://ideasfestival.com.au/my-happiness-entries/

Edge User makes visual artist debut in Mackay

Fghta Fsh is an alter ego who has an alter ego.

It see’s a different reality and opens a window to society challenging our epistemology.

Fghta Fsh is the creation of Theo, a Kiwi born visual artist who utilises The Edge to create amazing photographic works and slam poetry exhibitions.

Debuting last month at the Mackay Entertainment and Convention Centre, Theo is dazzling audiences with his analytically stoic creation.

The Fghta Fsh takes you on a journey into Theo’s constructed reality, inviting audiences to join him explore a planetary mindscape created from manipulated photographs of cities and buildings.

They are the Fghta Fsh’s world.

Theo describes his creations as “Visual Art that twists and stretches your mind. Slam poetry that builds up pictures in mind frames with tongue twisting urban phrase and multimedia that will scoop you up on fin tips so you flow into the revolution of Fghta Fsh before you know it.”

Look out for Fghta Fsh at the Edge!

Check out the website or facebook

Fghta Fsh in the news ABC Tropical North


Twitterwall: The Twitterwall displays people’s comments about the Edge to a large public display. People use Twitter or SMS to make comments. The application is based on the “Discussions in Space tool”, built by QUT’s Urban Informatics PhD student Ronny Schroeter. The Twitterwall was used during the Edge launch, both in a bay as well as in the auditorium screen to publicly display feedback and encourage discussion and interaction.

Stuart Chapman

Family Love – Stuart Chapman [Brisbane] digital prints 2007-08

Graphic and print design are all part of The Edge program. Here we present work by designers and artists from Brisbane, Australia and around the world.  It’s about work we like, are curious about and want you to see.

On exhibition in March are a series of digital prints titled Family Love, which are reproductions of original cover designs from the street publication of the same name published by Family.

Long considered Australia’s best dance club, Family changed the landscape of nightclubs in Brisbane and Sydney over the last decade. Family also produced the free street magazine Family Love which covered contemporary street culture and reported on fashion, live music, art, and often included profiles of notable creative producers.

Stuart Chapman worked for Family for approximately four years as their Senior Designer and now works from global surf fashion label Billabong.

His work is known for its collage style referencing 1960s and 70s psychedelia and classic pop art mashing it into something reflecting the spirit of dance and club culture.

Publications like Family Love are important to the State Library of Queensland, which holds a significant collection of posters, magazines, music, film, and video. This collection provides a snapshot of the Brisbane’s alternative cultural histories.

Check out his website here