Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Grateful for the teachings of Dad



At the risk of being sermonic I’d like to start by urging those of you who are able, please humor me and those of us without parents this reminder to hug and appreciate your parents, family and loved ones this Thanksgiving.    

It’s always a shock to lose family and loved ones, and it’s a standard aphorism that we should never take them for granted. But man is it so true. Losing my mom in 2011 was a shocking surprise to me despite her heart condition…  I think this awareness made me put extra effort into connecting with dad when I can these last 5 years because, due to his health and serious issues requiring many hospitalizations, I’ve been sort of bracing myself to lose him for almost a decade now. 
So we just lost my dad earlier this month after he was already in the hospital for 2 weeks.  It was a roller coaster few weeks of hope and loss for us and the oversimplified version of it is that he had had a series of small strokes. After, these past few weeks, during which all of his children had visited with him and stayed with him, and after it was clear the doctors could do no more he was removed from life support and passed peacefully.

Many know how close I was to my dad as he was a 3D Designer and commercial sculptor too (also inventor and more which I’ll get to).  Strangely the shock isn’t half as much as he’s been having serious issues that put him in the hospital for years now. I’ve rather been preparing myself and *MORE IMPORTANTLY* trying to forgive any frustrations and just write to him and stay in touch in any way I could while I could.  See there was much I wanted to say to my mom but she passed very suddenly and I honestly wish I’d thought to write her more letters too so the things I couldn’t say in time on our weekly phone calls were able to be said.  At least I got this chance with my dad.
I discovered this early mentor/student exchange saved among his papers

Also, don’t take handwritten letters for granted either.  Years down the road I still have correspondence from grandparents and great grandparents, a legacy that’s interesting and valid still and gives incite to my early childhood and thus who I am and where I came from.  If you can find those and keep those.  And consider writing hand printed letters so that future generations can too.

And of course photos.  I’m so glad we’ve got hard copy photos everywhere for the memories.

My youngest brother isn't present yet (I'm only 3 here) but a rare group pic

In City Island NY, on Iris
So let’s see… I won’t do my dad’s legacy any sort of justice because I’m rather private about sentimental things I guess but to start, my place in the scheme;  I was my mom's only child. My 3 older siblings (like me) also lost their mother a while back to cancer in the early 2000’s. We all have a younger brother and I'm honored to be good friends with his mom as well. That’s 5 Kilbourn Kids total.

  As such, he really adopted a mentoring role with me on his weekends.  I was definitely lucky this way with both parents really trying very hard and showing me tons of love  and edumacate me as best as possible.  I definitely felt that I was raised as an only child aspect despite having siblings I saw mostly at the holidays.   Sibling household dynamics fascinate me and most of my close friends and even my husband all come from bigger households. :) 
Dad always encouraged my horse obsession - here he is holding my OTTB mare "Fussy"
Mom and dad were separated when I was 3 so it was just mom and I from then on with visiting dad every other weekend.
Both mom and dad were also brilliant sensitive people with advanced degrees and it’s interesting that I haven’t matched their level of education (Masters) nor do I feel half as smart as them (IQ tests bear that out too admittedly) still in many ways.  Dad was big on letting me know anything was possible.  Yes, the whole “but could I be president” sorts of conversations parents have with their kids as well as encouraging me in any way possible.  Still despite being a “know it all” and privileged kid quite honestly I’ve always been humbled by my parents’ insightfulness and intellect.

Dad also was very big on adventures, many stories there.   I will leave those off… many of them involved him saying “Whoops!” hahaha… and then adventure ensued. 
He actually lived in the apartment at this boatyard for much of the time.  Smurf was off to Hartford (Coleco offices) I presume.

And then of course there was the very informative time spent with him in the studios or home workshop doing 3d projects for the companies he worked for (when being lead designer means rush projects don’t stop just because you have your kid for the weekend).. I spent hours marveling at how things worked in a toy company for example.  Being the cobbler’s child I actually had very FEW toys..  Even more oddly this actually made me leery of ever pursuing art, especially commercial art, as a career!  It’s grueling work and USUALLY* it’s uncredited.   Often you work with a whole team.  I was always sad to see he not only didn’t get to sign his name to his work but he also had to pass it on to the next parts of the team for refinements – his work being altered!  As an aspiring artist this was a shock.  


Now to be clear there were other artists in my family, extremely talent fine artists all too and their work was unadulterated and more typical “art” forms. However they didn’t sell enough to make a living at it (even though internationally recognized).  This was the lesson really, it’s rare to make a living wage anymore as a full time artist.   Dad went from freelance to full time employment back to freelance.  He liked his work most of the time, at least I never heard him dislike much, but also to was the lesson of doing art you don’t like or that isn’t very “artistic” (like designing joy stick controller).  All commercial artists (3d designers to graphic) are probably familiar with that.  And honestly it probably made it easier for me to broach graphic design as a career later and then eventually accept and really appreciate the commercial work I’ve done, limited as it is so far.


Why not drop this here.  No explanations really needed.
To be clear about one other thing, doing work that’s not moving you, such as making graphic designs for something very mundane and drab like a corporate folder, is like a bad day of fishing.  It’s still better than anything else you could be doing for a living. ;)


Working full time as an artist is a gift and I learned that from dad in spades.  Being able to make your own career path was his goal for all his children and all of us have had our own businesses for the most part.


I’ve discussed with him earlier this year for instance the time he worked with Coleco on the Cabbage patch kids.  I remember him back in the 80s going off to meet Xavier Roberts and his Babyland General world he had created for the original soft faced dolls.. it was the sort of work story ANY kid would remember (he also met other people for other projects, and had similar wild stories about what their studios were like).  However I also remember seeing these 2inch diameter “kids” dad was sculpting and being incredibly skeptical.   So I asked him this year why they ever had him work so small on the initial designs.  I guess there were consultants brought in from outside (other major toy) companies and ultimately the design was reworked by a 3rd party group in China or some such deal.  It was really fascinating to me honestly.  It also makes me appreciate the companies I have done work for that have given me credit at the END of the game.  It may be a lot of pressure but sometimes it’s a little sad that the artist cogs in the wheels of design are forgotten.  So please know that my dad was involved in many hits of the 70s and 80s including aspects of these recognizable hit items;

  • ·         Cabbage Patch kids (to be clear - Xavier Roberts is the artist who created these for a long time prior to the super fad)
  • ·         Smurf mobiles and other lots of smurf gizmos (creator/designer Peyo sounded equally as interesting as Roberts, at least his studio did.  I don't remember if dad met him directly)
  • ·         Cat in the Hat mobiles & things (I don’t remember him going to meet Suess though, pretty sure that didn't happen)
  • ·         ET mobile et al, (I do remember him VERY excited to go meet Spielberg and then instead only to get to meet both Spielberg’s assistant but also only ET’s understudy/double as the real deals were far too busy... it's never as glamorous as you would think)


There were maybe 5 to 10 other artists on these projects with him but he was still one of the unsung heros there.  I’m such a fervent supporter of giving artists credit still to this day in part because when we don’t respect the “creatives” as they were once called in the biz, the creatives leave and the world without the more brilliant creatives is a very soul-less place I don’t want to see come to fruition.  Watching him work taught me the value of team and also of self-respect there.

Dad's Olin boot patent (see that long link below for this on the patent office site)

Dad used to tell me stories too and I would think they were exaggerated only to learn later on that nope, they really were true.  Like that he “invented” a major design for Olin ski boot.  I remember doing a report on it when I was younger, “my hero is my dad” theme and having a drawing of the gusset he’d gone in on a patent for, but later when the internet became a thing and I stumbled across the ability to look up patents for ha’ha’s I looked up his name and well, here it is;
Just him and Bob on that one.  The sketches are so standardized I’m not sure if he or Bob or a 3rd party artist was brought in to do them (I can’t recognize his work there but almost feel like those are his handwriting style numerals).

Other crazy stories all the time would crop up and sort of blow my mind a bit.. I was talking about Bucky ball technology once and he mentioned "I knew Buckminster Fuller" and I'd pause.  What?  And then he'd mention he took a class or maybe it was a short workshop by him at Pratt.    It wasn't too much of a story or name dropping, he just was like that.  He did a lot, knew a lo and met a lot of really cool people too.  Dad just lived a fascinating life.

Also quickly back to life as a kid of a Coleco employee for a minute.   As we head into Christmas season here I can say that 34 years ago I was transformed into a begging pleading kid “omg omg omg can you get me one???”.  I learned that despite being an employee there, and an “insider”.. that more employees wanted dolls than Coleco had for them.  So there was a closet with a PILE of dolls and a raffle system.   And that the dolls would not be boxed or come with their birth certificates (a major part of the charm I guess).  I’d like to add that this is pretty much the only doll I ever wanted.  Even though I’d scorned the little 2inch faces a year before.  Go figure.  Hype works man.  Anyhow, I did get one. I remember her name still, Alyssa (maybe spelled differently).  She came in a box and I later learned he didn’t win the raffle.  Isn’t that ironic?  Later on he did get one for his 3rd wife and I recently salvaged her from storage.  She’s in rough shape here (and not very valuable as a factory sample – it’s all sentimental).  Anyhow, that was an interesting bit of madness/history that gave me insight into companies that would serve me later.  

Refugee from the storage items that are mostly gone now.  She's very moldy and damaged.  One of those 'employee closet' dolls later on after that first crazy hyped Christmas.

I just cannot emphasize enough what a force he was in urging me to be as creative as possible.  From offering to help in any way, with supplies and help cutting things (most 10 year olds don’t wield dremels).. to photography.. to graphic design work even.  I feel like the luckiest of my siblings in that way, that I had this ability to relate to that, and he always espoused how proud he was of how industrious I was.   It was my outlet, as I was pretty much a loner (and still sort of am most of the time).  There were also things my siblings just didn't understand like all the gifts of the more unique dead animals he found.  One almost ruined Christmas but I took the bag elsewhere to open it and my siblings remained mostly ignorant of the horrors it held). ;)   I definitely was encouraged to be different as were each of his children in special ways.  We all got newspaper clippings of stories and cartoons applicable to us.

Dad showing my horse for me at a farm fun show.  He loved animals.

Then there was the practical dad stuff too.. Albeit not entirely in the normal ways.   Such as that dad also taught me to drive…with a few twists.  Seriously, like “lets take the [nice classic car fanciers collector item] Toronado car to the hay field and drive in between bales of hay”…. And one pair he had me drive between pushed in both side mirrors.  This car was in such nice condition you can only imagine. Or you had better go into this snowy parking lot and blow donuts until you learn how to correct a slide in the snow or ice (very very valuable skill).


He also taught me to boat years before, mostly driving an outboard.  In fact recently I had a dream I inherited one of the (many) boats he lived on (serially)… and realized I still didn’t know diddly.  It was a stress dream about not being able to do things he would dance around and do as par for the course in boating.  Just little "hold on let me moor her better here before we go" type of things I'm sad to say I wouldn't even know where to start.  He even would take newbie boat owners at the marinas he lived at out on their boats and give them tips and ideas. 

The Rottie is "Duncan" and the brindle guy, "Taco" was mine at this time but I gave him to dad when Duncan died.  Taco was so happy living life as a boatyard dog with dad.

Dad was totally a teacher at heart.  First and foremost a teacher and I think most people felt a pretty charismatic one, the kind that got you interested in the topic.  He initially taught art after he graduated from Wesleyan (Masters in teaching) if I recall the course of events correctly.  I know he met my mom this way, and taught at the same high school in Hamden as my mom’s dad (also art teacher, and a sculptor whom he admired – which is how my parents met).   We spent a lot of time talking about his teaching as I tried to learn tips on how to be a better teacher.  I really haven’t gotten many, he was a natural.  I once watched him explain to someone how a combustion gas engine works with a loaf of French bread, spoons and glass jars.  Later cgi graphics verified for me how accurate his piston examples were.   It's a rare talent to be able to make due with supplies at hand to teach more complicated principals with not only accuracy but entertainment value!
Dad and my brother this past summer, in a boat again obviously!  Dad is telling interesting stories about the river here.



A couple of years ago we were walking (very slowly, he was extremely weak at the time) in a groomed trail wooded area of North Carolina swamp preserve  and he pointed out a buck standing off in the distance in the woods.  Despite the horns with all the wood and the deer being frozen still I struggled to see even after being aware of it and its location.  Dad always was a good shot, it runs in the family.. but this wasn’t about hunting, it was about being sharp and observant.  I can only hope to be half that sharp into my 70s, let alone beyond.


So much is lost when we lose anyone.  My dad was of course not perfect and he himself would say he wished he’d taken better care of himself if he’d known he was going to live so long.  That said, he lived and died on his own terms in many respects and while that decision to accept removing life support was hard, his passing immediately let us know that he was ready.
Captain Kilbourn living life on his own terms.  Smooth seas dad.  We miss you.
 There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.
The Wind in the Willows
The boat rat quote was one of Dad's favorites.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Fun with 3D Scanning..



 Final Mini Hazel gallery is here;  http://www.artbymorgen.com/galleries/mini_hazel/album/index.html

Well, fun and then  a LOT of work which hopefully can be told mostly by the pictures.

First though, here is the process in a nutshell:

1.       I send the sculpture out to a scanning company – it’s prepped.  More on why it has a post in it’s belly in a bit.


2.       They scan and give me a digital file.



3.       I send said file around to various printers & get quotes… here’s where it got difficult.  Kelly Sealey came to my rescue and dumbed down the file (she left all the detail, she does movies!).  This had to happen because even the companies that make medical imaging parts said the file was too complex for them to print.   Quotes were also in the high thousands for a print out.

4.       Once Kelly had helped me with this file I also got a cheapo freebie 3D file manipulation software program to do a few fixes myself.


5.       Then I uploaded it to Shapeways & got an ultra high detailed (see photos though, it’s still very lined!).. printed physical ~4"inch tall copy… not done yet at all though!

6.       This 3D printing material is very hard to sand/work with so I molded the clear master just like I would any clay sculpture and then worked with it to finish it with full details you’ve all come to expect of me in the white resin. I didn't want to just fill in or loose details to smooth it out (that's not so hard & IS a LOT faster). Ultimately I painted my white resin with rust colored primer and then spot painted with an airbrush or paint brush in spots to keep it super thin and not fill in those details & still be able to check smoothness and add the wee-est of the wee wrinkles and bumps and such.

7.       I also got ~1"tall micros printed for a 10th of the price ea from Shapeways too.  Having several of those to compare it’s interesting to note that the same file does NOT have the same print lines in each direction ea time.  Very odd actually to me considering how I thought the process works.  Anyhow, I’ve had a friend cast these in a hard black resin after some wasted time trying to sand and detail one of them out too.. pretty hard to do!  I don’t want to revisit the resin to finish it up for a few months.  It’s just hard work.  My regular casters won ‘t cast micros either (too small/easy to break and they can’t charge enough to pay their employees for it)… so I’m looking at using my friend’s talent and good nature at casting there around her own schedule when I finally AM ready.  So I don’t know how  many I will offer at a time or what with the micros just yet.  They are amazing but they break if you breath on them wrong…

Ok, so here are the comparisons of the Shapeways print (clear) and then the redetailed resin (rust) I cast off of that to finish the sculpture.



Whoops!  The text beside these two is switched... I think it's clear enough though from the other photos.. but doh!



& With that explained, I’m going to leave you with pictures for  the rest here.  :D  I think they more aptly show how it’s not nearly as simple as scan and print smaller. ;)  Also..  while I used to have a place to recommend the scanning for I think my experience here wasn’t good enough to recommend them.. what with getting a file that even the scanning company’s recommended printer couldn’t physically work with (too many polygons) .    Kelly pointed out to me many times that too complicated was a GREAT problem but having a super sized 160MB file that took a day to transfer here & there to the various companies for quotes.. and then they couldn’t use (it’s interior and exterior so the scanning company made it microfine thin).. for the average artist they didn’t give me  a functional product… so I just cannot recommend them.  I just  don’t think that artists are their typical customer.  Maybe I was saddled with a bad technician too this time.  

It IS a gorgeous file though – here are the virtual proofs.   










The file is vastly smoother when you zoom in than you can see here too,  but lets look back at my two former times (posts from 1 & 2) I’ve done this with bitty bosco and dinky duke here for comparison!
Virtual bitty started 3 years later in 2008 was much smoother.. but you can see in later posts that that still was just as lined in the small small size.  It cost a lot more then still to print.  Some thing like $385 if I recall correctly.   So again, cost has decreased for this level of quality.

This is the oldest.. the technology for smoothing here was top notch at the time.. however as you can see from my mini prototype close ups of Hazel - in 10 years the printing hasn't really gotten much better.. see the post link above to see the top-quality printing of 2005. That cost something like $500 back then.  It's half that now and quite fast at least with Shapeways and similar companies!

Special Note on WHY I went there again… I was really planning on finishing Tetradrachm as late as June when I was suddenly petitioned!  :D  See early in 2015 a number of wonderful and persistent :) hobbyists requested that I make a mini hazel. The older I get the more challenging these minis get for me but I mostly was hemming and hawing due to the costs of 3D scanning and printing. Well.. a good friend asked me how many it would take for me to go ahead and take the fiscal plunge and then she shocked me by getting together with several other wonderful folks and getting this online petition going (you can still see this here).

I think anyone with a lick of business sense would put their current project plans on hold and get to it!  I had the prototype at Breyerfest at my booth.. but I had planned to be done by the end of Aug and then I got a rotator cuff injury.. then mad things to catch up on after that into a full schedule of Sept.. Oct got weird and while I was working on her here & there I decided to really slow down and try to get her as precise as possible.  Personally I think she is a bit more detailed that the original Hazel in some ways.  I hope folks will love her EVERY bit as much!


PS Whoops!   Forgot about the post in belly bit... I did that 1) for her safety in shipping to the scanning people.  She was glued to the base and I didn't want her to break off.  2) Then there was the 3D printing stage.  They break at that stage (or get rejected by quality control as being too breakable)... and so that helped there too.. then 3) my OWN man handling wasn't so nice in a lot of that sanding.  I didn't cut that post out until the last couple of weeks finishing her up!   Castings will be attached to the base too but there will be wires unless they become really problematic.  Even if they were, the manhandling of prepping and painting still wouldn't be as rough as the all over sanding for months I did.  Don't worry!   But do be gentle - she is wee, despite how mighty she might look! ;)