Monday, November 22, 2010

Company Holiday Card

Photograph by Khaliq Sharpe

Even though it wasn't within my job description, I was asked to design a company Christmas Card.  I chose a complex, uninteresting site photograph with a group of men working.  Using photoshop I "painted" santa-style hats on the men, and falling "snow" on the rest of the image.

The punchline came inside the card, "Not all elves build toys."

This card won me a backpack.

It turns out, our insurance company, which insures more than just general contractors, holds an annual holiday luncheon during which they display all the cards they receive in December.  The employees then vote and award a prize for the one that celebrates the holiday season and best exemplifies the work of the submitting company.

Card Interior

Lego Business Card Holder

The NYU job fair was an education in marketing give-aways for me.  I didn't expect the TP to be something people would want to take home with them.  In fact some even asked for bags - too embarassed to be carrying around a roll of TP.  This served as the basis for the next give-away.

Lego, the popular toymaker created software called Lego Digital Designer - in essence AutoCAD for Lego models.  Users are allowed to select individual Lego bricks and position them in space to construct a model.  As it's created, the program keeps a running total of the cost of the model.  Upon completion, the program uploads the model to the Lego website which sends you a bill for the bricks, and a week later, a package arrives in the mail with exactly the pieces needed to build the model.  This program would have been a dream to my 10 year-old self.

The cost of the business card holder was $7.33.  We bought small plastic tube-like containers to hold the pieces of the set, and created our own Lego-style pictures-only instructions for assembling the piece.  In addition a company business card was included in the package.

In order to customize it, we had stickers created that fit on a key block on the front, and the mini-figure's torso.  The goal was to make it look as though he was wearing a company t-shirt.

In all, 150 of them were created, and were only used once, given away at a charity event at the Lake Mahopac Country Club in 2008.

It should be noted that Lego does not in anyway endorse this.
The packaging, the pieces, and the completed model.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Concrete Oil Candle

Most of my concrete work with candles involves building a box or shade of sorts around an ordinary votive or tea light.  This was an attempt, like the Concrete & Glass Oil Candle, in order to create a casting that would be more than just a shade.

The candle was cast in two parts, with a hidden glass well in the lower portion and a glass tube containing a fiberglass wick in the upper portion.

This casting is notable because it was done very early, predating almost all of the stained glass work.  It was the first time I didn't chamfer the edges of the mold to allow for an easy de-mold.  All edges are for the most part, ninety degrees.

Parsons Cube Tabletops

Pre-cast concrete tops installed on West Elm Parsons Cube Side Tables.

 I bought two Parsons Cube Side Tables from West Elm to use as coffee tables.  I figured they were small enough to move around or adapt to other uses, and at the same time sturdy enough to put my feet up or sit on.

Unfortunately the finish on the veneer shows marks rather easily so I initially planned on adding additional coats of finish.  Instead I cast concrete panels that would fit on top of them.

I've often considered creating decorative wall panels or actual tile out of concrete either as something that could be mass produced or as one-off works of art.  I resist partly because it seems too easy to create a shallow mold where the artwork, while still three dimensional, is more about fields of texture in bas-relief.

I arranged the tables so that one of them was pulled forward to their respective midlines as shown in the photograph to the right.  The concrete planter with its square shape fit nicely on one of them.

The tops I cast would have to respond to the planter, because I wanted to keep it in that location.  For a while the design actually included a recess so that the planter would "lock-in" to its intended location.

Because I was going to need more than one top, I decided to go with using the rubber casting material I had used previously on the Concrete Pot and the Concrete Oil Candle.  It saved me no time because while casting the second top didn't involve the creation of a second mold; making the original mold out of rubber involved several additional time-consuming steps.  I only used the rubber material to insure that both tops would be identical.

The steps involved creating an original negative mold out of foamboard.  Several pictures are included below.

Original negative mold in progress.

Completed negative mold.

Negative mold filled with Polytek 7420.

Completed postive cast full scale being demolded.

Final rubber positive cast.

 Once the rubber had solidified enough to remove it from the mold, it took several hours to get the foamboard off it, even with liberal amounts of release agent applied to the mold before casting.

The picture to the left is a rubber full scale model of what the finished product would look like in concrete. 

This model was then placed in a foamboard box and the very same casting material was then poured on top of it.  This would create a rubber negative mold essentially identical to the one I built out of foamboard in step one.

This is the finished mold on the right.  Polytek 7420 as a casting material will bond with itself unless a release agent is applied in between the positive and the negative.  While I did apply the relase agent I wasn't as precise as I should have been insuring that it got into all of the grooves on the positive object.  This resulted in several tears in this casting when it came time to demold.  Fortunately its effects on the concrete casts were minor, and the defects in the mold itself are correctable.

One of the cast finished pieces is shown at the right.  It has a few minor imperfections related to concrete mixing, but overall, and considering that it was completely hand made, I'm happy with the result.  There was some concern that the grooves (which get deeper toward the center) would compromise the panel structurally, but this appears to not be the case.
The picture to the right is the very first concrete panel to come out of the mold.  I set it next to its rubber prototype to get a sense of the spiral pattern I was looking to create across the two tables.  The color variations on the concrete are the result of water still evaporating from it.

In order to better protect the finished product I applied Aqua Mix water-based "Stone Enhancer" as a finish.  This doesn't affect the appearance but it gives the material a slightly waxy texture.  I don't normally finish my concrete work with any sealer because I like the look of the raw material, and most sealers will change the color, sheen or texture of it.  In this case I did so because they would likely be subject to the occasional food or beverage spill

Monday, November 1, 2010

Company-Branded T.P.

After reading the book "Your Marketing Sucks" by Mark Stevens I was motivated to completely change the kind of marketing materials that my company puts out there.  Both the president and the marketing department were less than enthusiastic about my vision.  Even though this was for work it was outside my area of responsibilities at the time, and a clear output of my underworked creativity engine, so I'm including it here.

I think the picture to the left is provacative enough to almost not-need any sort of text.  It opens the door to all sorts of possibilities.  When the company president asked me what it means I flippantly replied "Servicing assholes for seventy-five years." He laughed and then said, "no way."

Almost a year later my boss told me that the company was going to have a table at an NYU job fair, and I should come up with something.  Since I was given only forty hours notice it was my decision to go ahead with the toilet paper, much to his initial dismay.  We made about thirty of them, and  changed it so that it had more information than the company logo on it.

The back of the label reads, "Performing construction work in New York requires you to deal with a lot of $#!+.  Maybe you need to work for a construction company that knows how to clean it up."  They were just stacked on our table at the job fair to attract attention.  I never intended anyone to take or keep them, but we ended up giving away a couple dozen.