Ehryn Torrell is a Canadian visual artist who lives and works in London. She works in painting, drawing and other media to explore the creation and communication of meaning. In Fall 2013, the Grimsby Public Art Gallery in Grimsby, Canada staged an exhibition of her recent work called The Occurrence of You and Me. In this work, she attempts to formulate a highly personal expression of loss, grief and our genuine attempts to relate to ourselves and others. The exhibit used a number of different mediums which included 3D product design and 3D printing.
The multi-media work My Mother’s Alphabet was part of the exhibition and Dot San was asked to manufacture a custom type ball for a 1960s IBM Selectric typewriter based on an existing model. The existing type had to be replaced by a font Torrell designed based on her mother’s handwritten letters. This was a very challenging project which required reverse engineering an existing Selectric type ball and understanding the location and design of each letter uniquely affected the print quality. Further, the 3D printing process itself was pushed as Dot San and Torrell worked together though 11 prototypes to gain functionality, durability and maximum print quality.
A number iterations of the design were developed using Rhino 3D and printed by Digits2Widgets in London and 3D Pkactory in Toronto, including Digital ABS. A final prototype was printed in high resolution wax by Micro Metalsmiths Ltd (UK), who then cast the part in brass using traditional investment cast methods.
Torrell performed with the type ball at Nocture Halifax, a late-night contemporary art event in Canada, where she sat for six hours at the typewriter, searching for legible words that looked convincingly like her mother’s handwriting. The work has been well received in Canada and the UK. Torrell says: “Working with Dot San has been great. Vijay seemed ready for this project and its particular challenges and obstacles, but neither of us could have predicted how exciting and maddening it would be. It took IBM 7 years to manufacture this part for the Selectric typewriter, and we were trying to understand the complexities of the object with very different eyes, skills, materials and production methods. We developed a great Skype symbiosis due to the rigorous demands of the project. Due to the shape of the object and characteristics of nylon as a printed material, Vijay would have to find creative solutions to thicken the lines of the letter without significantly altering their character. Vijay is a patient, thoughtful, inventive and very generous. I really enjoyed working with him.”
For their generous support of My Mother’s Alphabet, Torrell would like to thank Micro Metalsmiths Ltd, Nigel Griffen, Cory Haley, Nocture Halifax, Rhona Wenger, the Grimsby Public Art Gallery and The Town of Grimsby. Torrell’s new exhibit will open in London at The Invisible Line Gallery on 26 September 2014 and continue until 25 October 2014. For details see http://tilgallery.com