Curious worlds apart: Dual exhibits at Art Center’s Williamson Gallery in Pasadena

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The exhibitions are dual: One looking back at the fascinating domain of patent models in the 1800s, the other looking forward to the future of objects conceived on computers and sprouted up by machines. One revolution has already changed the world; the other soon will.
Image, at top: This printed rose began with a high-resolution scan of a real rose, and was then printed at Art Center on a 3D Systems’ V-Flash 3D Printer, in which a photo-polymer resin is cured by UV light, in micro-thin layers, each one four-thousandths of an inch thick. (Photo credit: Steven A. Heller / Art Center College of Design)


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Image, above: Improvement in Sewing Machines, Patent #154,084, Aug. 11, 1874, invented by George Rehfuss of Philadelphia. Prior to Rehfuss’s improvement, several inventors, including Elias Howe of Massachusetts, attempted to develop a labor saving device that would duplicate the motions of the hand and arm in sewing.  Elias Howe received his patent in 1846 for a sewing machine that used thread from two different sources to produce a tight lock stitch.  Howe was unsuccessful in his attempts to sell his sewing machine in Boston; he later traveled to England in hopes of finding an eager audience, but there too he encountered resistance as the machines cost more money than what a typical household could afford. Returning to the U.S., Howe discovered that many individuals, including Isaac Singer, had built on his design and were successfully selling machines throughout the east. Eventually the Singer Sewing Machine Company would pay Elias Howe for his idea, but it’s the Singer name that is associated with sewing machines today. (Credit: Rothschild Patent Model Collection and Smith Kramer Fine Art Services)
“The Curious World of Patent Models,” organized by the Rothschild Patent Model Collection, is on a national tour of 14 cities with Smith Kramer Traveling Exhibitions.
The Art Center College of Design’s Williamson Gallery is its second stop. The exhibit presents more than 50 scale models of ideas submitted for United States Patent protection, a process that started in 1790 when the U.S. Patent Office was formed and continued throughout the Industrial Revolution.
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During this time, inventors were required to submit working scale models of their invention, including paperwork and instructional diagrams on the item’s purpose, construction and operation. Visitors may recognize some of the names attached to these inventions, like a still from the Beam family of Bardstown, Kentucky, and Christian Steinway’s capodastro frame for pianofortes.
In “The Future of Objects,” a separate but related exhibition, the exploration starts at the cutting edge of contemporary design and art. Here, “Star Trek”-like technology allows the printing of three-dimensional objects on a variety of advanced materials. The developments promise to unleash potential on a variety of fields, like industrial design, and may forever transform the way objects are made.
“The Curious World of Patent Models” and “The Future of Objects,” Runs through Aug. 15. Gallery hours: Tues.-Sun., noon-5 p.m.; Friday, noon-9 p.m. Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery, Art Center College of Design, 1700 Lida St. artcenter.edu/williamson

Image, below: Dihedral Tile, 2008, by 
David Erven, using Maya software, printed by Solid Concepts using stereo-lithography 3D system. (Courtesy of Art Center)



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Image, below: Cascading Polyhedron, 2010, complex geometry, single session print by Solid Concepts using stereo-lithography 3D system. 
(Courtesy of Art Center)


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Image, below: Improvement in Electro-Magnetic Motors, Patent #156,920, Nov. 17, 1874, invented by Charles J. B. Gaume of Brooklyn, N.Y. “My invention has for its object to furnish an improved electro-magnetic engine for driving sewing machines and other light machinery, which shall be so constructed that the magnets and armatures may be in contact with each other long enough for the magnets to exert their full force.” Charles Gaume patented several electric motor designs while living in the New York City area and in Davenport, Iowa.  He also patented three gas engine designs, an “alarming” fishing pole and a self-rocking baby crib. Gaume’s company was called the Continental Gas Engine Company. (Credit: Rothschild Patent Model Collection and Smith Kramer Fine Art Services)

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Image, below: Improvement in Paper Cutting Machines, Patent #198,519, Dec. 25, 1877, invented by John G. Morgan of Appleton, Wis. “The object of this invention is the construction of a paper-cutting machine in which the movement of the knife will be at the same speed at all points in its downward stroke, and also to equalize the power requisite to effect the cutting, so that it will be uniform at all points.” (Credit: Rothschild Patent Model Collection and Smith Kramer Fine Art Services)
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