Ancient Art, Modern Maker

Ancient Art, Modern Maker

Copyright ©, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2014, all rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Ancient Art, Modern Maker

"Prayer for Peace" by James Gyre (A'03)

Sacred geometry first inspired the art of James Gyre (A'03) during his time studying painting at Carnegie Mellon University.

He paired those ancient principles with the modern practice of laser cutting at TechShop Pittsburgh.

Gyre embodies the growing Maker movement, and his merging of past and present caught President Obama's eye on a trip to Pittsburgh.

Gyre's business, Naked Geometry, is inspired by geometry found in nature. He creates intricate wooden pieces using old-fashioned tooling and Adobe Illustrator, which informs a laser cutter precisely how and where to cut pieces.

"The real makers blow me away. When I look at a 200-year-old metal compass — the fact that someone machined that — that's a maker," Gyre said. "I'm trying to find ways to really combine the new tools with the old crafts."

Gyre was TechShop Pittsburgh's first laser-cutting student; he called to register at midnight before their opening day. He said his short time at the TechShop this past year has taught him as much about the software he uses as all of his experience prior to his membership.

This immediate, hands-on learning style is reflected at CMU's Integrative Design, Arts and Technology (IDeATe) Network. The program offers integrated technology and arts collaboration classes, as well as eight undergraduate concentration areas in game design, animation and special effects, media design, sound design, learning media design, entrepreneurship for creative industries, intelligent environments and physical computing. TechShop is one of IDeATe's partners.

Thanassis Rikakis, vice provost for Design, Arts and Technology, said that students are redefining products in their creative industries. He said that products are becoming customizable.

"People want to be able to actively participate about how the product speaks to them," Rikakis said. "You begin to make immediately, and then you go and pull the knowledge you need to continue your making. You're learning through making rather than learning through reading about other people's making and then being allowed to make."

Gyre balances his output in a similar fashion — some of his work is wood-cut marketing pieces for beverage companies, some are engaging shapes and spirals to hang near a child's crib, and others are born of his love for the art of geometry.

"The week before Obama visited I had started working on a beautiful piece. I had no justification for it," Gyre said.

In June when the Secret Service visited TechShop to prepare for the president's visit staffers saw the piece. They said they thought Obama would love it and asked if Gyre would meet him.

Gyre prepared a gift for Obama, an ornament titled "Prayer for Peace" that featured a small wooden representation of the globe and the infinity symbol. Gyre enjoyed meeting Obama.

"He's intelligent, funny and personable. He was very present," Gyre said.

Related Links: TechShop Pittsburgh | IDeATe | Naked Geometry

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