During the last three weeks, I went to three exhibitions with the Portrait Plotter. That was fun, but I’m a bit exhausted now. It also got me some exercise in hauling the whole thing around – it now takes me 3 hours to set up and 2 hours to dismantle.
Maker Faire Zürich was as awesome as every time. I just love the jam-packed creative atmosphere at that event. As usual when exhibiting alone, I couldn’t visit all the talks and exhibits I would have liked to, but seeing visitors playing delightedly with the Portrait Plotter, marble run, and LED panel made up for that. An interview where I talk about my work was published in advance of the event.
During the Maker Faire, I was approached and invited by the organizer of Flick the World, a smaller and more improvised festival in Zürich aiming to connect different maker/tinkerer/artist communities, especially also from the field of music and video. That was fun too, and this time I got ample opportunity to interact with other participants and their works. With just five other exhibits, the Portrait Plotter got a prominent place and was kept remarkably busy. The organizer suggested asking for donations rather than a fixed price for a plot, which seems to have worked very well. Total revenue over the two days was a littler lower than at the Maker Faire, but I did get the impression that it increased visitor engagement, reduced a barrier, which is a trade I am happy to make. I therefore plan to stick to that “pay what you want” model for now.
Last Friday, the Startup Night Winterthur took place at the startup incubator that also hosts FabLab Winti, and the FabLab was also present with a booth among the startups promoting their products and services. As an active member of the FabLab, I was invited to present the Portrait Plotter there as an example of what can be made in a FabLab. That turned out a somewhat special experience, as the audience of such a fair clearly expects companies trying to sell their products, not art installations created by hobbyists. Many visitors showed no interest at all, with others it took some explaining to make clear what the point of this installation was. But I still sold a few plots, had a few nice conversations, and reached some people outside of my usual interest group that I wouldn’t otherwise have reached, so I am not dissatisfied.
- One visitor mentioned that there are open-source implementations of the Silhouette protocol, meaning that I may be able to automate more of the plotter driving without having to build my own plotter. A quick search turned up these two: Inkcut, inkscape-silhouette.
- When placed in a dark corner, as desired for the best pictures, the Portrait Plotter almost vanishes from the sight of the audience. I should add a spotlight that illuminates the tower with the example plots and the plotter, without casting too much light into the cabin. At Flick the World, such a spotlight was provided by the venue, and it made a large difference in making the machine stand out and appear attractive.
- It would be nice to be able to recall previous portraits back on the screen when a visitor wants to compare several ones or a previous visitor returns after their portrait has been overwritten by a later visitor.