014: Final Presentation

For the final combo-project, I created a speculative design project for a talisman kit. The general goal here is to create a product that would encourage artsy feminist types to head into small maker spaces or otherwise meet up with sympathetic crafter-type people.

This approach serves as a bridge between my two previous works in that in the first, I felt empowered by learning how to use a CNC to make my own projects and explore some materials and approaches for my thesis project (see how that went), and in the second I looked at the feminist possibilities of redomesticating fabrication on a larger scale.

The Make Your Own Talisman Buddy kit, then, aims to make it possible for other people (mostly but not exclusively women) to experience that trajectory themselves. 

To that end the kit would come with the instruction zine, Otherplan files, and the necessary ingredients:

  • 1/8" and 1/16" flat head mills
  • 3 millable wax blocks
  • enough plaster for 3–4 talismans
  • enough silicone mixture for 2–3 molds
  • cups and wooden stirrers

The extra quantities of material would serve two purposes: to help users feel free to make a mistake or two and to leave enough over for them to create their own, non-guided project once they fall in love with the desktop mill.

The instruction booklet is written zine-style because zine semiotics — feminine DIY — appeal exactly who this project is for: cool chicks and other feminine folks who are not necessarily into making robots or radios or other traditional projects.

The kit would be rounded out with a web site to help the users customize the engraving on their talisman and to generate the files. It would also host a list of maker spaces and sharing crafters, so kit-owners know where to go to complete the work. 

A final bonus zine would encourage excited owners to write their own instruction zines for the kits or about what they've done to send out as well.

I took inspiration for this project not just from zines but also from crafty guides like Chibitronics.

This project fits squarely into the tradition of many other kits — maker, arts & crafts, casting — but also diverges from them by requiring the owner go into a maker space to complete the project. Unlike projects that come with pre-cut enclosures or otherwise promise the ability to be completed without leaving the house, the Talisman Buddy Kit pushes owners to bring their energy and projects to spaces that might be a little robo-heavy and thereby encourage small steps of cultural change.

It also fills a niche for getting to know a desktop CNC; I couldn't find any other projects that were about letting users get to know how to use the machine, as opposed to build one. It is also more guided than just jumping straight into something like Instructables, with its varying quality and tone.