Animating butterflies by kelly heaton

Lately, I've been inspired by the little white butterflies flitting around my garden. I used analog electronics and LEDs to animate their flutter patterns. My circuit contains one master 555 timer / 4017 counter that sequences three butterfly (or moth) circuits. The individuals also have 555 timer / 4017 counter circuits that flash their LEDs in rapid sequence. I used transistor inverters on the master circuit to convert the active high logic of the 4017 to active low; and I connected these signals to clock enable (pin 13) of the 4017s on each of the butterflies. That's what causes their blinking to pause periodically. The random appearance of the blinking is thanks to capacitive coupling between signal lines, and without this the "flutter" effect is pretty boring. In other words, nature contains both order and chaos, where the order is by design (who's design? I have no idea) and the chaos happens through simple, recursive relationships that get complex fast.

Electronic moth assembly by kelly heaton

Making moths at my bench (May, 2018). The wings are dyed velvet that I embroidered with an old CNC machine (a 1982 refurbished Ultramatic at NovaLabs in Reston, VA). The bodies are circuit boards that I designed involving timers, counters, and multivibrators to sequence a trail of LEDs. The legs and antenna are laser cut plastic. The LEDs are multiplexed on a flexible circuit board that I modeled after symbols in the ancient temples of Mitla. All of these boards were manufactured by PCBWay in China. These photos were taken at my studio in Virginia.

Electrolier in progress by kelly heaton

Scenes from my studio (May 24, 2018). Dyed and embroidered velvet moth wings, custom analog electronics, laser cut acrylic, wire sculpture.

Cedar Sphinx Moth by kelly heaton

I continue to make moth wings for my latest Electrolier sculpture. Here is a Cedar Sphinx Moth with a circuit board body and embroidered velvet wings. Later, I will reveal the function of the circuitry and how the wires relate to the overall sculpture... but for now, pretty wings are what I have to offer.

Anatomy of an obsolete moth by kelly heaton

I've spent the past several days heat-bending laser cut acrylic into the shape of moth trails (more on that to come)... and at some point, it occurred to me that I have to redesign all of my electronic animals to accommodate a master controller with a custom remote control. I am fatigued by serious engineering and wanting to make more emotional art, but that might not happen for a while longer. Here is an obsolete moth circuit to express my mood.

Atlas Moth by kelly heaton

Informal studio photos of an Atlas Moth that will fly in my latest Electrolier sculpture.

Embroidering moth wings by kelly heaton

I've been working at Nova Labs in Reston, VA to embroider wings for some of the moths in my new Electrolier sculpture. Here's some informal documentation of my process. The machine is an old industrial "Ultramatic" that was restored by a Nova Labs steward.

I dyed the velvet to give a "loose" colored background that contrasts with the precise stitches. (My registration was off on some of the wings, as you can see if you look closely at the color placement.) I embroidered both sides of the wings, which you can see above prior to assembly of the front and back parts. The middle image shows my "Atlas Moth" circuit board that forms the body -- more on that to come.