I create beautiful printed circuit boards that depict songbirds and musical insects. These are fine art editions with electrical, sonic, life-like qualities. Please contact me if you are interested to collect my work: info (at) kellyheatonstudio (dot) com.
Parrots, 2020. Printed and painted circuit board, 24" x 18."
While I continue to design PCBs for manufacture, I am also developing my own methods to create electronic art. Here, I experiment with painting onto a bare etched PCB that has regions of clear solder mask printed onto the copper, which allowed me to use a patina and achieved different colors in the tree, for example. The birds are painted in acrylic. Have a look (and listen):
The squawking circuit is controlled by a motion detector and timer so that the birds react to presence (and do not sing on their own for an indefinite period of time).
Pretty Bird ver. CC (2019) is an edition of 150 printed circuit boards and associated parts that was commissioned by Creative Capital for their 20th anniversary retreat celebration. Creative Capital covered the cost of materials and I donated my time to realize the project. The printed circuit boards were manufactured by PCBWay in Shenzhen, China according to my specifications.
The functional circuit design is based on my effort to electrically generate the “pretty bird” song made by a Carolina wren using simple and low-cost hardware (and I am pleased to report that the sound comes close under the right lighting conditions, as explained below). The central visual element of the board is a Carolina wren etched in exposed copper that has been electroplated with gold. The wren sits in a green and white forest defined by leaves and circuit traces. When the components are added, this forest effect is enhanced by the physical depth and texture that they create surrounding the bird. Hold the circuit board up to a light to enjoy a watermark effect thanks to the translucency of the raw FR4 board substrate (versus the opacity of surrounding copper and solder mask).
This work of art —a multiple— is complete regardless of whether the owner elects to assemble it, although soldering and electrifying the circuit manifests additional dimensions of the piece. I invite you to solder the circuit regardless of your skill level, so don’t be afraid that you will botch it. It remains a work of art regardless of whether or not your circuit “lives.” Pretty Bird ver. CC is an exploration of the spark of life in machines and biological organisms, both of which have a natural lifespan according to physical wear. The piece is designed to be framed and displayed dead or alive, with or without the components installed. As for framing, I recommend that you use no glass on the front, but glass for the frame backer so you can see both sides of the circuit as well as the watermark. Bamboo is my frame of choice for this piece.
If you have received an unassembled multiple, consider yourself lucky. The process to build this board is an experience in which you will discover (most of) the fundamental building blocks of electrical engineering: resistors, capacitors, transistors, and diodes. The resulting electronic behaviors are caused by analog oscillations, which is to say, the waveforms that create flashing lights and chirping sounds are entirely generated by the discrete hardware and circuit traces that visibly surround the bird. No hidden software or recordings are involved. I hope that you will gain newfound respect for computers and an even greater appreciation for birds.
HOW TO ASSEMBLE THE CIRCUIT
Pretty Bird CC (2019) comes with the following electronic components (board reference in parentheses):