Vox & Dolly's Pac-Man Electric Guitar Pillow

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If you played a lot of guitar and Pac-Man growing up, then Natalie and Wolfgang of Vox & Dolly may have just stuffed all your teenage nostalgia into one plushy package with this beautiful Pac-Man electric guitar pillow.

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This pillow is just one of many that the crafty duo have put together, and it’s amazing how well fabric patterns work with the iconic shape of a guitar, which is perfect for snuggling up with, especially while listening to a Pac-Man themed lullaby played on electric guitar by Youtube user The Cesar Experience.

And, if you happen to be an electric guitar and Pac-Man lover, then you can learn how to play the theme on guitar for yourself with this handy video tutorial by BobbyCrispy!

[via Technabob]


Crazy Cat Home Improvements

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What does one do who loves cats? You can always become a “crazy cat person” that has 20 or so felines running around the house. On the other hand, if you have a serious amount of skill and dedication to home-improvement projects, you can modify your house to accommodate their climbing needs with a series of platforms, miniature stairs, and holes to climb through.

Greg Krueger is decidedly in the second category. He seems to have a manageable number of cats, and given how well he was able to “catize” his house, the felines living there seem to live like royalty. Living in Minnesota, it must be especially nice for them not to have to go outdoors to find an interesting place to climb.

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In the video below, Greg says “I almost don’t wanna finish what I’m doing,” a sentiment that many people who make things as a hobby can relate to. I suppose most of us would also realize that you never actually finish something like this; it just gets to a good “temporary” stopping point.

If you’re looking for something for your cats to play in without permanently modifying your house, why not build a minuature AT-ST walker for him? Sure, you won’t get credit for being quite as dedicated, but if you live with other humans, they may have a greater tolerance for the project.


Dollar Store Hack for Christmas: DIY Superhero Wall Clock

Dollar Store clocks transformed into handmade masterpieces!

Dollar Store clocks transformed into handmade masterpieces!

With Christmas just around the corner, our collective minds are already contemplating what gifts we will battle the masses for after the Thanksgiving holiday.

While we know there are certain gifts we want to get for loved ones and friends that will require tolerating excessive mall crowds, cutthroat parking and a dedication to Zen patience even Buddha himself would struggle to master, there are ways to produce some amazing and desirable gifts without the need to relive Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Jingle All The Way.

Homemade gifts created with passion, detail and thought can translate into a deeper level of appreciation from the recipient than any mass-produced trinket could muster.

Many of you already know this fact and have given thoughtful handmade gifts during past holidays. But have you ever considered a dollar store item as the go-to medium to produce that handmade magic?

I’m not referring to those horrific dollar store toys made with flimsy plastic and designed to break after one use. I’m referring to items at your local dollar store that have a sustained useful purpose! Clocks, door hangers, cozies, plates and the like! Items people actually use for practical reasons.

Now what if we took those same items and tailored them to the people on your gift list?

As an example, let’s look at the common household wall clock.

Every household and apartment has at least one and it’s a practical item a person can use throughout the year. Beyond just telling the time, a plain wall clock on its own doesn’t say much. Now what if you have a comic book fan on your gift giving list who can use a new clock? What if you can make a wall clock featuring the exact superheroes your comic book loving friend adores?

It is at that last question where our creative journey begins! Taking a simple and practical item like a wall clock and making it into an amazing nerdtastic gift!

For less than $10 and ten minutes of your time, you can convert a plain dollar store wall clock into a superhero mosaic of awesome! Marvel superheroes, DC superheroes, The Walking Dead, Sailor Moon, Attack on Titan – whatever images you can create can be used to make a killer looking clock!

With some basic Photoshop skills, a printer, glossy paper and the clock, once completed, your friend or family member will think you paid mucho money for a gift that was tailored to his/her specific tastes! They will thank you and so will your wallet.

And there is no need to stop at superheroes! This ‘Dollar Store Hack’ technique can be used to make a clock based on anything. Any character, any design…anything you know the recipient likes!

There is no stopping a creative imagination and with the help of your local dollar store, your gift list will reflect a level of inexpensive personalized zeal that will make both Santa and Scrooge Disco together during Christmas morning!


How-To Video: Ghosts from Packing Tape

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This project was inspired by my recent post about packing tape sculptures other people have made. I really wanted to try it out myself and show you guys just how easy it is to do!

To make this project you’ll need the following:

  • A large roll of clear packing tape,
  • A small roll of clear tape,
  • A weighted tape dispenser, and
  • A pair of scissors

Check out this video for the full how-to.

 

Don’t forget to add some LED lights to your sculpture to take it up an extra creepy notch. I just used some small flashlights I had handy (no pun intended).

These would make a wicked front lawn installation with rows of hands coming up from the ground. Now that I’ve got that image in your head, I hope you’ll grab a roll and start wrapping!

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How-To: Packing Tape Ghost Sculptures

There is something about Halloween decorating that brings out the creative energy in people. It’s not quite the same as Thanksgiving and Christmas. At Halloween you get to really let your imagination run wild with all the fantastic and spooky things you can do to creep out the neighborhood kids.

I am loving these packing tape sculptures, especially when lit up! These suckers are even able to withstand the damp October weather– perfect for an outdoor installation.

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Glowing Lady

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Legs in a school classroom

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Mark Jenkins

As I was looking for more examples of packing tape ghosts, I came across the work of Mark Jenkins. His public installations are too great– humorous and creepy at the same time. I love how he integrates his sculptures into public spaces, causing you to take a second look at what’s around you.  He’s done tons of sculptures that I encourage you to check out on his portfolio website.

Here’s a couple images from his baby series, Storker Project.

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Check out Mark’s video showing you how to turn a baby doll into one of these hallow plastic babies seen above.

If you want to take on your own full body sculpture, check out this Instructable that takes you through all the steps.

You’ll be creeping everyone out in no time.

 


DIY Faux Flesh Table Cloth

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Planning a pestilent potluck? Will there be a brutal buffet at your gruesome get together? Proper ambience is an important part of any meal, so go ahead and stimulate your appetite for gory horror this Halloween with this macabre faux flesh table cloth tutorial by Instructables member and props specialist Tye Rannosaurus.

Tye Rannosaurus orginally made this project as a prop for an actual horror film called A House Is Not A Home, before making another one for herself, so this could be a great project for any aspiring prop makers or filmmakers out there!

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It turns out that realistic gore actually takes a lot of TLC to create, but using a combination of headliner foam, liquid latex, acrylic paint, and waxed leather thread, you too can dine in (almost) authentic serial killer style!


Arduino and Bruce Sterling Launching an Open-Source Apartment

You’ll soon be able to rent the “home of the future” on Airbnb.

The project, announced today at MakerCon by Arduino co-founder Massimo Banzi, is a collaboration between the open-source microcontroller makers and futurist Bruce Sterling. Located in Arduino’s Turin, Italy headquarters (a former FIAT car factory), the apartment will serve as a test ground for the latest developments from the open source community, being outfitted with furniture from OpenDesk and a variety of hardware creations.

Unlike the usual concept homes of the future, however, this apartment will be more than a showcase — it will be a livable space that is available for anyone to rent on Airbnb. The inhabitants’ responses to the elements inside will be registered for the project’s research.

We caught up with Banzi after his announcement to get the details and hear about other endeavors coming soon from Arduino.

 


Toyota’s Unveils New Maker Vehicle Concept — to Makers

Toyota's Kevin Hunter introduces the Urban Utility concept vehicle

Toyota’s Kevin Hunter introduces the Urban Utility concept vehicle

On Wednesday, Toyota unveiled a concept car not at an auto show, but to a panel of makers. It was a first of its kind and it was hosted by Make:, and with good reason — the car, called the U2, was designed with makers in mind.

The makers, nearly a dozen, from bay-area institutions like the University of California and NASA, to startup founders and artists, crowded around the vehicle at San Francisco’s historic Palace of Fine Arts. Toyota was here, said Kevin Hunter, president of Toyota’s North American design studio, to get feedback from makers, asking “How’d we do with this thing?”

And feedback they got. Within minutes the crowd wanted to know, was it hackable? Would Toyota release an API, or CAD files, so they could design accessories for the boxy, cargo-enabled rear end? Could they 3D print accessories? When Toyota says “customizable” does that mean you can choose features at the dealer, or customize it yourself? The larger point was, don’t just serve makers — incorporate them. Make the car a platform, let a community grow around it.

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At the concept stage, Toyota doesn’t have a lot of answers. The U2 stands for Urban Utility, designed to capitalize on the growing urban population who exhibit traits of entrepreneurship, self-reliance, maker culture, and DIY. It’s supposed to be playful, yet utilitarian. It’s not just for makers; it’s well suited to small businesses, outdoor use, or musicians.

“Basically, we wanted to make a car that looks like a tool — a good looking tool,” says Jin Kim, design manager for interior and exterior. “It’s a lifestyle-enabling car that allows you to do what you can’t with a regular car.” Everything in the interior can be moved or removed, from seats to dash. A creative rail attachment system will allow owners to move accessories around the inside, from overhead to the bed to the tailgate. A surfboard or a bike is an easy fit; the interior holds up to a 4’x8′ piece of plywood.

Kim recalls a visit to Maker Faire, where he saw the customized ride built by the Drone Dudes, which provided some inspiration. “I’d be curious to see how people would customize this car to their needs,” he says.

As if in answer to that question, panelist Eric Paulos suggested adding features so it interacts with its owner or passers-by even when parked. Jonathan Cook brought up the issue of power — would the owner be able to siphon power for projects while maintaining a reserve so the car would still start? Jess Hobbs wondered if the car would support heavy welding equipment.

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Don’t expect to see the U2 available soon. As a concept, it may reach production, or it may simply inform design considerations on future vehicles. “We designed it, mainly for us internally to have a discussion about its potential to be a car that is produced,” Hunter says.

Still, as Peter Hirshberg, the panel’s moderator, pointed out, cars have historically been about freedom and defining are culture. If that’s still true, this event could be an indication of where our culture is headed.

In that spirit, the U2‘s public unveiling will be next week, at World Maker Faire New York. What would you look for in the ultimate maker vehicle?


Getting Our Collective Fix

Don’t Replace, Repair from Sybile Penhirin on Vimeo.

Much of society has a bit of an addition to consumerism, and to disposable technology. There’s an opposing force to this trend, which is alive and well in the hearts of makers and DIY enthusiasts. It’s the drive that whispers (or screams) to us, “don’t throw it away, fix it!”

One small group fighting industry’s planned obsolescence of products is Brooklyn based Fixers Collective. Program Director Vincent Lai says reusing or fixing objects is often better than recycling. He cites figures that only 40 to 60 percent of recycled material avoids the landfill. Beyond that, he says it’s fun to watch the “eureka moment” when participants pull the chain on a formerly broken lamp they learned to fix themselves.

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Fixers Collective will be at World Maker Faire in New York this September running fixing sessions. So bring along your broken items, and the expert fixers at their table will help you repair it. The goal is more about showing people that they can fix their own things, rather than fixing them for them. The collective will also have live demos of popular and common fixes and teardowns.

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You can learn more about the Fixers Collective by visiting their Facebook page.


Sea Creatures Inspire Bottle Design

Ecover Ocean bottle, its inspiration, and FEM showing performance with and without biomimimetic solution.

Ecover Ocean bottle, its inspiration, and FEM showing performance with and without biomimimetic solution. The blue image on the left weighs 30 g and the one on the right weighs 25 g. Image by Loloplaste Innovation Lab.

Nature is full of elegance. Sometimes that elegance, to human eyes, also appears as great beauty. But being beautiful isn’t (except maybe when attracting mates) the purpose of that elegance. Nature is elegant in its designs because that elegance has a function.

Carlos Rego, a designer with Logoplaste Innovation Lab in Portugal, has found functional patterns in nature that have added beauty to his designs for something as utilitarian as a bottle. Those same patterns added strength while decreasing weight — and therefore material — from those bottles. And recently, the organisms that inspired the company’s latest design may also benefit from it. This story is about learning from nature how to minimize materials while still providing needed strength, how to cooperate, and how to design to make products that are not just less harmful to life, but are also restorative.

I first met Carlos over Skype, when I heard about the Vitalis water bottle he designed using biomimicry and a strategy he found on AskNature. The strategy showed how a pine tree has a spiral pattern to its trunk and limbs that provides strength for the tree to withstand high winds and heavy snow. When applied to the design of a bottle, it reduced raw material usage by 7 percent.hownature_frog_make02

I next met Carlos when he took an 8-month Biomimicry Specialist course that I helped teach. Toward the end of that course, he told me about his next biomimicry project, and that design is now on the market. Ecover, a company that makes effective, plant-based cleaners, approached Logoplaste to come up with a biomimetic bottle that would accomplish four goals: 1) use biomimicry in its design, 2) optimize the bottle’s weight while preserving its mechanical performance, 3) be attractive and otherwise meet branding needs, and 4) use waste plastic recovered from the ocean for at least 10 percent of the bottle’s content. Carlos was enthusiastic about Life’s Principles (see my last post), and applied those to this design as well.

The result was a beautiful bottle that reduced weight by 20 percent, twice Ecover’s goal. The bottle is made of recycled ocean plastic, and is reusable and recyclable. The inspiring organisms are diatoms and radiolarians. After spending time reading books and research articles about these and other organisms, Carlos found that “these organisms can teach us a lot about structural optimization.”

Diatom. Photo by FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

Diatom. Photo by FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

From the diatoms — aquatic, single-celled algae — Carlos learned that their intricately patterned cell walls contain rows of tiny holes that create a silica lattice. When a compressive force is applied, the force radiates along the lines of the lattice to another, stronger structure. The holes also mean less silica, a resource that can be scarce, is needed. He applied this strategy to the bottom of the bottle.

Similar to the diatom, the radiolarian’s weight and strength are optimized using holes. Carlos learned that the shapes of the holes in the radiolarian’s skeleton are different depending on the curvature, with hexagonal or round holes being important on curved surfaces. He applied this strategy to the sides of the bottle. Together, these two strategies increased strength of the bottle under compression, allowing a reduction of weight from 30 g to 25 g, while also adding a unique look to the bottle and providing a good gripping surface.

Radiolarian. Photo by Frank Fox.

Radiolarian. Photo by Frank Fox.

Radiolarians and diatoms live in our oceans and are important sources of energy for organisms a little bigger than they are — up to the size of baleen whales. As Carlos says, “We’re not just doing biomimicry, but using it as a tool to improve knowledge of people about these organisms.” Ecover is in a partnership involving recycling facilities, manufacturers, packaging developers, and fishermen whose boats have been outfitted to collect waste plastic from the ocean. This cooperative effort has disproven claims that ocean waste plastic can’t be used a raw material.

What I particularly love about Carlos’ work is it’s an example of how a designer not trained in biology can dig into the literature or talk to experts, reverse engineer a biological strategy, and apply it to a real-world project. As I said in my first Make: article, “What drew me to biomimicry is being part of a growing movement of people who are making a difference in the world through sustainable innovation. If I turn some people on to biology along the way, well, that’s just a bonus.”