2222 Holes
February 19, 2009 11:31 PM   Subscribe

Jared Tarbell is a computer artist whose Gallery of Computation has been previously featured on Metafilter . Several years ago he began working with the Epilog Mini 24 laser cutter, cutting out flat cardboard pieces and assembling them into complex geometric shapes. His Flickr set “lased” documents his work. Recently he made the transition to a more traditional artistic medium; oiled walnut , for his stunning piece 2222 holes.
posted by Tube (23 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I really preferred the piece(s) "740.67 Babes (Who Speak French and Greek)".
posted by orthogonality at 11:37 PM on February 19, 2009

Beautiful. I love this stuff.

Sell your car; buy a laser. You'll never look back.
posted by phooky at 11:42 PM on February 19, 2009

How much does one of these laser cutters cost? The site doesn't seem to want to tell you, and I desperately want one now.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:47 PM on February 19, 2009

Oh, and that 2222 holes cube should be admired with caution. I'm pretty sure it'll open doors to unimaginable pleasures if you tweak it just right.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:49 PM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Cool! According to his flickr profile Jared Tarbell is also one of the founders of Etsy. His questionnaire is great.
posted by mullingitover at 11:52 PM on February 19, 2009

Jesus wept.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:23 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

The site doesn't seem to want to tell you, and I desperately want one now.

I fucking hate that kind of bullshit. Look, we all know it costs a lot of money. We can fucking accept that as grown-ups, so cut the bullshit and just tell us the fucking price already.

Anyway, for posterity's sake the price is $7,995 for the entry-level model. The 18/24 he's got probably costs around $10,000. And in ten years, when the cost is down to $200, I hope this page gets pulled up among the top search hits for "epilog laser price."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:48 AM on February 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

Very cool, upon seeing box 2222 I was reminded of some intricate ivory carving the 3D link has a cool little cartoon
posted by hortense at 12:48 AM on February 20, 2009

Naw, you can get second-hand laser cutters for about $3000. We found a 30 watt one that cut through MDF, 1/2" acrylic, and 1/4" wood for around that price.

In any case, the tech-saavy artist whose name sounds a lot like Tarball is good in my book, especially with art as awesome as that.
posted by spiderskull at 12:52 AM on February 20, 2009

Also, laser cutters are fricking awesome. Selling your car for one is totally worth it. You can find super cheap scrap acrylic in all sorts of colors from any plastics vendor, and if you couple that with some basic Illustrator or CorelDraw knowledge and a laser cutter along with some LEDs, you can make some unbelievably awesome gifts/decorations.
posted by spiderskull at 12:54 AM on February 20, 2009

(PS -- don't actually sell your car for a laser cutter... seriously not a good idea)
posted by spiderskull at 1:10 AM on February 20, 2009

Totally gorgeous.

I want to see the model nanodinosaur, please.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:07 AM on February 20, 2009

It's like Povray for meatspace.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:27 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also a co-founder of Etsy, it appears.

I wouldn't sell my car to buy a laser yet. First I'd start making those things in cardboard using a sharp knife. Then I'd make them in wood using a saw. It's the ideas that make the art, not the tools.
posted by DU at 4:47 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Actually with the laser cutter it probably is as much about the tool as it is about the art (not to sound like a used laser cutter salesmen), using a scalpel to cut this stuff out of card (doing that right now) takes 10-20 times longer than CADing/vectorising your drawing and then sending it to the laser cutter even longer if in wood. It's the difference between doing a test run in a day or two and making iterative improvements over the week (laser cutter) and spending the week making your first prototype (hand cutter). The down side in my experience is that working exclusively with the laser cutter confines experimentation to the computer drawing, the materials are made into parts to be assembled, rather than treated as raw materials to be spontaneously improved on an ad hoc basis, this makes it particularly good for modular, geometric, repetitive, rule based systems (think Buckminster Fuller).
posted by doobiedoo at 5:25 AM on February 20, 2009

A quantitative change of sufficient magnitude is often effectively a qualitative change. For a large project, a laser cutter could probably be an example of that. Also, when you have the capability, suddenly new vistas open that you wouldn't have thought of before.

Nonetheless, it is my general tool-buying philosophy that I only buy a specialized and/or expensive tool for something I need to do, not vice versa. So I'd start with cardboard and wood and then, when my vision exceeds my time or tools, upgrade to a laser.

But that's only personally. To someone with a lot of money, like the founder of Etsy undoubtedly has, $10,000 probably isn't all that expensive. Also, if I were building a community workshop or similar, I wouldn't hesitate to equip it with a laser cutter even if there were no immediate call for it.
posted by DU at 5:56 AM on February 20, 2009

Places like this offer a cheaper alternative to owning your own cutter.
posted by orme at 6:17 AM on February 20, 2009

Like this guy's work a lot, by the way!
posted by orme at 6:18 AM on February 20, 2009

We budgeted about $20K for ours (35W mini). A little more than half that is the cost of the laser; the rest is for the beefy air filters, a compressor (to blow vaporized material away from the optics and help suppress flames), random ducting, etc.

There are several online services that will cut material for you. Pololu does a great job; I know there are a bunch of others. If you live in a city, there may be a place where you can go to use a laser hands-on. We teach a monthly laser cutting class which generally ends up being a blast.

There are other non-laser rapid prototyping options to look into. If you work primarily in paper or thin mylar, you may want to consider a Craft Robo Pro, which runs well under $1K. If you're interested in making larger things (tables, chairs, small houses) and you have a lot of room and a high tolerance for noise, you can pick up a shopbot for under $8K.
posted by phooky at 6:27 AM on February 20, 2009

Ummm. Is it just me, or does the 2222 holes piece illustrate the problem with this whole concept ("Laser cutters are cool! I'm getting one!!")?

Don't get me wrong - it is totally cool. But he describes it as "magnificent handiwork", when it's clearly neither of those things. If you look along the right and nearest edges, you can see that the corner doesn't fit properly (unlike the back left edge). "Handiwork" means making stuff that fits together properly.

This is "compiwork", where you stay up late trying to think of a project to make with your laser cutter, make your thing out of oiled walnut, and then assemble it and get it up on Flickr ASAP. Because that's the point, right?*.

*Plus I'm jealous because I WANT A LASER CUTTER!
posted by sneebler at 6:47 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

As was mentioned in a prior MeFi thread, some other examples of his work are over at levitated.net. I found his stuff a while ago, in my early days as a Flash developer and was (and still am) awed by it.

Additionally as an FYI, he's also posted source .fla files for anyone wanting to peek under the hood.
posted by avoision at 7:32 AM on February 20, 2009

You can see another problem with laser cutting in this alternate view of 2222. Sure, for some projects (even this one, arguably), you might want it to look all burned and gross. But not for everything. (Perhaps this is more a problem of material selection than laser? Still, what if you want nice clean cuts in wood? You have to finish after the laser at the very least.)
posted by DU at 8:05 AM on February 20, 2009

<art student babble>

Ok, yes this is "sweet laser cutter art", and I'm not going to deny that having access to a laser cutter in college was one of the best parts of being an art student in a engineering/tech oriented big public school.* However, I don't feel like these works have the same amount of development that his earlier Complexification works do. When considering these works-- wood, complex, impeccable "craftsmanship"-- ready comparison could be made to the works of Martin Puryear, a master of the medium. Tarbell's 2222 Holes doesnt' hold a candle to Puryear's Old Mole. Of course the big difference is that his works are created with with impeccable precision by his hand. He doesn't use assistants or automated machinery. By doing the work by hand, it takes on more meaning that it's finished form-- he invokes the craftsman ship of artisans he apprenticed under and rejected the predominant minimalism of his time.

I understand that Tarbell released his earlier works' source code, in a manner similar to conceptual art of the 60's and 70's. I also believe that the democratization of art in various mediums, especially in regards to the internet, is one of the most exciting, and sure to be predominant themes of art in our generation. He's stated that he welcomes other people to use his codes, and that "I believe all code is dead unless executing within the computer" If this is the concept he's working with, then to my mind, a better execution of this piece would be a distributed computation, so to speak. Release a bit of code that would randomly generate holes in a square, and collect the cuttings from other people. That way the piece would be "alive".

Otherwise, it's a guy sticking some wood in his laser cutter and hitting start.

&lt/art student babble>

*it was funny how we could get funding for HD cameras, laser cutters, and servers for 3D rendering but our falling apart building with asbestos had it's renovation delayed 20 years and never had soap or paper towels in the bathroom because there was no money for it.
posted by fontophilic at 8:21 AM on February 20, 2009

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