Ceramadelics Light Sculptures
Ceramadelics is a joint venture between ceramic artist Bridget Fox and electronics technician Eric Daine. Together we are merging ceramics and electronics to create illuminated forms. While the ceramics provides a beautiful, organic structural form, the electronics provide a means for illumination and opens up potentials for interactivity.
The housing for these lights are made using cone 6 oxidation fired clay and layered glazes. Aquatic and botanical organisms serve as the inspiration for the ceramic form. This natural structure enhances the light and shadow and gives the form an organic, mesmerizing feel.
The electronics consist of a custom circuit board, a microcontroller, a 3 watt LED and a capacitive touch sensor. These components work together using a pulse width modulating technique to provide an endlessly undulating color changing effect. The capacitive touch sensor mounted inside the ceramic housing allows the light to be turned on and off simply by touching the clay surface.
Part of the creation process of these pieces has been learning about the tools and materials that it takes to put them together. In our tool arsenal we now have a Kiln, Soldering Iron, CAD software, a CNC machine, wire, glaze, wood, C-compiler, hot glue, and many techniques. As we learn we are trying to figure out new ways to combine materials and move towards something that is still one-of-a-kind but made of modular parts that are easier to assemble.
The Echinodermata Light Sculpture is the first, completed wall sconce light from the Ceramadelic Light Sculpture series. Its name relates to the forms’ radial symmetry, latticework skeleton, and spiky nodules that are characteristic of sea creatures in the phylum Echinodermata (sea urchins, starfishes, sea cucumbers). While its illuminating effect fills the room with beautiful little light orbs of color that fade and pulse as if it really is alive.
The tri-color LED gradually fades from one color to the next displaying the whole color spectrum in a completely random sequence. In a dark environment it covers the ceiling and walls around it with a stained glass effect of beautiful multi-colored light. During the daylight hours one can enjoy the fantastic decorative beauty of the ceramic piece without the light.
This was the first piece and it took a long time to make. Lots of holes cut out = Lots of time! We had to cut a backing out of wood and file it to fit, then mount all the electronics and wiring to it. We created a custom heat sink for the LED on the CNC, and then the circuit board and heat sink were designed as stack, using though hole components. There is a full post on this piece outlining the machining process of the aluminium heat sink and some of the construction. We learned a lot and it is still our favorite piece but we realized if we wanted to make an army of these we would have to revise our technique.
We tried to tackle some of our design and construction issues by moving to translucent porcelain clay. The rationale was to move away from the complex form with all the holes in order to create a closed form with a back and a hole cut out for the electronics. Of course the clay had a mind of its own and while we solved some problems we introduced others. We lost the intricate colored shadows produced by shining the led through all the holes but we gained a very organic looking form that seemed to glow and pulse from within. Also, the glaze on the surface lit up and almost fluoresced when certain colors from the LED excited it, an effect we are sure to exploit in the future. The electronics moved to an entirely surface mount design which aids assembly time and saves material costs. This new circuit design incorporates a heat sink as part of the board itself and saves the machining time needed with the CNC. The light it creates is still very mesmerizing and calming even though it’s a completely different effect than our first light, it too looks almost alive.
All along the way we have been making these night lights. They are simpler but still very fun as an assembled multi-media sculpture. They combine ceramic flowers with pots, copper tubing, custom circuit board, rocks, recycled CDs, Cadmium Sulfied light sensor, electronics and E6000 glue just to hold the fiddly bits together They are part of a more functional series of Ceramadelics which we have resurrected due to great user response.
Each one is unique and handcrafted. The light-sensor turns on the blue LED and the control point is adjustable for different ambient light levels. No more “night” light that runs all “day” because it is in a dark corner. You can set the trigger point! Its soothing blue color is plenty bright enough to see your way around in a dark room without invading the serenity of the night making it a comfort to be around and also easy to sleep by. The LED is energy efficient and will keep going for A LONG TIME without gobbling down tons of power. Couple that with the lifelong endurance of fired clay and it means you may never have to invest in another night light again…REALLY! We actually have two that have been in constant nightly use going on 8 years and we wouldn’t ever want to live without them.
As we have developed and grown Cermadelics we have been learning:
- Learning about new tools, techniques, and materials
- Learning how to make unique individual objects that are aesthetically pleasing, function well, and are still easy to put together in an efficient manner
- Learning about marketing and selling
- Learning how to value time and put a dollar amount on something you feel with your heart and create with your hands
- Learning how to combine the rigid aspects of electronics with the organic aspects of clay.
While both mediums have endless potential and possibility, it’s been interesting learning how far you can take things when combining them. As a general rule, clay shrinks when it drys and gets cooked, circuit boards don’t.