June 10, 2016


        Here’s the latest art, something I’d been imagining for quite some time but just completed and printed this week.  Traditionally blueprints are actually cyanoprints - sun prints just like the ones you may have made as a child by laying objects on the specially treated paper and leaving it in the sun to expose.  This method of reproduction was devised long before modern photocopying, and even longer before scanning and using digital reproductions, and was used to make accurate copies of architectural  and engineering designs.  Designs were drawn on relatively thin, translucent paper, and when the original drawing was laid over the blueprint paper, the ink or pencil of the drawing blocked the sun more than the plain paper.  The blueprint, therefore, is a negative of the original, where black shows up white and white shows up blue.
        I thought of carving a faux blueprint design because I love old architectural and engineering designs, and because I thought it would work really well to carve the white lines into a block and print in blue ink.  My design is based on old patent applications, which may not be historically accurate as the drawings that were most likely to be copied into blueprints in the nineteenth century, but it bundled into the mix another fun historical aspect.  There have been some pretty cool, wacky devices that applied for patents in the past few centuries!  Naturally I wanted my patent application blueprint to be for some sort of cool steampunk critter, and I invented this device for cleaning steam pipes.  It’s a lizard-type robot that can crawl through pipes and conduits under its own steam.  Different attachments are available to fasten onto its tail tip.  Fig. 1A shows the standard pipe-cleaning brush, but other pages of the design (alas, now missing) would have shown other possible attachments, such as different sized brushes, augers, a wire- or cable-laying spool, and so on.  Other pages also showed all the details of the device’s interior construction.  Some details worth noting on the design are the access panels in the head and body, the full range of motion and flexibility in the legs and tail allowing the device to maneuver through tight and crooked spaces, and the specially designed pads of the feet allowing the device to cling even to smooth surfaces for vertical ascension.  The patent was taken out by Cyril R. Twembly, but records show that he and his wife Henrietta E. Twembly were equal collaborators in invention.
        As for my carving, the design obviously was heavy on the words and numbers, which are always hard for me.  Mostly I’m pretty happy with it, although the date came out rather messy.  The filing words in the upper left corner didn’t transfer properly onto the rubber and had to be done without guidance, hence also being a little messier.  I also should have put in some scale measurements, which I forgot about until afterwards.  Not being a perfectionist, it wasn’t worth it to me to carve and reprint the whole edition.  Finally, a real blueprint would be unlikely to have so much white, since no one would color in the whole body black in their original drawing.  However, I thought it looked better to have a bit more balance of white, so once again “accuracy” gave way to aesthetics.
        So, if you’re ever in an old building and hear the faint, metallic clink and scuffle of something in the pipes, you never know…  you may be able to discover one of the few conduit-navigating saurians ever constructed by Twembly & Twembly.

[Picture: A Device for Cleaning Steam Pipes, rubber block print by AEGN, 2016.]

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