Adding the electronic elements into the costume was one of the most exciting parts of creating this body of work. With the help of a colleague of mine from the Social Body Lab, Boris Kourtoukov, we developed a circuit diagram and plan for how we could attach a light sensor to the lights that I wanted to use . I did not use LED's which would have made the circuit a bit simpler. I had found these beautiful little incandescent lights at active surplus and I was determined to use them. Originally I was going to use an arduino lilypad to run the electronics in the mask, but the lights required too much voltage (18v) and so I had to instead use an Arduino Pro Mini.
Once we developed a plan, I moved onto fabrication. The final circuit can be seen in Fig.2. The brain of the circuit is the blue board, the Arduino Pro Mini.
Once I had the circuit integrated and working I had to figure out a way of concealing all of the electronics so that you can not see them from the outside. I formed two little pockets, the first to hold the battery packs and the second to cover the circuit. The pocket is also there to help keep all of the wires in place. A lot of the wire is solid core wire which will break if it is bent back and forth to many times.
With the electronics installed in the front of the mask, I now had to add the light sensor. I wanted the light sensor to be controlled by the wearer opening or closing the iris. The best place for the sensor is therefore on the forehead as you can see in Fig. 4
The final step in preparing the mask was to attach the front of the mask to the back. I used snaps that match the ones holding the overalls together to make it easy to clip the front part of the mask to the actual face mask. You can see the bottoms of the snaps in Fig. 5.
Finally I snapped the two halves together, plugged in the batteries and tested it out!
I left off my last post on the pants with the fabrication of the brass buttons. I had decided after testing the buttons that the front of the overalls needed an extra detail. I measured out and cut a piece of leather which I then dyed and attached to the front of the pants to make a pocket. This pocket adds aesthetically to the costume but it also conceals a battery pack and wires that lead into the hip to power lights.
The sides of the overalls are held together by leather cord. To secure the sides at the waist I created leather pieces that use snaps to attach the front and back. I then added grommets and three lights to once again connect the overalls and the mask aesthetically. The wires that attach the lights to the battery pack in the front pocket run along the inside of the overalls and through a grommet in the back of the front pocket.
My experience with making a mechanical component to my thesis work was difficult but fascinating. There is something absolutely amazing about creating something that moves, especially when you combine it with electronics. The first step in making the iris was finding a way of planning each part. In order for it to work properly you must make everything as perfect as possible to ensure smooth transitions. I planned and downloaded my iris using www.iriscalculator.com. The plan, when opened with illustrator can be seen in Fig, 1: Iris plan.
When I had my plan I separated the various components into their own illustrator files, printed out paper copies and cut them out carefully before taping them to the surface of a sheet of brass. I then spent two days with a jewellery saw, carefully cutting out each blade and ring.
I was happy at this point with the way the iris looked, but I had to acknowledge the fact that the weight was too much to be attached to a mask. I made the decision to not complete this version of the iris and instead experiment with alternative materials and methods of fabrication. I began the next version by visiting the rapid prototyping centre and learning how to properly format an illustrator file to be sent to the laser cutter. I then went to the plastics studio and asked the technicians which materials they would suggest for my next version of the iris. I needed something thin but resilient for the blades and therefore settled on ABS plastic. It bends easily, is thin and does not crack or shatter unlike acrylic. For the pin ring I attempted to use acrylic, but as I began setting rivets it shattered and so I settled on co-polyester. In the future I would like to do some more research into different types of plastics so that I can find the ones that suit my needs without off gassing toxic fumes like ABS. I do not usually use plastic, but in this case I didn't have much choice if I wanted the iris to function properly. It took a few attempts to laser cut all of the pieces properly and trouble shoot small mistakes. When I finally received all of my components from the rapid prototyping centre they looked like this:
In Fig.6 you can see the different pieces that make up the iris. The clear plastics are the co-polyester, the blades are ABS and the front ring sitting on the white paper is baltic birch plywood which I used an oxy-acetylene torch to burn the surface before danish oiling it to seal the wood. The bolts I cut from a piece of 1/8" brass bar and hand threaded before using lock tite to secure nuts on one end.
When the pieces were finally assembled and it began to work I was pretty excited. It really is amazing to see your hard work come to life!
Using the same methods as shown in a previous post on the mask, I formed a new version of the mask. However, I needed to combine wet forming with some draping techniques in order to make the mask fit around my head properly since version one did not fit as snugly as I wanted. I used a stitch that looks like small x's to add a playful and almost childlike feel to the the costume and conceal curved cuts in the leather meant to help with the shape.
I am often inspired by organic patterns like the bark on trees and asymetrical details. I wanted the character to fit aesthetically in a natural setting, but be augmented by technology. As I have been making this costume I think back to my time in Sweden. I fell in love with the forests and often went for walks. When I think of my character I can see her as this strange but creative nomad of the northern forests. My colour palette reflects this in the use of deep greens, brown and cream with accents of antiqued brass. I carved into the leather using a wood carving tool to create line patterns. I then added grommets and pieces of leather with waxed thread wound and secured to hold the leather strips in place as seen in Fig. 2. These allow the leather strips to act as 'hair' which can be braided or tied into the rest of my own hair to hold the mask comfortably on my face.
In order to continue with the mask I need to complete the iris. Once I have the completed form of the iris I will be able to combine the two using snaps or rivets.
My Own Two Hands