Bloc: Digital Craft

In late 2012, I was very happy to be a part of the  Northern Bloc Digital Crafts Commission


A project investigating the feasibility of creating a collaboratively-designed craft work utilising online tools and rapid prototyping fabrication technologies based at Glyndwr University, Wrexham.



More on this soon but for now, check out the images/videos links below:


– Melting coloured sugar on a laser cutter to form the BLOC logo .




-Production images of the digitally-formed sugar craft work



– This video shows the public presentation of the project findings, given at Glyndwr university in December 2012, as seen through the conferencing software ‘Big Blue Button’.

“Four commissioned artists Simon Proffitt, Louise Christie, Wendy Leah Dawson and Peter Hathaway present and discuss their ideas, concepts and experience at the culmination of working together for 3 months to create craftwork collaboratively online and utilising Glyndŵr University’s 3D workshop equipment.”

Typically, during the project, the Digital crafts group would ‘meet’ once or twice a week on Big Blue Button to share images, videos and to have something approximating a face-to-face conversation.  These meetings often took place at lunchtime, hence the face stuffing.

Digital Crafts Discussion 14/12/2012 from Datrys on Vimeo.




The ‘BLOC Hop’ video I made in response to original footage presented by other artists within the group.

The dissolution of the sugar patterns happens slowly, gradually, almost invisibly at times.  The original footage was therefore very quiet, calm, almost meditative at times and around 10 – 20 minutes long.   I started, just ‘playing’ with the footage and offered up this louder, far more – impatient – edit to the group, just by way of visual conversation.

Bloc Hop from Pedro Pollo on Vimeo.


– This video shows me at Howard Gardens, Cardiff (not Glyndwr) in the process of devising a totally-hands-free method for building our tapestry patterns in sugar.  I made the video, which was later uploaded to Vimeo to be shared amongst the group, as we couldn’t all be together in one place to see such things with our own eyes.

BLOC Sugar Craft (compressed) from Pedro Pollo on Vimeo.


The Brief:


Artist’s Brief: Digital Craft Commission ⁄⁄

Artist’s Brief: Digital Craft Commission
bloc in partnership with Glyndwr University and the Arts Council of Wales is seeking four makers to design and create a new craft work using collaborative online tools and innovative 3D production facilities.

About bloc
bloc is a Wales-based organisation and international hub of creators, producers, makers and thinkers supporting creative uses of technology. For over twelve years it has been a leading advocate of creative technology in Wales, producing a series of groundbreaking festivals, commissions, events, and research projects. bloc challenges and investigates innovative forms of artistic, business and social innovation that are enabled by technology.
northern bloc is the branch of bloc operating in north Wales.

Commission Overview 
A commission for four Wales-based designer-makers to undertake an excercise in digitally facilitated co-design and production.
The makers will:

• co-design a craft work using online collaborative software
• produce the craft work using computer-aided manufacturing facilities at Glyndwr University
• attend a public discussion event to share insights gained through participation in the project


• extend professional networks
• communicate design ideas to others and receive feedback
• further understanding of potential and limits of computer-aided manufacturing
• further understanding of potential and limits of computer-aided design
• share decision-making on output
• explore routes for designing and making in rural Wales


• collaboratively designed craft work
• discussion event with project participants, partners and public

Makers’ Role
Each of the four makers will contribute and explore ideas for the design of a craft work using online collaborative software. They will develop these ideas in collaboration and finally produce the craft work using computer-aided manufacturing facilities at Glyndwr University 3D Workshop.

Through their practical engagement with the project, the makers will explore innovative aspects of collaborative online design, its advantages, limitations and potential for use in the creative craft sector.

Design Limitations
Design will be limited by use of free open source software.

Physical Limitations
Physical craft work will be made using computer-aided manufacturing facilities available at Glyndwr University 3D Workshop for final production including:

• GRAPHTEC CE5000-60 – Paper / Vinyl Cutting
• PERFACTORY STANDARD UV – Rapid Prototyping
• SPIRIT GX 60W – Laser Cutting / Engraving
• FARO SCAN ARM – 3D Laser Scanner
• FORMECH 300X – Vacuum Forming

The commission has been developed by a northern bloc working group who will continue to inform and monitor the project throughout. The group includes:

• Dr Justin Marshall – Associate Professor of Digital Crafts, University College  Falmouth
• Dr Emma Posey – Director, bloc
• Iolo Williams – Development Officer, Arts Council of Wales
• Dr Stuart Cunningham – Academic Leader Creative Industries, Media, Performance and Humanities, Glyndwr University
• Tracy Piper-Wright – Lecturer in Fine Art, Glyndwr University

In addition, the makers will have direct access to support from:

• Dave Jones, Technician/Demonstrator in Fine Art, Glyndwr University
• Tracy Piper-Wright, Lecturer in Fine Art, Glyndwr University

Makers will attend:
Introductory Session at Glyndwr University comprising:

• discussion and introduction to online collaborative design
• demonstration of the available computer-aided manufacturing facilities

Makers will have the opportunity to attend:
Facilities Workshop at Glyndwr University comprising:

• a selection of all day hands-on workshop each dealing with one of the 3D Workshop’s computer-aided manufacturing facilities


• Introductory Session – Glyndwr University, Wrexham
• Facilities Workshops  – Glyndwr University, Wrexham
• Design – online (makers work from home, studio or other location of their choice)
• Production  – Glyndwr University Wrexham
• End of Project Discussion Event –  Glyndwr University, Wrexham

Co-design Technlogies
This is an innovative project and there are no open-source technolgies specifically designed for collaborative craft design. Makers will use the following online tool for core communication during the project :

• Big Blue Button

and may explore alternatives and supplementary tools such as:

• Google Sketch-Up
• Google Drawing

A number of partner organisations have come together to develop this project:

• Glyndwr University
• University College of Falmouth
• Helfa Gelf
• Arts Council of Wales

Each participating maker will receive £100 contribution to expenses.

Key dates

• Application Deadline:  16 August 2012
• Notification of selected makers: 30 August 2012
• Introductory Session: 11 September 2012
• Development:  14 October – 7 December 2012
• Facilities Workshops – six dates October 2012 tbc
• End of Project Discussion Event:  14 Dec tbc

How to Apply
Send a CV and covering letter identifying your suitability for the commission to Datrys at the address below.

Point of Contact
The project is managed by Datrys. Please send applications and enquiries in the first instance to:

Dominic Chennell

• post: Datrys, Ciafaic, 25 Watling Street, Llanrwst, LL26 0LS
• email:
• tel:             01492 642 291


About Glyndwr University
Based in Wrexham but with campuses and facilities around North East Wales, Glyndŵr University champions the spirit of enterprise and an outward-facing philosophy. Inspired by Welsh hero Owain Glyndŵr, it aims to be bold, inspiring and enterprising in everything we do.
The courses are tailored to be relevant to industry and professional applications. It works closely with partners in business including Airbus, Rolls Royce and the BBC to ensure our graduates get the skills they need to gain employment.

About Arts Council of Wales
Arts Council of Wales is an independent charity, established by Royal Charter in 1994. Its members are appointed by the Welsh Government’s Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage.
Its principal sponsor is the Welsh Government. It also distribute funding from the National Lottery and raise additional money where we can from a variety of public and private sector sources.
It is the country’s funding and development organisation for the arts.
Working together with the Welsh Government, it is able to show how the arts are helping to meet the Government’s policy ambitions.

About Helfa Gelf
Helfa Gelf /Art Trail, North Wales’ biggest Open Studio Event, invites you to visit artists at work in their studios this September.
Now in its seventh year, this free annual event is now spread right across North Wales with studios taking part in Gwynedd, Conwy, Flintshire, Denbighshire and Wrexham. It is a unique chance for visitors to peek behind the scenes, experience this normally hidden world and get to chat to the artists and crafts people about their creative process.

About University College of Falmouth
University College Falmouth is a HE institution based in Cornwall, specialising in art, design, media and performance. The Autonomatic research group are based in the Design School and undertake a range of activities framed by an interest in the creative potential of digital tools. Members include practitioners with skills and experience in designing in ceramics, metals, glass, plaster, plastics and textiles. Alongside internationally recognised individual practices, their research seeks to build and reflect upon the revolution in digital manufacturing which is gaining pace through new business models and production systems that can be aligned with the flexibility and individuality of the craft workshop.

Technology Weblinks
Computer-aided manufacturing:


Co-design technologies: