the return of magic by kelly heaton

I have spent the past five months working on a sculpture that required some serious engineering on my part, a task that I managed to accomplish by hyper-focusing and pushing myself through many days at my electronics bench. Meanwhile, my lack of energy to make art with my spiritual and physical self has been injurious. A new friend thankfully reminded me that I need these other facets of myself if I am to survive. Suddenly, I regained attention for the magical objects that I keep on display above my electronics workspace. These protectors and power objects became visible to me again after a blindness that I self-inflicted with my own mental intensity. It’s amazing how a shift in consciousness can instantly remove the wool from our eyes — the most dangerous form of blindness is not an optical condition, but a compromised state of mind.

I wish that hardcore stunts of engineering were possible (for me) without a serious bias for thinking (instead of feeling), but that’s just not the case… not yet. I need more practice in order to achieve a greater virtuosity and grace, but that’s the work of a lifetime I suppose. Anyway, now, as I approach the end of my latest intellectual challenge, I’m grateful that a restoration of balance is on my horizon.

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.