Saturday, November 12, 2011

Introducing Coyote Counter Collective

Medium Reality has been suspiciously quiet for the last few months. I have been getting surreptitious inquiries from concerned friends, clients who crave attention, and art lovers who are demanding I keep up the supply of laser etched landscapes.

What the heck have we been up to? Where have we been?! Well, a lot has been going on. The revolution, hallelujah, has come, and it's here to stay. Even stranger, though, we have moved our studio. Medium Reality has been based in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood for most of a decade. The rising cost of real estate in that neighborhood is finally sweeping through lots of little side streets that time had forgotten, though, and things are changing. We are excited to change our focus to Oakland, where a more wide-open (but still bike-friendly!) city leaves more elbow room for oddball arts projects.

Medium Reality, in collaboration with Project Transaction, Ghetto Goldilocks, and Gneiss Wood, presents:

Coyote Counter Collective
a new (re)construction experience in Oakland

423 40th St, Oakland
(leave Macarthur BART, turn right, cross Telegraph and look out for us on the right at Webster)
Open Now By Appointment

Grand Opening December 1st

We are slowly assembling an altered storefront experience, by hand, from scrips and scraps. We've already painted, hung curtains, installed glass cases, tiny puppet doors, trunks and suitcases everywhere, and cut scalloped edges into everything. There is a sewing studio in back where we are still desperately putting up storage shelves, and throughout the space we are working on small facilities projects one piece at a time.

So we're building a store? Well, yes, but. But. One of the things I am most excited about for this new space is something we are trying out - a menu of (re)construction services. Drawings, swatches, samples, and photos will bring customers in to the style re-design process, while the streamlined menu will allow these services to be offered a la carte to all members of our community, for affordable prices. Services will range from complete reconstructions (and my unique brand of elaborate layered embroidery/applique), to simpler alterations like silkscreened images or added pockets, which can be offered at very reasonable prices. We are working towards offering laser etching services as well.

It is my hope that this space will become a hub for different reconstruction communities, and I am excited to see how the cooperative part of things comes together. In assembling the business model for our collective we have drawn heavily on my experiences at City Art and Noisebridge, as well as all of our time together at Pandora's former location on Haight St. It is great to be working with these artists again.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pants Interface - Open Hardware Summit & Maker Faire NY 2011

At the end of September, in a flurry of solder, wire bits, and threads, we finished a prototype Pants Interface controller. I threw it, still smoking, into a suitcase and flew off to New York to show it off - and ask for help. Here's what happened.

Pants Interface beta controller

Open Hardware Summit is in its second year, and is an amazing hotbed of conversation about this growing field. Topics popping up over and over for me centered around how to share ideas, especially legal licensing and functional software tools for filesharing. It was great also to run into Autumn Wiggins, longtime collaborator from the indie craft world, there to talk about Upcycle Exchange and reminding me once again of the interesting and growing intersections between craft-making and electronics development. Mitch Altman of TV-B-Gone fame, a Noisebridge pal of mine, gave a really inspiring talk, as did Bunnie Huang from Chumby. According to Bunnie, hardware development cycles actually favor small businesses!

Developing licenses that let people share their ideas is clearly important to a lot of people, and a lot of interesting options are developing. It gets pretty esoteric but is still really interesting stuff. CERN is developing an open hardware license . OHANDA has an open trademark solution .

The founder of Sparkfun gave a practical talk on how they open up their documents, to what extent, and the basic functionality concerns that raises for an operating business. I went to the breakout session 'Documentation, Distribution, and Community Building for Open Hardware'. Joseph Prusa from RepRap was there along with others, talking about how the crazy varieties of files that project uses are all managed. That project, an open source 3d prototyping printer, is an amazing international effort. Also in that session were reps from DIYLILCNC and Upverter. It was really great to hear different perspectives on document & version management, and to get some tantalizing glimpses of how the approach chosen here will affect the user communities.

I met Glyph, the founder of Twisted a few years ago, and got to pick his brain on how they built a vibrant community around that open-source project. Glyph said that the project has to give users something that works before they will get excited about it. It's interesting to note the differences between what this means for a hardware vs a software project. The prototype milestones we reached in time for this conference put the Pants Interface tantalizingly close to a point where we can publish, and start this dialogue with an actual user base.

Maker Faire New York was the same weekend as OHWS, and it was really fun to check out such a wide-open field of makers at the faire, after the intense focus at the summit. I presented the prototype at both events and got lots of interested questions and feedback. My Maker Faire presentation seemed to inspire a lot of people to consider getting involved with wearables, which was super exciting for me. I also got a couple of really great tips on solving specific problems, and more detail on how certain aspects of the project work. It is great to find such an engaged group of people that are interested to see our project, and give feedback on it.

Special highlight for me was meeting up with Clothbot one of our Kickstarter supporters - and getting awesome experimental 3d-printed fabric circuitboard connectors to try out. You can see them, and lots of other goodies, in this photo of my swag from the weekend. Lots of notes on everything if you click through!

Open hardware summit/maker faire swag scrapbook