Angel O’ Death Mask Take 3: I’m getting tired

I’m now on my third set of laser-cut acrylic printing plates. Third time’s a charm. Even if it’s not, I’m not going through this again.

Below is design 3 (top) vs design 1 (bottom).

The Angel O’ Death face has become smaller still, so the wings could become proportionally bigger. Honestly I’m not sure I like this, but I’m tired and don’t want to go through yet another design iteration, so this may be it.

Momz sewed this new mask prototype, but I sewed the center seam, because it has to be sewn along the image line rather than the exact quarter-inch-from-the-fabric-edge she sews to. If I make a signed, numbered, limited edition handprinted mask run, I will be sewing all the center seams (and hopefully someone else will assemble the rest of them).

The new plates have finger holes, which are a vast improvement for handling, and work with a registration frame. Even with all the precision laser cutting, exact registration of the image on the pre-cut fabric pieces remains impossible, but this might be good enough.

Behold the glorious print process:

Registering a pre-cut fabric piece in the precision-cut frame.
Using the finger holes to line up the inked plate in the frame, which will drop right into the depression in which lies the pre-cut fabric.
Whacking with the rubber mallet. Whack, whack.
Lifting the plate with the finger holes.
The fabric is now stuck to the plate by the sticky ink.
A little finger burnishing. Not much is needed, as long as I slather on that gooey ink.
Peeling off the fabric.

Printed fabric pieces drying.
The finger-hole plates work fine without the registration frame as well, but then I have to hand-cut the pieces.

Oh, I actually wore one of these masks yesterday, while bicycling to Theo’s laser-cutting bunker to pick up the new plates. I’d been laid low with allergies, sneezing my face off, and thought the mask might reduce my inhalation of allergens. Maybe it did, but I will not bike with a mask again. I got out of breath quickly, and the mask became moist from my exhalations (which I then re-inhaled, hence feeling out of breath, because I’m inhaling my own CO2 instead of fresh oxygen), and when my nose got runny it got even more gross. So, not for biking. But I will wear one for shopping or other indoor public activities I can’t avoid. Still, all this work for something that’s just a drag to wear… No wonder I feel tired.

 

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Angel O’ Death Masks Take Two

“Show more wing,” said the peanut gallery on fecebook. To make the Angel O’ Death’s face slightly smaller to make room to show a little more wing, I had to make all these paper prototypes. Each one is different. Resizing the image is an extraordinary PITA because the distortion increases at the center seam and I have to manually adjust it, print it, cut out the pieces, tape it together, turn it inside out, and then look at it head-on to see how bad the distortion is. The smaller Death’s head, the wider I have to make it, proportionally, going through this process over and over.

Finally I sent a new image to Theo, who laser cut new printing plates.

New plates shown drying in dish rack after washing. So much of this project is washing and cleaning things.

Unlike the first batch, these don’t have handles, making them easier to charge with ink, but much more difficult to use with the registration frame. So I just printed them on the uncut cotton yardage I picked up and laundered (to pre-shrink) this morning.

Looks pretty good, I think. I slather on a lot of screen printing ink with the brayer (rubber roller) to get a dark impression with swirly texture in the large flat areas.

I give the block a few whacks with the rubber mallet, because I read that traditional wood-block fabric printers hit their blocks with a hammer. I got all these impressions with no finger burnishing, so some labor was saved there.

But alas, labor was added when it was time to cut them out.

Cutting is time-consuming and fraught, which is why Theo uses his laser cutter to save vast amounts of production time. Even if we get it screen printed, it’s not certain the Angel O’ Death design on fabric can be laser cut, because the image needs to be aligned so precisely. For all-over fabric patterns, you can cut almost anywhere, but just a few millimeters off will make Death’s face all wonky.

Today’s test batch yielded enough for 8 masks. It looked (and felt!) like it should be more.

After cutting, I ironed the 16 pieces to heat set the ink.

Next, my Momz will sew one into a full-fledged mask, and if it looks good design-wise, I and/or Theo will prepare an image file to be screen printed this week or next (by the only local screen printer to answer their phone! I called 3, multiple times). Screen printing will also require a lot of work prepping and cutting, as well as money, but it’ll be less labor (for me) than block printing. It will also look less “artisanal,” but some people don’t want artisanal, they just want a big black and white Angel O’ Death on their face in a pandemic, and that’s what I aim to deliver.

UPDATE: Here is Version 2 sewn together by my talented Momz and modeled by me:

I’ve made one more modification, to make the Angel O’ Death even smaller and the wings even bigger. One more test and it’s off to the screen printers.

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Tessellating in Time and Space

I’ve been collaborating with Alex Gleason on a new social media website, and he proposed a background of the animated fish from Seder-Masochism:

But how to scale it up for a full background? The gif above is 1.6 MB, it can’t be any larger without significantly slowing loading times (and eating up data on mobile devices). I thought I could maybe make a tessellating animated gif tile, and so did Alex, but it turned out to be much trickier than I’d anticipated.

In a way, a looping gif is a tessellation of time: it seamlessly begins where it ends. That isn’t so hard:

I actually notice a little blip in the time-tessellating here. Can you find it?

But it doesn’t tessellate in space. If you tile the fish above, you’ll see “seams” at regular intervals. Making the fish line up seamlessly, while moving, required going “under the hood” of the original animation, re-sizing and retiming everything, and carefully positioning and scaling by eyeball. I won’t go into all the details and mistakes, but after some hours I eventually got something that works almost perfectly:

I changed the colors, obviously.

Now get this: it’s under 160 KB. That’s right, less than one-tenth the filesize of the gif at the top of this post; smaller than most jpegs of similar dimensions (360 x 360 pixels). But it covers an entire browser window, no matter how large. Here’s a screenshot showing it tessellating in space:

Yes, you can still find teeny-weeny seams, but at 12 frames per second they’re hardly noticeable.

To see it tessellating in space and time, click the image above or go to https://alexgleason.me/fish/ .

Update: I made a smoother version. Above is 12 frames per second, below is 24 frames per second. This makes it smoother and less headache-inducing, but doubles the number of frames and therefore file size, and the seams are more visible.

40 frames long, 24 fps, 268 KB.

Link: https://alexgleason.me/fish/smooth.html

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