One of my oldest friends Wendy manages fab lab wgtn at Massey University.
Her father has been sick for a while and a few things around the parental house have started to need some attention. Recently one of the taps in the bathroom started leaking. It’s an old Wellington house on a hill and the tap components were machined in a time long past. The details of Wendy’s trips to the local hardware store for bits have blurred. I’ve got a remnant of her telling me about the old guy rummaging around in many small dusty boxes bringing out plumbing components, but that could be my imagination. It’s also secondary to the story.
Wendy’s Dad has always been a technology non-adopter and the further down that path her career has developed the wider the gap in his understanding of what she does has become. Until the day she took the leaky tap from the wall and took it into work. Wendy scanned and fabricated a replacement tap and took it back to her parents’ house. I can picture the look of doubt on their faces as they followed her into the bathroom and watched her install it. It worked. Of course it worked.
Then a few days later Wendy got a message from her Dad to say another tap was leaking and could she make another one?
We laughed when she shared this story, and I imagined the re-telling would serve the same function. Instead it has made me think about some things.
Like the liminal spaces that occur within families. How when the caring and teaching functions are turned on their head unexpected moments can bring these into sharp focus. Regardless of the type of relationship we have with our parents, the need for approval, to be seen, understood, and loved, is universal. If we are lucky enough to grow into an adult space with our parents and experience this it can be profoundly moving.
Wendy came over last weekend and on Sunday night over a bottle of wine we started designing the floppy disc dress.
We broke apart a disc and played with its components. There are simple tabs that click open and shut. Its not immediately obvious what they are for.
It dawned on us that these tabs serve the same function as punch cards. A simple binary function>0101010101010100< repeated over and over and redesigned throughout history but stripped to its core the same simple idea. Trying to understand the original design of the discs is shaping the way the creative process of designing the dress evolves. Just like digital fabrication is about so much more than 3D printers in libraries spewing out endless Dr Who figurines, technology is more than the sum of its parts. Its also a tool for communicating ideas.
This is my Dad.
This photo was taken around 1974. He is sitting in front of the first computer he built. Unlike Wendy’s Dad technology has always been mines thing. A Bletchley trained computer geek. I’m only just starting to inhabit a space where we can talk the same language, and maybe I can teach him some things. I’m incredibly grateful for that. To me this photo represents possibility. He had no idea of the technological revolution he was about to witness, but maybe just more than a little tingle of excitement in that unknowing. It’s how I feel now when I hear stories about my friends 3D printing taps for their dads and those moments of connection that emerge.