Monday, May 6, 2013

The Mandeltine

J here with one of the projects that figures in the 2013 Shared Build. Our instructions were to work towards something that embraced our recipient's love of mathematical pattern. A and I had been talking about a project that might include iron-on transfer, we wanted to play with some canvas, and I thought back to my studying math in college and one of my favorite Google Easter eggs. Once you throw in Jonathan Coulton's Mandelbrot Set (I guess it's technically NSFW?), I knew what I had to do. It was time to embrace the iconic I <3 NY and do a mathematical spin for one of our most loyal supporters, and the Mandeltine was born.

You'll Need:
-A pre-stretched canvas
-Inkjet iron-on transfer sheets
-EITHER: a stencil/cutting machine/steady hands and a razor OR stick-on letters. Or paint. Or print out the whole thing. We can't stop you.

Step one was creating a mock-up in my graphic program of choice, GIMP. I like it because it is free. Despite "Photoshop" having verbed itself into the language like Xerox and Kleenex, I can't really ask you kids to go drop serious Benjamins on a program to retouch your blurry phone camera shots. And I certainly don't condone piracy (unless you do the full coat and hat thing each time. In which case, you do you, you glorious pirate). So, GIMP it is.

So, I hopped online and picked a good, high-res contrast-y shot of the Mandelbrot set. Loading that into GIMP, I overlaid a colorized texture of some cracked stone that suggested some texture and veining that put me toward a human heart and overlaid it on my Mandelbrot set. I slapped a drop shadow on that thing, because drop shadows are classy. Then, the hardest part of the project: doing the Rotation of Axes calculations for the Mandelbrot set. It took me a few days, a lot of graph paper, and-- ha, no, I rotated that stuff in GIMP. Truth be told, I never quite grokked Rotation of Axes when I studied math.

So, we ended up with the following image:

It's a heart. If you squint really, really hard.
I scaled it to an appropriate size for the project at hand (I want to say about 7" for a 12" canvas) and printed it out on REGULAR PAPER. Don't just rip open that transfer paper and print it out. What if you print it weird? There's no coming back from that, and the transfer paper isn't exactly cheap. Trim out the regular ol' paper version and lay it on your canvas. Plan the rest of the project from here.

Now, certain liberties had to be taken when referencing Milton Glaser's oft-imitated I <3 NY. One of them was that the neat square formation doesn't work when you are cramming RECURSION into the NY slot. That already meant that my individual letters weren't going to be 7" high. Plus, A's Slice tops out at 4". So that set the size for the capital I, and 2" looked right for the RECURSION along the bottom.

With the sizes figured out and A cutting away on black paper for our lettering, I built up an image that wedged two Mandelhearts onto a single piece of paper, mostly to make sure that we weren't wasting any material and to have a backup in case one of them was off or we miscut something. It doesn't cost you anything to be efficient... Trim the iron-on close to the image to remove as much cheap novelty t-shirt vibe as possible.

Technically, there's an edge to that.
If you have never ironed anything onto a stretched canvas, congratulations, you qualify as part of "everyone." From here out, we make some stuff up... I have a scrap of pine 1x6 at my table as the backing for driving rivets or punching holes in belts. We wrapped that in a dish towel and created a raised "ironing pad" to fit inside the canvas frame so we wouldn't stretch the material down. Once we got it set on pretty well, we flipped it over and gave it another pass from the back of the canvas to really put it on there. Was it necessary? Ask us in a few years and find out if it ever peeled off.

From there, it was on to lettering. We knew where things needed to go from earlier and pulled some rubber bands around the canvas to act as guides that A could push out of the way as I brought her the freshly spray-glued letters. From this experience, let me suggest laying a strip of quality masking tape instead. It gives you space to lay out your letters with a ruler and pen and leave notes as to where each letter goes and acts as its own straightedge. Few things in this world hurt as much as getting this far and gluing the wrong letter down because you are so focused on the kerning that you grab the wrong letter. Calligraphers feel me on this one.

We didn't screw up, so this part was fairly uneventful. With all our letters down, it was a question of getting some photos and miscalculating how dangerous shipping was going to be. I can only hope that Joie appreciates that her Mandeltine was clearly used by the delivery person to stop an assassination attempt or thwart ninjas. Sorry about that one, Jo. The next thing we send you gets sent in a bullet-proof Lexan case.

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