Investing in the Past: What is Safe Storage in the Digital Age? What is Preservation of a Legacy?

Reviewing all the images that I've kept since about 1971 has been challenging. 
The decision to spend time going through box after box of prints and slides to find the best originals means that I am investing time and money in the past rather than creating new work of the future. At the same time, I am both excited about enabling the sharing of the vast quantity of images not shown in years, and disappointed that this doesn't feel noble, productive or creative. 

There were lots of comments about the previous post regarding advice for keeping a responsible archive of images of past works. The decisions take into account a variety of factors.

Here are some of the highlights:   

Archival_Methods_35mm_Slide_Storage_System_07_02_mMy primary recommendation is to use archival boxes for storage.  I have been using these slide boxes for years. All of the slides stored in these boxes look fine.  Steel slide cabinets were great but they took up too much space, so the archival boxes are my future choice. 

I am also storing the single remaining copy of my black & white prints, negatives and color transparencies in similar archival boxes.  This is following the advice of the National Archives which stores important content for the federal government.  Here are recommendations for the National Archive. 

A number of comments suggested storing slides in plastic sheets.  I am NOT going to recommend this approach. While some plastic sheets claim that they are designed for archival use, I just don't trust plastic.  Many plastics out-gas and at this point I can't distinguish the so-called "safe" archival plastic sheets from those that are not safe. The plastic sheets restrict air circulation. The National Archives says:  "Older plastic or paper enclosures which came from the photo lab may not be safe for long term storage." 

What is Long Term Storage in the Digital Age?

You can never be certain.  I look back at the way information storage and sharing has changed in the past 20 years and the pace at which technology is accelerating. 

Here is a very real example.

Zip-drive-dicsDo any of you remember ZIP Drives?  I have one digital image on Zip Drive that I can not access now. How ironic!? I made a 9'x 9' wall quilt and it was difficult to photograph because of it's size. The image data was also huge, so at the time, a ZIP disc was the answer. A short lived answer.  Within two years, ZIP was out. No ZIP, and now, no original image available. Nos it is another time consuming hurdle and expense for archiving the original. 

Get this for further irony.  At the time, the image data for the large wall quilt was so big, I didn't even dare to put it on the hard drive of my desktop computer. A 32 MB image would have been half the hard drive at the time. [Please stop laughing now.] 

OK. that was one example, but there are more. Do you remember floppy drives? Another technology that none of us uses any more.  But they were handy and convenient at the time. Thank goodness my images are currently on CD's and DVD's -- but, shocking as it sounds, how many of you have a computer without a CD/DVD drive?   How long will it be till, I won't be able to buy an external drive to read the discs?  "Paranoia strikes deep."*  

For the long term I am trying to think about "What is safe?"  "What will be accessible into the future?"

Backyard-open-spacePart of my thinking to purge the slides was that they weren't safe enough. They were the physical copy of the image. They may have even been the original, quality image, but they too were vulnerable to damage from dust, mildew, a fire or earthquake. None of this is planned.  Fire is a reality in everybody's house. I live in California near open space at the end of a canyon. Where I live, fire and earthquakes are a potential reality, but every location, no matter where you live has it's vulnerabilities. Haven't we just heard about hurricanes, and floods in the news?

My goal is to have multiple platforms. 

So, for now, this is my plan. I am keeping:

  • one original slide. (Perhaps I should have kept two? Too late.)
  • scanning the one best original slide for a digital record - (more information later)
  • one black & white original photo
  • all negatives for the film/print images.
  • all my transparencies 2" and 4"x5"
  • one print copy of catalogs, postcards, and documentation of past exhibitions.
  • digital copies of images will be uploaded to my computer, external harddrive and Carbonite for back up.
  • eventually, I hope to add a larger variety of images  and documentation to my website, but even that can't hold everything.   
  • All my sketch books starting from 1970 have been kept and stored.

Is that enough? Is that responsible? Each of us has to make our own decisions.

Is there any answer that I haven't considered?  What are you doing with your images? Your past inventory records. Your old catalogs?  I'd like to know. This  is important information to share.

Future posts will provide more information on protecting and archiving your records.

I just sent my first 1000 slides for scanning and will let you know how this ScanCafe test group turns out. At .27 cents per slide it still adds up to $300 investment. That is not chump change when I 1,000's of slides yet to go! 


*Paranoia Strikes Deep is from the song lyrics of Buffalo Springfield song "For What's It's Worth"
"Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid.."


A Painful Purge and the Legacy Costs of Information

legacy costs of information
A legacy of information! 
I'm going through all my color slides….and black & white photos.  Thousands of images and thousands more duplicates.  A legacy of my entire career.


And throwing it all away.  Obsolete media.

 All my original images will be digital from here on.

n looking through 40+ years of accumulated physical images, I am reminded of the history and optimism anticipated in each and every image that is going into the trash.  As an artist I adored the quality of the images and took pride in being prepared when needed.  It was a badge of honor at a professional level. I remember the care and investment of time and money that went into the composition, processing, selection, cataloging, storing, organizing, and maintaining these visual manifestations of my craft skill and artistic vision. Now I am taking these beloved slides and photos out of their neat and tidy boxes, taking careful inventory to keep one, just one copy of the best image,  and dumping the rest into the dumpster.


I feel remorse in the wasted materials.
I feel guilt in generating such waste.
  This is a painful purge.

But the physical media has become a burden.  

IMG_20161002_182304915_HDRFortunately, the "information" of these images will live on when converted to digital media.   My daughter helped me realize that companies large and small deal with this legacy cost" all the time. They have archives of information that could be valuable to current or future users.  Information companies like Weather Underground choose to preserve past weather information and make it accessible on their website. They realize that the history of weather information is valuable, but stored data must also be compatible with newer digital interfaces.  Researchers using newer or different platforms need the archived information to be compatible to gain the benefits of analyzing long term trends over decades of accumulated information in ways that were not previously possible.  

purging a legacy of information in slide imagesArtists also may have a legacy of information or objects.  At what point does old work become out dated inventory?

I look at it differently. Old work has potential in future exhibition opportunities. It could even be my retirement income as I have witnessed in the revival of interest in mid-century modern jewelry. Important painters often kept their best work increased in value.

Museums are the consummate examples of legacy information and the costs of maintaining archives.   They store objects and information indefinitely with the expectation that value will be realized well into the future.

Misbehaving EconomicsWhy did I finally decide to throw away all these slides and photos?
  I was reading a book about behavioral economics … “Misbehaving - The Making of Behavioral Economics"  by Richard Thaler.  The book discusses a relatively new field in economics observing how many financial decisions are not made on a purely rational basis.  

Black-white-photos-legacy-informationOne financial concept struck home for me - "sunk costs."  The book made clear that my slides and photos that are no longer in a useful form (and all the time and money I invested in them) are "sunk costs."  Keeping them any longer would just cost more storage expense. Businesses often describe this storage expense as  "carrying cost" or inventory cost.  However, if the images (or any other inventory items) are not or cannot be used any longer, they have no current or future value.  To use up storage space in my cramped studio is just more wasted money.  

Vertical-quantity-of-images-informationEvery artist and maker has legacy information in their older work that represents their career and their credibility. The construction of my new website caused me to re-examine how I needed to make my images (my "information") more accessible for current and future use.   In the past three weeks, I have invested a great deal of time to find one, just one best copy of each image to digitize for the future.

I see my new website as a new and more accessible form of my work -- a new catalog that enables more people to more easily access my images and for me to connect with more opportunities.  I look forward to adding images to my website that were not digital. Images of inspiration and work in progress could be interesting to a wider audience.

I took great professional pride in my inventory of slides and black & white photos  to be ready for opportunities.  Now the ongoing value of my "information" (the intrinsic substance of my images) through this new digital media greatly expands how I can gain the attention of others and be prepared for many more opportunities.  My new website is adaptive to phones, tablets and computers.  Using a template site (which I resisted for years) means that it will be a stable format for further changes in technology.

Website-2016Despite my acute awareness of my past investments, I see this transition as a revitalization of my legacy information.
  Take a moment to look at my new website.  Critique the content.  Find mistakes.  Bookmark it for later updates. Lots more information is coming in future months. This is a work in progress, a new future, a new  year.




Using a Gun in Whole or In Parts - The Meaning of Materials

In the previous post Boris Bally made a comment that is worth further consideration:  

Biba Shutz response to Imagine Peace Now

"I am surprised how many metalsmiths have chosen to keep the gun as a whole, rather than to manipulate or reconfigure the gun’s materials. Certainly a big part of this was the barrier of working with a frighteningly ‘loaded’ (metaphorically) and often unfamiliar object."

I am thinking about Boris's statement. I see both sides now. 

When my gun arrived in the mail for this exhibition Imagine Peace Now I had never touched a gun before. I was definitely planning on taking it apart or cutting it apart. Both were easy options using my metalsmithing skills....but then taking the gun out of the box, even a small gun seemed threatening. I thought, maybe the gun was scarier, more frightening, more lethal,  if it was whole.

By putting the gun on the handle of my check writing machine, it meant that the viewer had to metaphorically grab the handle of the gun every time they were calculating or "Checking the Cost of Gun Violence."

Checking the Cost of Gun Violence by Harriete Estel Berman

BermanH-checking-cost-gun-violence-fullBut does using the entire gun in every artwork look or feel equally scary.

Sharon-MasseyIn the image right these guns by Sharron Massey  are decorated with enamel or paint. They say: "new normal," a powerful message, but do the gun look scary and threatening.  

Do you think you might have to grab these guns? or use them? Is this your "new normal?"

Stacey-Lee-Webber-full-viewIn the artwork shown (left and below) by Stacey Lee Webber the guns are cut lengthwise.  The colors of the different gun metals are very interesting.  The frame echos similar metallic colors. The photograph with grey sludge concrete on the wall seems far more poignant. I see the frame on the wall as a memorial to the victims of gun violence on the street. A memorial of death.

Despite the fact that the guns are cut in half, they still hold a powerful resonance.

So a whole gun really isn't the point. Half a gun can send a powerful message.


Here are two more examples in this discussion about guns whole or in parts and the meaning of materials.

A necklace by Squash-Blossom-Necklace-LeeAnn-Herreid LeeAnn Herreid is made from one gun trigger  with additional gun parts that were molded and cast to create duplicate parts. The necklace uses gun parts in an attractive decorative way. The photograph is neat and consistent with quality photographic standards but leaves me a little empty. It doesn't grab me with the threatening issues surrounding gun violence. Does the "pretty" perfection get in the way?

Boris BallyBrave-No.@Contrast this to a necklace by Boris Bally made with gun triggers.  (right)   While very similar as a comparison it seems more "steely," harsh threatening.



Boris often photographed work in this Brave series on "gansta"  guys.  The message was clear. Jewelry from the street made from actual gun triggers.  The parts of the guns, the triggers themselves still carried powerful meaning.

In summary, my first assumption that the whole gun was scarier isn't really true. Parts of a gun, a slice or a trigger can still carry a powerful message.  

Creativity really is an art more than a science. One principle can not apply to all situations, and nuance can make all the difference between good and great interpretations.


Imagine-Peace-Now-pinView the Kickstarter campaign for an exhibition catalog by Boris Bally. There are only ONLY 9 days left in the Kickstarter with 37% of the needed funds and 135 backers. Can you give one dollar? or five dollars, or $35. dollars. 

Stay tuned for updates about the upcoming exhibition locations for Imagine Peace Now. If you run a gallery or exhibition space, perhaps you might want to contact Boris Bally about the traveling show schedule. 


Checking the Cost of Gun Violence by Harriete Estel Berman


Honesty at Gun Point, Kickstarter a Shot in the Dark

Guns-for-artistsIn March 2016 Boris Bally invited me to participate in an upcoming exhibition titled, "Imagine, Peace Now."  All of the artists were to be given an inoperable handgun and asked to make an artwork addressing gun violence in America. A previous post shared my artwork.

I have known Boris for at least 28 years (maybe more) and am a big fan of his work with recycled traffic signs. The range of Bally's work is backed up by exquisite craftsmanship, sophisticated aesthetic, bravado, integrity, work ethic and sometimes even outspoken opinions. Go Boris!


Picasso -Guernica
Guernica by Pablo Picasso. 1937. Oil on canvas.

Obviously I have the utmost respect for Boris, but beyond that, I believe, I BELIEVE,  I BELIEVE that artists and makers can send a message with their work. Indeed, some of the most famous artworks of history resonate with political and social messages.


Imagine-Peace-Now-logoIn this post, Boris Bally shares his experience putting together a show with a theme about gun violence.
It is always enlightening to hear from the voice of experience. Boris enlightens all of us about the challenges of an invitational and juried show, the lessons learned from organizing an exhibition, finding exhibition locations, and mistakes made along the way.

Putting together a show is in itself a noble effort and a time intensive commitment powered by passion. Now Boris is trying to raise funds through Kickstarter for a print catalog for the show.  A Kickstarter campaign is kind of like a Sisyphus challenge -- it seems endless and always requiring more effort.  There are many successfully funded projects, but it requires a great deal of support. Boris tells more about this too.


Imagine-Peace-Now-pinCan you make a small contribution for the catalog and the influential voice of artists and makers speaking out about a politically hot topic?  A dollar or five dollars may show the power of the arts to speak up about a life threatening issue.  If you can afford it, a larger donation gets a Kickstarter reward (left), but every dollar counts.  

Below my questions are in red bold followed by Boris Bally's responses. Included in this post are a selection of artworks to be exhibited in Imagine, Peace Now.

What have you learned from organizing this show?

Andrew Hayes

The show organization has lots of detail and complexity. An ongoing challenge has been to insist on following the original rules and guidelines initially set forth -- by treating all artists fairly and equally. Occasionally, this gets put to the test and it is a difficult decision. I am reminded that, by nature, artists don’t pay attention to the basic details: deadlines, artwork constraints and sometimes there is pressure to make exceptions to rules. This show is teaching me to be firm, yet diplomatic.





Did the work submitted for the show surprise you?

Hoss Haley

I am surprised by the amazing individuality and talent displayed in these pieces. So many angles -- the various approaches to the theme which is fairly narrow in scope but has so many strong opinions tied to it. However, the broad spectrum of quality astounds me.

Some of the better known artists have submitted what I consider a lazy stab at the topic and devoted little energy (I am withholding names -- it will become apparent when the show is on display). A few of the lesser known artists have given the project 150% and used their full creative arsenal with a lot of thought and energy in their pieces.

I am surprised how many METALsmiths have chosen to keep the gun as a whole, rather than to manipulate or reconfigure the gun’s materials. Certainly a big part of this was the barrier of working with a frighteningly ‘loaded’ (metaphorically) and often unfamiliar object.

Of course you love every entry, but did you hope that people would address one specific issue about gun violence rather than just use the gun parts for adornment or shapes?

Ka-Bloom by April Wood

I definitely do NOT love every entry. However, I was pleased by the range of topical involvement. Even adornment using gun components can make powerful statements with sensitivity, hopefully making people think about guns in a different way.

Surprisingly, no entry glorified guns despite the extreme range in severity of anti-violence statements. I did not want to censure anyone, rather hoping to engage and elicit conversations -- which hopefully lead to involvement and action. The work that spoke to me the most was that which worked off the actual statistics, or the specific gun laws and transformed these into art that helps viewers to comprehend the emotions, the flaws and the sheer magnitude of the issues at stake.


How did you find show venues?

Christine Clark

I wrote to many of the venues that hosted my first gun show. Several had changed leadership or were not able to meet a rapid deadline (my initial goal was to get this into a showing before election day). The first venue that signed on, The Society of Arts and Crafts, did so quickly, supportively, and without question. Fabio Fernández and Luiza deCamargo believed in my project given our history of working together in the past. After they signed on, Bob Ebendorf, Barbara McFadden and Gerald Weckesser made a strong case for the show at ECU despite the Director’s initial hesitations. I am so pleased to be able to open the show at the gallery and will be featured during the Materials Symposium where I initially made the big decision to move forward with IMAGINE.


What has been the hardest part about starting a Kickstarter Campaign to fund the catalog?
Christine-ClarkIt took at least two months to prepare the incentives (which are required) and to produce the video (very helpful). I interviewed several successful KS campaign candidates for advice. It took lots of planning to lay the groundwork of what I was asking for, how I would ask, becoming familiar with the platform, the incentives, the up-loading process and the rules. The most worrisome component was that KS lists in the rules that weapons are not allowed.

They would not directly answer my questions when I asked them, in advance, if the project to go on. They said, "just apply and you will see if it gets accepted.” That was very nerve racking -- should I put all this into something that they will later not accept?

The amount of mail I receive has been daunting -- SO Much from various PR firms that promise funding help. Also I have been writing non-stop begging folks for support. It is an uncomfortable position to be in, but on the up-side, it does benefit the artists in the show.

What do you think is important about a print catalog as compared to just a digital version? 

Safe House by Stephen Yusko

Obviously, both have their place. I am old-fashioned in believing that a print catalog circulates in different ways than digital. It ‘sits’ on tables and can be easily browsed without batteries or glare. The essays will provide for some interesting reading that will lay the framework for the show and the publication. A book becomes a collectible, an ‘artifact’ just like the physical works in the show. Books have such a rich history and I believe, still a place in the libraries of our homes / offices. A book becomes a ‘presentation’ of the content -- like an exhibition . . . and a nice way to view an exhibition if you can’t be there in person to get the real time show. But, if we do not get the funding for a print catalog, we will try to get funding to do the downloaded one. (still a big expense)

How did you even estimate the cost of the print catalog?
Stephen-Yusko-side-viewI didn’t want to create a low-end catalog again, after having done this for my first show, ‘Artists of a Different Caliber’ back in ’97. Been there done that. Thought I would see if we can get a major, museum quality book going, to give the show some extra credibility in the high-end art world. I still believe we can do this. Of course, all the artists in the show get a complimentary catalog and also a discount on initial orders of future copies.


What is a Kickstarter Campaign financial picture?
The $50,000 estimate for the KS campaign breaks down as follows:

  • $5,000   Kickstarter and Credit card fees lop off about 10% in fees, so now we are down to $45k
  • $13,000 getting high and low actual print costs (based on 2,000 copies @ 100 pages @ 8.5 x 11” with neat binding)
  • Roughly 1,100 catalogs would go to fulfill the donations on KS so we will have leftovers to give artists and to sell at the venues.
  • Our high estimate was $26k - we did have one for $86k but threw that out -- and lowest was $11k.
  • $6,000 our photographer gave us an estimate of $5k- $8k for reshooting the art (depending on the quality of what we receive -- all work -- or any work that needed to be reshot)
  • $3,000 our designer gave us a cost of $3,000 for the whole project, including the logo. This is a steal considering she will also be working with the photographer.
  • $1,000 video honorarium for KS/ advertising
  • $20,000 incentives costs for the campaign range (depending on quantity of pledges) between $15k- $28k. These are for producing the keychains, pins and platters, etc.
  • $2,000 padding-in case I screw up. (minimal payment for my time if I do not)

What are your regrets:

Linda Savineau

I wish I had not promised invited entrants would get their work included in the show, despite the jury process/ decisions. There were a few pieces that should not have been included due to major technical issues or minimal effort.

What are your hopes:
After the second venue, we regroup the show into a tighter, more focused grouping culling to perhaps 50 pieces to travel to a variety of venues. At that point, I would welcome new entries to ‘refresh’ the show while distilling the show to its most powerful examples.

To the readers of ASK Harriete, I ask, What is the power of art? Review the Kickstarter Campaign for Imagine Peace Now    It needs 31, 284   $1.00 donations. That is a lot.

But as an alternative, the catalog is fully funding with 6,257  $5.00 donations. That could happen in one day with your help.  

What shocks me is the amount of money the NRA spends on lobbying and political campaigns. According to OpenSecrets, a site that tracks money in politics, the NRA spent $984,152 on campaign contributions during the 2014 election cycle. It also spent more than $3 million on lobbying in both 2013 and 2014. How much do you think the spending on the upcoming election? 

So can you give the cost of a cup of coffee so the arts can raise it's voice about gun violence?

(P.S. I'd like to add more information about the images but didn't have the title for all the artworks. Please feel welcome to email me with the titles.)

Checking the Cost of Gun Violence by Harriete Estel Berman



Should Jewelry Display Include the Artist's Name?

Elephants-room-display3 copy
During a recent visit to Patina Gallery in Sante Fe, I noticed that they did not include labels with the artists' names identifying the makers of the jewelry on display.
 I asked Ivan Barnett (the gallery owner) about this approach. The response was that labels created visual clutter. They wanted the visual impact of the work on display to be about the artistic impression of both the display and the objects themselves.

IMG_20160805_110236343I must admit that their gallery does look very attractive. Each piece of jewelry in a case or on the wall creates a positive impression. The jewelry on display does not feel crowded.  I give them high marks on visual impact unequivocally.

In contrast, another gallery exhibiting jewelry placed labels everywhere with all kinds of information, e.g. names, materials, dimensions,  and prices -- and the overall appearance did look jumbled to horrendous with visual clutter in the displays or on the walls.

Labels or not labels is not a new debate, but I think a few issues come to the fore.

1) Should artist-made jewelry have a label with the artist name in an exhibition or gallery?

2 What is the solution to an attractive label?  

3) As a jewelry artist, would you express your opinion to the gallery or exhibition that displays your work? 

4) What is the value of discussing this issue? 

Let's look at the first question:
Should artist-made jewelry have a label with the artist's name?

I started to think about it like this. ...

Can you imagine going to a museum or gallery for other media and not seeing the artists' names with the artwork on display?   I can not recall ever seeing an exception. 

How about at an airport showing public art? Don't they always include the artist's name? Of course they do. Usually with just a couple of seconds to look around, there is always a placard or label. 

Did you ever go to a ceramics, glass or sculpture show and not see the artist's name near the artwork on display?  Never.

Is there any other art form in which the artist's name is considered optional?   At a minimum, artwork of any medium and the maker are identified with a label.  It establishes credibility for both the exhibition and the artists in the show.  

Further irony is that there are even brand name commercial jewelry brands commanding higher prices and better sales because they are associated with an individual's name. Examples like Paloma Picasso or David Yurman sell their boring jewelry with a name attached.

However. . . 

The visual and aesthetic impact of an exhibition must be part of the equation.    Seeing creative, innovative expression can be a magnificent engaging experience for the buyers and community.   Any opportunity to elevate a gallery visit into a sense of wonder should be a goal for everyone. Intrusive labels or poorly placed placards may interfere with that experience.

Let's compare some examples side by side of jewelry on display, with and without labels, before we consider the professional and practical issues.

  IMG_20160805_111604482 IMG_20160805_134847116



































Boston society of Arts and Crafts







It is clear that the artwork displays best when no distractions interfere with the visual experience.

But it is also essential that the artwork should not be displayed anonymously.

So, question two...
What is the solution to an attractive label?  
How can the artist's name be clearly associated with the artist-made jewelry on display?

How can this be done effectively without visual pollution of labels and the cluttered effect?

Here are some  ideas:

  1. Have one label discretely near but not in or on the jewelry. Ideally the label will be attractive (more attractive than a white piece of printer paper).
  2. Keep the label below the display so that it can be found if desired but does not obstruct or is not included in the field of vision of the artwork.
  3. Provide a printed handout or gallery guide with small images of the jewelry.
  4. Use a small number in the display that corresponds to either a label to the side or the printed handout.

Can any readers of this post offer other suggestion or ideas? 

 What are your solutions or ideas?

 The third issue is....
As a jewelry artist, should you express your opinion to the gallery or exhibition that displays your work?
Did you ever ask the gallery that shows your work if they display your name? Do you think that the artist maker has a voice in this issue?

Question four is... 
 What is the value of discussing this issue?
 The reason for this discussion is that it is time that artists and makers take responsibility and advocate for their work and how their work is displayed.  Surely, galleries and exhibitions are opportunities, but makers of artist-made jewelry should not simply remain quiet and anonymous.

What is your position? Do you have any power?

Next post: Should labels have any information other than the artist's name? How much information is TMI?


P.S. I recognize the irony of not labeling all of these images with the artist's name and will try to create a key for this post identifying all the work in these images. 

Necklace by Helen Shirk
Steel with enamel



Necklaces by Arlene Fisch
Crochet wire


IMG_20160805_140146031(Center) Necklace and jewelry by Mike and Maaike  - "Stolen Jewels" Digital printing on leather
(Front Center) Marjorie Simon  - Enamel rings
(Left edge) Rebecca Laskin  - Bracelets dyed 3-d printing
(Right edge) Rachelle Thiewes - Painted bracelets

Necklace and cuffs by Arlene Fisch Crochet Wire 


Boston society of Arts and Crafts
Exhibition at the Society of Arts and Crafts
Bracelets by Harriete Estel Berman

Jewelry Display and the Elephant in the Room

Recently, I viewed jewelry on display at multiple galleries all in one day.  Seeing so much jewelry in a short time allowed me to compare and contrast the quality and effectiveness of different display approaches.  

Jewelry window at Patina Gallery, Sante FeSome jewelry displays were elegant and inspired, while others were horrendous and highly questionable.  Trying to understand the cause of such disparities seemed to be a good subject for several posts and possibly an informative debate.

BAD-booth-displayTo add to the display confusion
 the various individuals responsible for the different display approaches (shown in this post) each considered themselves experts with years of experience.  How would one know they had jewelry display expertise?  They said so.   

Elephant-Room-jewelry-displayThe inconsistencies of the jewelry displays remind me of the ancient Indian tale of the blind men describing an elephant.
 Each man touching a different part of the elephant confidently extrapolated their vision of what the whole elephant must look like.  But their stories varied enormously, as you can imagine.  Ultimately, "When a sighted man walks by and sees the entire elephant all at once, the blind men also learn that while one's own experience is true, it may not be the totality of truth."

The elephant in the room -- or more specifically the "elephant" in this post -- is the lack of standards for quality jewelry display.

Putting all good intentions aside, there are some pretty clear display standards that merit universal implementation for the display of artist made jewelry.


SPACE applies to jewelry everywhere! 

IMG_20160805_113332519Space defines value. 
Crowded jewelry displays scream lesser quality, lesser importance.   The more space around an object the more important it becomes. In the first photos, you see a crowded jewelry display photographed on the street. The attempt to squeeze in as much jewelry as possible diminishes the perceived value of the jewelry. The visual clutter reflected in the store window seems like an apt metaphor for the visual clutter of the merchandise. 

IMG_20160805_112501036When a jewelry display has too many items (whether in a case or on the wall) the message of value or uniqueness has been diminished. For example, laying bracelets on top of each other or squeezing as much work into a case is reducing the perception of value. 

Museum-Art-DesingCompare the previous examples to how  jewelry is displayed in a top quality museum
where there may be 12" or more between objects. One piece of jewelry may even be allowed to occupy the entire case or placed on a pedestal by itself.  

Space is a valuable resource.
Space costs money. It doesn't matter whether it is a craft show booth or gallery or a museum.  Space is a luxury. Space needs to be a physical and metaphorical component of effective display.

Space in retail context is a definition of value.
 We see this all the time. The space principle is applied to items in retail stores of all kinds. Discount stores crowd their racks with merchandise. Top quality stores place an object on a shelf away from other distractions. When you are selling, you are selling more than just merchandise. You are selling a perception of value.


Apply this principle to your display whether at a craft show or gallery exhibition.   You want the work to look like it is worth buying.


Two more essential display attributes: 

IMG_20160805_135218270Consistency in display props. 
Ask Harriete has featured this topic on numerous occasions. Inconsistent display materials create an unattractive and distracting display.  In the photo (left) there are two different commercial neck forms covered in brown textured linen, a clear Plexiglas support, black linen fabric, and a business card holder used as a prop. The wood framed case is awkwardly perched on top of a painted grey pedestal - not a good combination.



commercial display and inconsistent display materials never work togetherMore awkward combinations (left)  include a wood frame case with brown linen commercial neck form on a grey painted cube. Add Plexiglas props and white paper labels. It doesn't work.

Adding business cards in the middle of a display may provide contact information but they are unnecessary distractions from the work whether this is a million dollar gallery or a craft show booth.  It looks bad.  Keeping focus entirely on the jewelry is essential for quality jewelry display.   

bracelets should never be exhibited on commercial propsAvoid commercial display props. 
Commercial display props should not be used for artist made, hand crafted, handmade, or art jewelry. Purchased display props send the commercial jewelry message. No amputated fingers, collars, necks, or bracelet posts, ever. 

purchased display props look terrible and should never be used for artist made jewelryYour clients easily sense the difference between retail commercial  jewelry and art jewelry. 
Though I've heard some defense of commercial props after my previous post regarding "Purchased Racks and Props", it is my experienced opinion that purchased display props should be avoided.  Ordering commercial displays may be a convenient time saver, but I am not convinced that they are worth the loss of perceived care and uniqueness.  Display props are often necessary for jewelry display, but you have to make them. 

More posts are coming, and the line of "elephants" is way too long. Stay tuned for a circus of jewelry display issues that you won't want to miss. 


P.S. Most of these photos are not great. I don't want the jewelry recognized as victims of the display sins. All photos taken inside a gallery were taken with permission. 



WANTED Better Display - Offender #3 TOO MUCH STUFF On Display


WANTED Better Display - Offender #4 Purchased Racks & Props


WANTED Better Display - Offender # 5 Inconsistent Display Materials


WANTED Better Display - Offender # 6 Pathetic Aesthetic

Museum-Art-DesingImage taken by Phil Renato at the Museum of Art & Design, NY
Jewelry by Harriete Estel Berman (Yellow Ruffle Bracelet) and Peter Chang (bracelet shown at the bottom of the photo.)


An Exuberance of Color in Studio Jewelry

Three bracelets by Harriete Estel Berman
This week I'm flying to Santa Fe, NM for an opening of an exhibition at Tansey Contemporary  curated by Gail Brown. I am honored to have my work included in the show which is titled: An Exuberance of Color in Studio Jewelry.

The catalog is available online.  It is very well done and filled with exceptional work.


Participating jewelers include Julia Barello; Harriete Estel Berman, Jessica Calderwood; emiko oye; Arline Fisch; Donald Friedlich; Rebekah Laskin; Karen Massaro; Bruce Metcalf; Mike Simonian; Marjorie Schick; Joyce Scott; Barbara Seidenath; Helen Shirk; Marjorie Simon; Rachelle Thiewes; Linda Threadgill; Cynthia Toops; Dan Adams; Roberta & Dave Williamson; and Amy Lemaire.

Harriete Berman bracelet from recycled tin cans as a commentary about our consumer

Each jeweler is featured in the catalog. If you have the opportunity to see the show in person, I believe it will be worth your time. 


Do I go to many openings?

The time and effort to travel for an opening is not an easy option. I typically prefer to save money, keep expenses low, and stay home to work, but this invitation from Gail Brown to participate in this exhibition represents a long relationship of generous patronage. Going to Sante Fe is an adventure. 

After the show, I am taking two days off with my husband for a cultural history trip to Chaco Canyon in northwest New Mexico. Originally this was supposed to be just for an kind archaeological adventure, but it seems that this area was recently designated as a 'dark-sky preserve' so I have (sucked in my breath and) committed to camping under the stars. 

Will I see you in Santa Fe?  The opening is Friday evening, August 5.  


BermanH.Metallic -Gold-linear-UPC Berman- Harriete-bracelet-triangule-color


Profit and Lost from Seth Godin 

Exhibition Opportunities For Finished Work? How to Find Them.


Never say, "Gosh ...I could have gotten into that." Guidance to Improve Juried Opportunities

Page-under-construction-orangeround36As mentioned on the previous post, I am reconstructing an entirely new website. As a result I am reminded of all the useful content in the Professional Guidelines and in the ASK Harriete archives that may improve your success when submitting your work to a juried exhibition, show, book or magazine.

Even the smallest adjustment to your submission may make the difference between success and less than optimal outcomes. I've seem this over and over. Recently I was asked to select the award winning work for a juried exhibition. The $500 first price was a very generous award to stimulate entries. There were great 2nd and 3rd place awards as well, but the reality was that there not as many submissions as expected. What a missed opportunity for many, and a optimal opportunity for others!  

Never say, "Gosh ...I could have gotten into that." Try for every competition that fits your work using this information to improve your chances for success.


Juried Opportunities from the Professional Guidelines


CuratorMETROPOLITANWhat Is the Difference Between Curated and Juried?




Jenny-Fillius-well-doneCONTINUITY and CONSISTENCY, Photos Should Demonstrate Clear Focus






Zapplication: Behind the scenes by Craig Nutt



Opportunity vs. Vanity Scams




Photo Comparisons and Descriptions - Now Optimize Your Submission

Put lady luck on your side with a well planned entry.



3 Tips - New Website, New Domain, Retaining Page Rank

The Internet is making a pivot to mobile viewing.
 Experts declare "We're now past the mobile Tipping Point" changing from desktop to laptop, mobile, and tablets. In the four years since I got my first smart phone the suggestions I considered as "optional" for mobile design have become website essentials. Google anticipated this pivot to mobile over a year ago. In April 2015, Google threatened to reduce the visibility of your website or blog in search results if it is not "mobile-friendly." 

Website-not-mobile-friendlyThe day came and went.  My website wasn't ready.  It didn't matter that my old website showed up on phones or tablets,  it did not fit the Google definition of mobile friendly.

What does mobile friendly mean? How can you tell if your website fits that restricted definition by Google?  Here is one simple test.

Just try to grab the right side edge of your website (on your computer screen) and pull in the width of the page. As you can see in the image (left) the content on the right side of my website doesn't show anymore. The viewing window is smaller and obscures half my content.  

If your website layout doesn't change, move, or realign to the narrower width of a phone or tablet...your website is not mobile friendly.

SquareSpace-responsive-designThe current goal in websites is a responsive web design. This means the same website works for all platforms. With adaptive web design layout, the content should automatically reformat to be tailored for any desktop, tablet or smartphone screen dimensions. SquareSpace templates work for all platforms and came highly recommended.

Now I am taking the huge step in creating two, yes two whole new websites. One website is for my silver repair business and the other for my artwork. For the past two months the intensive effort uses every free moment. New domains, new platform, new design, and completely new website. This has not been easy.

Harriete-Estel-Berman-websiteMy old website was custom made for me.
It was not a template. I the unique aspects, but the problem was that I did not have the skill to update the code. 

With sad heart I finally had to acquiesce to a template -  the only way to go for a small business. At least the code is updated regularly to comply with current and frequently changing internet standards. 

To get this job done within a reasonable amount of time, I hired a graphic design student from the local community college as a paid summer intern. She has been gaining great experience each week working at home and at my house so we can discuss problems and solutions at a moment's notice.

Berman-Fine-SilverworkAs the first goal while learning SquareSpace,
we constructed a new website for my silver repair business "Berman Fine Silverwork."  Purchasing a new domain name allowed the transition from the old website to new pages to be swift and painless.  

TIP #1. Keep URLs as short as possible.
A new domain name for "Berman Fine Silverwork" shortened the URL. 

TIP #2. Create a website that functions on phones, tablets and computers. 
SquareSpace is designed to function on all platforms.  During the construction you can double check how it looks on each device. 

TIP #3.
Create a "301 redirect" for each page of the old website to the new site.  My silver business is a relatively small website so with a few 301 redirects all the pages (and page rankings) were moved over to my new website. In less than 24 hours I was getting inquires for silver repair jobs.

301 redirects are permanent. The closest analogy is like a change of address card that you would use at the post office for snail mail. A 301 redirect tells browsers to go to a different URL when someone clicks a link to a nonexistent page. The purpose is to tell search engines that a page has moved.  It also automatically transfers the old website page rank to the new page. 

Moving page ranks to your new web pages is essential when creating a new site.  If you don't do a 301 redirect from your old site to your new website....the years of history, internet activity, and even the links (from other people and websites) to the old website are lost forever. A 301 is easy to do and moves the established credibility from the old site to the new one.  

Ideally, create a 301 redirect from each page of the old site to the corresponding page on the new site. Do not just create one 301 redirect from the old website to the new home page. That is truly missing the point of a 301. You want to retain the old page rank from each page when creating the respective new website page. Each page of the old website should ideally link to a corresponding page on your new website. 

My future work is creating an Excel spread sheet listing every page of my old website anticipating the corresponding 301 redirects to my new website pages. In the meantime.....I will share my web design experience.

More information in future posts may help guide your new website construction.


Go mobile! Check your web site on an iPad and mobile phone. See the future!

Adaptive mobile web design


Vision of the Artist, Vision of the Photographer

-LOGO_footerIn February, Boris Bally invited me to participate in an exhibition about "changing society's views about the dangers of handguns."  The show title is "IMAGINE (Innovative Merger of Art & Guns to Inspire New Expressions) Peace Now!" Each artist was given a disabled hand gun (randomly chosen and mailed to the participating artists) to use as part of the artwork. 

When my gun arrived, it was the first time I ever touched a gun.


The gun was from a "gun buy back" program. You can't see the damage to the gun in the above photo. Harriete, ever the perfectionist, actually spent a lot of time improving the appearance of the gun.

The problem was that the artwork had to be finished and photographed by June 30. That is not much time by Harriete standards. I had no idea what I was going to make until.... 

...until I saw this check writing machine at a yard sale.


I knew immediately what could be done!
The illustration below was drawn by my daughter, Aryn Shelander as we discussed the piece. As I recall the blood was her brainstorm which was a terrific idea as I wanted to give the final artwork more graphic impact.


The title of the artwork is "Checking the Cost of Gun Violence."  I knew the title from the very beginning.

After countless hours of research I found the statistics that would go with the work. The lettering from recycled tin cans had to be red as if written in blood.

The barrel of the gun was attached to the handle. Much to my surprise this was the easiest part of the assembly. It was as if the gun was made for the artwork.


The pool of "blood" and new red face plates for the gun handle were created from recycled tin cans.

To get to this point required intense weeks of work. Above is an early test shot in the studio.  I try to take a few test shots during fabrication to make sure that my artistic vision of the artwork is going to work in the photo. 

Next I added blood red paint to match the blood red metal. 


Drips were hard to create.  Not sure how long they will last.


Another test shot below. Now I need spent bullet casings (technically referred to as shells.)


Getting the shell casings from bullets required a couple of trips to local shooting ranges. I wanted used shell casings as that seemed more symbollic. 


It was really exciting that the folks at Jackson Arms shooting range gave me a generous amount so I could pick through them.


Another test shot.  Test shots also help to show the photographer my vision for the finished photograph. Above is the "quickie shot" with my phone. 

Below, my photographer, Philip Cohen, provides photos of the finished sculpture with all his professional skill, superior camera, lights and action.   


Various close-up images are shown below. Philip Cohen always gives me a wide selection of close-ups and I pick from the preview images (shown in this post.)  


I pay for each shot....and can only use three images for this exhibition I choose carefully.

32, 514 people including children are killed each year.


Statistics on the front are actual gun statistics from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
"EACH DAY"  there are 31 Murders, 55 Suicides, 2 Accidental Deaths, 1 Death by Police Action, 210 Injured, and costs $627 Million in  America.  Each DAY!  


The 89 shell casings represent the average number of deaths each day in America involving guns.


I hope you found this interesting to see the progression from vision of the artist to the professional quality images from Philip Cohen.


Feel welcome to offer your opinion about your favorite images. I can only submit three images to the exhibition.


P.S. More news about the traveling exhibition, future exhibition venues, and the catalog in future posts. I understand that Boris Bally is looking for exhibition venues. There will be a Kickstarter Campaign for the catalog.

Someday I Want to Be Paid As Much As An Electrician

In an eloquent comment on ASK Harriete  John Rose says,

 "Demonizing workshop sponsors is fun and in some cases deserved, but in reality workshops are business partnerships between instructors and venues. They need each other. Instructors need an equipped, safe and maintained facility to teach in. Without qualified instructors the venues are just very expensive empty rooms."

"Both sides of this equation have expenses. You have quite rightly pointed out the hidden costs of the instructor. Building and maintaining a facility that will support metals workshops [any media really] requires no small amount of capital for real estate, equipment, insurance and staff to run it (just to name of few expenses).

The real issue facing us all is how to determine a fair price that students can afford/willing to pay..."

Harriete continues: I also heard a similar comment in some of the Facebook discussions. It isn't that I disagree or don't recognize the expenses of managing a facility.  There is no intention at finding the workshop sponsor solely responsible for the lowly pay for the Craft Master Workshop Instructor. The issues are multi-faceted and numerous.   So let's look at some of those expenses for running a workshop for some insights. 

The workshop sponsor pays the electrician, plumber, custodial fees, insurance, workman's comp, utilities, rent/mortgage, etc., all at the going rate. They don't negotiate and offer to pay a lower rate to the electrician because he/she loves the job or should love craft.   

The workshop sponsor contracts for graphic design, advertising, and promotions. How else can people find out about their remarkable programs?  They get a quote and pay the amount. The sponsor doesn't expect to get a discount or pay an especially lower fee because the graphic designer loves their program or supports the crafts.

Some workshop retreats offer food and housing.  Does the cook cook food for a reduced wage because they love craft? Did the organic farmer charge less for their premium quality vegetables because they love craft?  

So ....what is happening?

Actually I am not blaming the workshop sponsor.   I am blaming "us" -- the art and craft instructors for giving away our talents at discount prices.  The practice has become embedded into the culture.  The workshop sponsors have come to assume that the easiest negotiable expense is the workshop teacher.

The workshop sponsor is indeed running a business and has found a bargain deal in the person that is supposed to love craft more than money...the Craft Master.  Then offers the Craft Master the same wage from 30 years ago because they don't possibly expect more. After all, they really, really love craft and want to support the school, the participants, and the community.  

Hey, someday I just want to be paid as much as an electrician.



Someday I Want to Make as Much Money As My Baby Sitter

Someday I Want to Make as Much Money As My Baby Sitter

Dear Workshop Sponsor,  

I am honored to be invited to teach at your renowned program which is highly regarded in the arts and crafts community. 

Two days of travel (one day before and one day after) plus teaching for two especially long days all for $1,000 compensation sounds like a great opportunity.  This time away from domestic responsibilities and studio work will also relieve me of my established income sources.  Upon returning home, I will cram in some double time for another four days to catch up on all the obligations that were left unattended.  Sadly, I will miss my exercise classes, but no worry, the standing and demonstrating all day will provide a different kind of fatigue. 

The samples and projects expected in a workshop usually only take a 100 hours or so during the prior six weeks. No need to compensate for all the prep time. It is just part of the job.   

The location of your program is beautiful which will be great to see from the car window on the way from the airport. For my return flight, the uncertainty about getting back to the airport in time will be an invigorating experience. 

Auspiciously, this workshop may help pad my resume (I've only worked in the field for three decades).

Visting SlideShare 004The proposed trunk show is another great opportunity. Circumventing my gallery and asking for a 50/50 split probably won't have much impact since workshop participants expect a special workshop price. Discussing purchases may be a moot point, no one seems to be buying anyway. And by the end of the workshop, the students will have learned how to duplicate my signature techniques.  In the past, some participants have even said, "I love your work and want to make one for myself." 

My nurturing and giving persona must be gaining attention. Recently, another craft retreat in the mountains offered $500 for a week of teaching. I hear the studios are open 24 hours a day and the view from the studio window looks like a vacation photo. 

After careful reflection on this workshop proposal, and with the utmost admiration for your program, I must decline.  Someday, while continuing to ignore financial realities, I hope that artists and makers will make as much as my babysitter. 

Best Regards,

Domestic Diva with a B.F.A., M.F.A., two children, house, garden, and bills.

P.S. Sorry for the brevity of my response. I need to water the garden, sweep the floor, empty the dishwasher, volunteer for my neighborhood, make dinner, set the table, build Battlebots, and get dressed before my children and their friends arrive. 


Someday I Want to Be Paid As Much As An Electrician

I Love the Smell of Dykem in the Morning

"I love your work and want to make one for myself"

Tools and Techniques Are Part of the Message

Recently, I wrote a post about "the Intersection between CAD/ CAM and craft." With further reflection during the week along with an extended conversation on Facebook, I'm trying to add some clarity and extend the interpretation of my message.

Steve-Jobs-movieThis weekend, I was listening to the commentary from the director and crew of the movie Steve Jobs. This film was really phenomenal, just fantastic in the way it was structured in three acts!   I highly recommend the film. A comment by director, Danny Boyle, offered deeper clarity about how tools and technology can be part of the message in any media.

Arri_Alexa_cameraHere is what Boyle said about his use of technology in Steve Jobs: Act 1 used 16 mm film for the "rough edge, homemade and basic."  Then the 2nd Act portraying events years later used "35 mm film which is kind of liquid, beautiful, smooth and romantic. And then we shot the third act on the Alexa, with a modern digital camera which is infinite, it has infinite pixels, almost, or we are moving that way, anyway."

In other words the director intentionally used three different technologies in filming to convey a subliminal feel within the film. This level of refinement was one of many special levels of execution that elevates this film to memorable. The film technology may not have been obvious to the less knowledgeable film audience, but it was apparent in the visual quality of the film.  The thoughtful use of filming technologies also influenced the meaning behind the film. Danny Boyle chose film technology to parallel the technical innovations of the decades portrayed in this narrative about technology. Genius!

For another example the music by Daniel Pemberton used the actual synthesizers of the 1970's/80's era, one note at a time (due to the limitations of early synthesizers) to create a score for Act 1, circa 1984 of the film. It's another example where the technology helped create more richly textured content.  

These are examples of using technology to enrich the content of a particular art form, a movie, but I think it translates similarly to the intersection between CAD/CAM and craft
in all media. A thoughtful rationale can be applied whether to use any technology, such as CAD/CAM tools, or stay within the concept of "hand made" to enrich the content.  

T-hammer-letter Tool alpahbetl 025 Tool alpahbetl 080 Tool alpahbetl 006 S-flexshaft-lette






The question is whether the tools and technologies add to or enrich the intent and appearance of the work?  The deliberate choice of a technology or technique can elevate the meaning behind your work.  

Tool alpahbetl 085Tool alpahbetl 050Tool alpahbetl 105Tool alpahbetl 105 a Tool alpahbetl 014 Tool alpahbetl 050




To make something by "hand" becomes an attribute of the work, but this attribute is irrelevant IF this is not your message.  Making something by hand can be a political statement, but competing with manufactured goods that have the same look and feel is a waste of your time.  Does your work look like it was "handmade?"  What does that mean to you and your audience?  Are you making something by hand that could be done equally well or better by machine?

Technology and "hand made" need not be incompatible.  CAD/CAM is simply a tool and "hand made" is simply a technique, but tools and techniques alone do not necessarily elevate the work. 

CAD/CAM may help make items at a competitive price.   Commercial jewelry is often made by CAD technology, but it holds no meaning. The tool does not elevate work which is boring and meaningless and has nothing to say.

The technique, tool, or technology is effective only if it is consistent with your aesthetic or purpose.  Here are two examples from architecture to illustrate effective and ineffective use of technology.

The architecture of Zaha Hadid reflects the technology that allowed her to design and fabricate her buildings.

In contrast, constructing 18th century decorative motifs with 3-D printing seems fake. It isn't that you can't do it, but it seems inauthentic. Sure it might be one way to get it done, but doesn't it feel fake?    

There are many examples in the art and craft world, where the tools and technology add meaning to the work.  I would love to hear of other examples that work or don't work well.

In closing, an insightful comment from writer Alan Sorkin about the Steve Jobs movie; "We invest a lot of ourselves, all of ourselves, in what we are doing, and we kind of want the world to look at that and not us."


Gemini Battlebot (I Helped Fabricate) Will Be On TV

The Gemini Battlebots that I helped fabricate will be on broadcast television!! Wath it on Hulu!!  Tune into ABC Battlebots show Thursday, June 23  at 10:00pm West Coast time. I have no idea what will be shown, and the little I know about the Battlebot competition, I am not allowed to reveal. Shhhhhhhhhhh.........

If you missed the is a longer preview (1:48 second) The whole show was hilarious to the know. You can see my son, and even my husband on national television! The production for Battlebots was amazing. This is the first time my son build a Battlebot and he got to be in a nationally televised competition.  (Gemini Battlebot shown at 1:18, 1:36. My son and his team member 1:25) 

The experience fabricating a contender for Battlebots was empowering, but the outcome at the time was unknown. Sometimes you simply have to try your hardest, work day after day. stay up late night after night, and then pull an all-nighter because if you don't try, nothing will happen. 

And if you do try your absolute best.... you will at the very least create a possibility.



Above: Harriete drilling holes in the Gemini weapon parts at the TECH Shop, San Francisco, CA. (Blue tape on the drill bit was to mark where to stop.) That day was a sold 10 hours of drilling, and grinding....non-stop.  Photo credit: Ace Shelander.

Ace designed, engineered and was the primary fabricator for Gemini Battlebots. More part fabrication at the milling machine shown below. 

Ace Shelander holding up part just finished at the milling machine at the TECH Shop

part for Gemini Battlebot with aluminum chips after milling

At the Intersection Between CAD/ CAM and Craft

Recently, I was a guest worker at Radicand in an effort to help my son, Ace, fabricate his Gemini BattleBot for an upcoming Battlebot competition for an ABC summer show. The smaller red robot (at 125 lbs.) (in the video below) is the one I helped make. 

Photo above shows some of the Radicand engineers, and Aryn Shelander (guest worker 12:00 midnight to 3:00 a.m: during our all-nighter.

Harriete driling the Gemini Battlebot partsThe much larger scale of everything was certainly a challenge but I soon realized that my hand fabrication skills translated well. 
And among several surprising observations, I soon realized just how important it is that handcrafting skills are still needed.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was witnessing the entire fabrication process beginning with CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacture) and progressing through each of the necessary steps to final assembly and operational testing.  Not everything is computerized.  A good "eyeball" and steady hands are involved.

water Jet cutting of battlebot partsAfter the parts were perfectly cut with water jet, I still had to figure out where to manually mark the holes (referencing from the cut edge with calipers), center punch the holes, hope the drill centered itself accurately on the center punch, and then to actually drill the holes straight.

precisely cut parts ready for marking and drillingI have plenty of experience, lots of skills for precision metalwork, and at the same time, at every step I was astounded by the inherent possibility of inaccuracy
. The CAD provides a tolerance of 0.001 inch, but how accurate can a human being be while rushed to get this done as quickly as possible?    

IMG_20160413_151752682CAD/CAM offers precise designs, but in reality, some machine-made perfection must integrate with handmade steps.  The bridge between theoretical precision and adept skills is left in the hands of the human maker.


Moving on....more observations...

Ace Shelander designed the Gemini BattlebotsMy son, Ace, designed his entire BattleBot in CAD software called Solidworks. (This is one the major software design programs used for prototyping and manufacturing.) 

Most of the parts were cut from steel and aluminum by water jet. The results were quite impressive. The TECH Shops (at both San Francisco and San Jose) have water jets. It costs $3.00 a minute (after you pay to take a class). 

The water jet cuts the holes first so the small parts don't move (this why it doesn't appear to be moving very much at the beginning.)  Then the water jet cuts the edges of the parts.  The speed is determined by the material and thickness.

Additional parts were cut with a water jet at KELLER Industries in San Carlos. Their water jet was even bigger, faster and louder. The Keller brothers and sons were incredibly nice and reduced the intimidating, even daunting, hurdle of approaching a commercial industrial metal fabricating business.

While water jet is used for large scale fabrication, it is also ideal for prototyping and one-of-a-kind. Just pop in the file and the computer controls the cuts.  


Here is a short video.

Harriete can cut sheets of aluminum and file them close to CAM perfection, but should I cut six sheets?  Where is the role of CAD/CAM in our craft work? I am a huge advocate for craft and hand made, but seriously question why we should be hand crafting in those situations when machines can do the work faster and cheaper. This is especially true for multiples.

Is "hand made" purity an absolute attribute when technologies could help us be more productive?

Are we disloyal to hand made if we consider using fabrication technologies that can help us be more cost effective?

I love making by hand, but there is a place where we should be working smarter and faster when the machines can do it as well as (or better than) we can.

This isn't an easy topic to tackle. I don't think the answer is absolutely one way or the other.  CAD/CAM or hand made or mixing the best of both?  I am beginning to think that we need to learn the computer software and the technologies if they can help make our work better and faster.