Flowform Exploration

Part 1: Mark Making

Our first assignment in the study of flowforms was to explore the many possibilities of mark making. Mark making can be any material on any surface. We were to gain experience working with several different tools and mediums. We were provided with several different materials including charcoal, brown paper, sand, glue, spray paint, wire, string, and more and given several hours to explore. I came away with several different examples of curves on many mediums.

Part 2: Flowform Studies in 3 Materials

For the next part of our exploration of flowforms, we were given three assignments at the same time. The first was to make a linear flowform out of wood veneer strips. We were to bend and form them using water and steam to set them in place. It was to be suspended in the air. The second was to make a rotational flowform out of solid wood. We would use chisels to form it on the lathe. The third assignment was to make a planar flowform out of sheet polystyrene. We could heat and drape it or use the vacuum former to shape it. We were also to keep in mind a central theme to follow throughout our exploration. I decided on aerodynamics as my theme because flight and the shape of a wing has always intrigued me.

I started with the linear form out of veneer. The first thing I did was experiment with the material to understand what I could do with it. I formed some curves on the steam pipe and then glued them together.

This one was inspired by a plane’s horizontal stabilizer. It’s very weak as a form, as the curves are not fair and the edges are unresolved but it was only meant as practice. After working with the veneer, I decided to sketch some ideas that I had.

I was inspired by the airfoil of an airplane wing. I envisioned a mono-wing shape. I pictured the largest loop in the middle and as you got farther from the center, the loops wood get exponentially smaller. I made a model out of paper to experiment with loop size.

I then began making airfoil-shaped loops out of the veneer in a few different sizes that I planned on paper. At this point I also began thinking about the rotoform. I went on Fusion 360 and revolved several profiles to get some ideas down. Again, I was trying to convey aerodynamics.

At this moment I had made a lot of progress on my linear veneer form. I was still pretty unsure about my rotoform and my planar form. I made some sketches of ideas for the planar form.

I talked to my professor about my progress and how I was unsure about the planar and rotoform. He reinforced that the three projects were to be highly connected through my theme. He said they were supposed to be one composition. When he said that, I had the idea to combine all three projects into one. They would all be connected and hanging. From there, I decided to make my rotoform look similar in profile to the airfoil loops on my veneer project. I made a model out of foam to get the hang of the lathe and figure out the scale.

For the planar form, I wanted the polystyrene to cover the wooden veneer frame like a skin. It would look like stretched out canvas but it would be heat formed to the skeleton. I first experimented with using a heat gun to shape the polystyrene. I put the sheet on top of my veneer form and then heated it with the heat gun to drape form it. I found it hard to evenly heat the plastic and it became very droopy looking. It melted in some points, making the texture of the polystyrene uneven. Then I knew that the heat gun wouldn’t work. I decided to use the vacuum former but without suction, instead just heating the plastic and draping it over my veneer form. This worked well and I cut out the final shape I wanted and sanded the edges.

The final part of the form that I needed to finish was the rotoform. I had a 18-inch long, 4-inch wide block of wood that I was going to form a teardrop shape out of on the lathe. This worked pretty well and I was left with a mostly teardrop shape with two stems on either end. I cut the stems on the band saw then used the belt sander to form the rounded front and pointed end. I was concerned about getting the point and curve symmetrical but it turned out well in the end.

I combined all three elements with a single mono-filament string through the center, glued to the top of the rotoform. This is the result.

I’m pretty satisfied with the final result. It all hangs pretty precariously but it works. All of the forms work together as one composition to convey aerodynamics. The linear veneer form is the main structure of the composition. It is composed of loops that are in the shape of an airfoil, which is the cross-section of an airplane wing. The loops are rounded in the front and follow a smooth curve to a taper in the end. This allows the air to hug the surface of the form and be carried off the back with little turbulence. The planar form acts as a skin for the linear form. It resembles the stretched canvas that covered the wings of early airplanes. The planar form also has fair curves that allow the air to flow over it. The rotational form hangs in the center of the composition. It has the section of an airfoil rotated around a central axis. It is a form that perfectly cuts through the air, creating little drag. The whole thing resembles a bird in a way; from one side it resembles a swooping owl and from the other side and resembles a goose or seagull in flight.

There are definitely ways that I can improve on this form. One of the critiques of my form was that the rotational form in the center feels like an afterthought, since it is only hanging there in the center. I think it would be better if the rotational form were connected to the top of the veneer form so that the curve of the rotational form created the spine of the linear form. This would give the composition more unity. Another critique was that the forms don’t work as well on their own. I’d say that makes sense because they were created to be combined together. I don’t think they need to function separately since they are part of one composition although it would be something to explore in the future.