Breaking the Mold: An Artist in Residence at M4

Breaking the Mold: An Artist in Residence at M4

When I was a little girl, my mom worked at my grandpa’s factory and I often visited with her. In fact, I visited so often that I became excited by the smell of resin and what was being made on the factory floor. After 5 years of leading and owning that factory, that passion continues, but it’s also evolved. Now, I am not only fascinated with resin, but with the purgings as well. 

As an avid art collector, I love anything creative or abstract…the purgings of a manufacturing machine being one. More often than not, we are required to purge our machines in order to switch from one material to another. In a world that pushes to produce as quickly as possible, as cost effectively as possible, and as much as possible, it is necessary but results in wasted material and time.

At M4, we believe we have an obligation and responsibility to show up, have the dialogue, explore and challenge what is possible, and offer alternatives and solutions that are viable. Consciously aware that a valuable resource must not be wasted, and where possible, reused, recycled or up-cycled. So, I knew there was something more that could be done with our purgings. 

I tapped into our Chief Design Officer, Kyle Swen, who posed a series of questions:

  • How can we manipulate resin to create objects of art?

  • How can we embrace the medium we operate in and remember it is a source of and for creativity?

  • How can we push boundaries and honor the artistic form of creating and rendering, highlighting the innovative element of making? 

  • How can we challenge the status quo of mass production, leveraging our machines and material to create singular, objects of art while we make meaningfully?

We were curious and passionate enough to answer these questions and our Artist in Residency program was born. 

M4_SwenMiller

We brought in Eric Huebsch, a Los Angeles based multi-media artist to spend the month of August with us. Under the charge of “DE-commoditization” we asked him to create objects of art that showcased the medium, yet we only provided him obsolete materials and purgings to work with.

Eric agreed whole-heartedly to the project. Academically trained as a glass blower, his background working with glass, heat and the elements was extremely beneficial to exploring what was possible and creating in the medium of plastic.  After a few initial conversations, he showed up to our design and manufacturing house with plans of what he was going to create. However, after several weeks of working with the medium of plastic, he confessed he was struggling. He said, “Everything I thought I could do, failed. I had to surrender to the material, which completely took me in a different direction.”

LA-based artist, Eric Huebsch and Patricia Miller discussing the process of creation and use of material during the "DE-commoditized" art opening at M4.

In the spirit of trial, error and perseverance, what he landed on was a collection of beautiful objects of art that not only highlighted the material, but inspired other projects back home in LA. During our recap of the program, I asked if he would ever consider something like this again. “Absolutely,” he said. “As difficult as it was, I learned a great deal. Working with plastic inspired a whole new set of ideas. While failure is inevitable, it led to exploration and what is possible.”

Sustainability is more than a responsibility, it’s elevating human creativity to push what is possible to coexist, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results of our inaugural Artist in Residency program.

Objects of Art

CHAIRS

MATERIALS: Regrind ABS + Regrind Tritan

COLOR: Clear

PROCESS: After throwing out his initial plans, this was the first piece Eric tackled. Self-admittedly, it was a bit ambitious but the learning launched his next objects of art. A self proclaimed introvert that typically works alone, Eric quickly recognized working with an assistant supported his vision and learning curve. He was also able to experiment with temperature and the rate at which things cooled as he moved his wooden frame to create a desired outcome. He stated, “the material has likeness to glass. Its strength and how it naturally flows from the machine were continued sources of inspiration that pushed my exploration.”

M4_Chairs

CUBES

MATERIALS: Polypropylene regrind base resin + obsolete colorant

COLOR: Clear + Natural base with Blueberry, Lime Green and Red (created flesh/pink color)

PROCESS: Having learned he could control the purgings, he built a plywood box that he draped them over as they came out of the machine. Having learned from the Chairs, he knew this next project would be a two person job. His partner, Kathy Gray, joined him to help manipulate the medium. They had to work quickly as the medium began shrinking around the wood box as it cooled. On one cube, you can see remnants of plywood where they didn’t move fast enough and a bit of the form was left behind.

M4_Cubes

TONGUES

MATERIALS: Polypropylene regrind base resin + obsolete colorant

COLOR: Clear + Natural with Red to create flesh/pink color

PROCESS: Eric had always had an idea for a tongue. Using his experience with molds, he created a mold of a tongue that was nearly three feet in length. Since the resin shrinks as it cools, it easily released from the mold. However, during the cooling process, the entire tongue popped and broke. This was yet another learning around the cooling process of plastic. He took a new approach, and made two smaller tongues in an effort for them to cool more evenly and consistently. It worked, but even so, when it came to color, it took several more attempts to get the “fleshy” pink color he wanted. Despite his efforts, the final product resulted in one tongue’s color is more inconsistent throughout. While this was not the anticipated outcome, it gave it a welcomed real-life affect. 

M4_Tongues