James PattenI have a fascination with traveling by train. This summer I had a chance to satisfy this by traveling through Western and Central Europe by train. I had some sort of memorable experience on every train ride I took. These experiences ranged from meeting a new traveling companion to having the conductor try to over charge me fo r a ticket. I kept most of the train tickets from the trip, and put them in a scrapbook when I got home, as a way to remember the things that happened on each trip.
The tickets are all different shapes and sizes, and are marked or "validated" in various ways. Some machines punch holes in tickets, others print the date and time the ticket was used on top of it, others leave an invisible mark on a magnetic strip on the card. Whenever I came across a machine which made interesting marks on tickets, I tried to use it to make a mark in my travel journal as well. While some train tickets are beautifully designed, it is clear that very little thought has gone into others. In all, the characteristics of the punched ticket serve to remind one of the characteristics of the place it comes from.
In this project I decided to amplify and explore this property of train tickets. My goal was to build a machine which would mark pieces of paper in some beautiful way (and perhaps interactive) way, such that each piece of paper could be a memento of the experience of interacting with the machine that marked the ticket.
My initial conceptual prototype was a small object with a hand crank on the side, and a slot on the top and one on the front. One could place a precut piece of paper into the front slot and turn the crank. As one turned the crank, the paper would move out of the slot on the top, and the machine would punch holes in it.
After making this, I explored different ideas of how to mark the ticket. I experimented with using solenoids to punch holes in the paper, and using various mechanisms to print ink on the paper. I wanted to develop a mechanism which would allow the person whose ticket was being stamped to have some control over the visual forms that appeared on it.
I constructed a machine with a slot on top in which one can place a ticket. Once the ticket is in the machine, two wheels rotate the ticket while an ink-jet print head marks it. One can experiment with creating different patterns on the ticket by grabbing and rotating the ticket while the printing process is happening. An image which would be visually uninteresting when printed on a static piece of paper becomes much more interesting when printed onto rotating paper. In one sense it is a computational form, though the computation is performed by the physical act of rotating the ticket during the printing process.
The case of the machine is made out of several aluminum plates, which I cut on a water-jet cutter and band saw, and then sand blasted. I then bent and bolted the plates together to achieve the final form.