Make Shift Do 2015 – Smart Materials Workshop bookings now live!

Exciting things have been going on in my studio, but for the moment I am too swamped with the academic year starting and resuming my teaching duties to blog about them here. However, over the next four weeks or so I am hosting two fabulous events perfect for adventurous makers, the first of which is a Smart Materials workshop. Organised again by my friend and fellow PhD candidate Jo Bletcher as part of the 2015 Make Shift Do conference at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee on the 23rd of October, this will be a slightly larger affair than last year and cover a more varied range of materials. There is a nominal participation fee to cover material costs, and a range of other workshops running in the afternoon, from 3D printing to creative electronics. The makings of an excellent day out for digital makers!

All workshops are bookable through this Eventbrite Listing – See you on the 23rd!

All Makers Now?

After returning from the very inspiring All Makers Now? Conference in Falmouth, I am buzzing with ideas and projects to add to my research. I met so many interesting researchers, artists and tinkerers in Falmouth, all working around the same themes and problems as me.

One of the most interesting discoveries was that of a website detailing recipes for using alternatives to the expensive materials supplied for the Z-corp 3D printer. While we had long suspected that the special white powder used in these machines is in fact plain plaster powder, research teams at US universities have started to tackle this head on by finding viable alternatives to bring down the cost of printing. As these printers need to be used regularly in order to keep working, this is a very welcome development. Cost is a major deterrent when it comes to creativity and experimentation, so hopefully I will be able to get some gears moving and try some of the recipes in our machine.

The recipes can be found at, alongside lots and lots of other cool hardware and software projects all things 3D.

More exciting discoveries I made at the conference to follow soon. Now a summer of conferences and site visits is drawing to a close, it’s time to buckle down and finish writing that chapter of my thesis. But first, some impressions from the All Makers Now? Conference…enjoy!

Conference Participants enjoying the Smart Materials Workshop on Friday:

Makers 1Makers 2The opening of the All Makers Now? Exhibition at Trelissick House and Gardens on Thursday night:


SmartLaB event this weekend!

It’s my SmartLab event this weekend at the Centrespace inside the VRC on the lower floors of the Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre and I hope to see some of you there! On display will be a range of prototypes of my latest interactive jewellery creations, as well as a short film of the Geotronic Brooch in action! There will also be a drop-in workshop for people to try their hand at using commercially available smart materials, and an ongoing demonstration of 3-d printing.

All are welcome, and there are two free talks each day, one at 12.30 and one at 2pm.


Nickel Titanium Shape Memory Alloy is one of the more well-known smart materials, being used in all sorts from medical instruments to bendy spectacle frames. Shape Memory Alloys (or SMAs as I will be calling them henceforth) were the material that got me interested in my research area in the first place, back in 2006, when their use was still in its infancy within the Visual and Applied Arts community and the only textbook I could find was so scientifically written that I had only a vague notion of how these materials might be useful in my quest to make Jewellery come alive. When I subsequently arrived at the RCA, full of dreams of exploring these wondrous metals, I was told they would be utterly unsuitable for jewellery use in the way I imagined, and that I shouldn’t waste my time. Disheartened but unconvinced my creative path digressed, but in the back of my mind I always knew I would return to the world of ‘Smart’ eventually.

At the University of Dundee we have the fascinating department of Imaging and Technology at the Ninewells Medical Research centre, where a group of extremely talented researchers spend their days developing new surgical tools for use at the hospital. Needless to say, shape memory alloys play an important part in this task, coiled into tiny springs inside long laproscopes, which in turn are used to get into what were previously thought inaccessible areas of the human body.

On a less serious note, Shape Memory Alloys  have been used in a variety of applied arts projects, a few fun examples of which I came across on youtube recently (more fun to be had here,here and here). At CIMTEC I met the charming Dr Patrick Dyer of the University of Brighton, who has done quite a bit of research into combining SMAs with textile applications – a field that has been far more encouraging in finding a use for SMAs. Having seen the shape-shifting clothes created by Hussein Chalayan in 2007 at his retrospective at the London Design Museum, I think SMAs are as exciting as they come but have been seriously overlooked by jewellery artists thus far. It is time this changed, and hopefully I will be able to contribute to that through my research.