In spring 2016, Paul Callahan, instructor at the LSU College of Art & Design, taught a course focused on integrating digital fabrication tools, such as 3-D printers, CNC mills, and laser cutters—all found in the college’s Design Shop—in artistic and design pursuits.
Callahan received his MFA from LSU in 2013. A Baton Rouge based, mixed-media designer, he specializes in integrating hand-forming techniques with rapid prototyping and fabrication tools. At LSU, he divides his time between working in the Design Shop and teaching for the College of Art & Design.
In his Ways & Means studio, Callahan emphasized material and process exploration by covering technology capable of deploying a wide array of materials. Students learned how digital fabrication can be useful as an intermediary process for the production of molds and as a primary process to produce components for a finished object. Demonstrations included drawing techniques for Rhinoceros 3D, file preparation and output for three fabrication machines—3D printer, CNC mill, and laser cutter—and operational instructions for safe implementation of the tools, mold-making, and casting. Students gained the practical knowledge of how to set up and operate these machines and insight on how to use technology in their studio practice.
“The Ways & Means class was a risk for me because I had no previous Rhino or 3-D modeling skills, but I’m so glad I took the leap and put in the work to learn the program,” said Savanna LeBauve, an undergraduate student studying studio arts at the College of Art & Design. “Experimental classes like this one really help students push boundaries into new places and spark inspiration that would otherwise be left undiscovered. As technology becomes a larger part of studio practice, I am thankful to have the knowledge and skills learned in this class and the professional opportunities they provide.”
The work produced in the Ways & Means course was exhibited in the in the LSU Design Building Atrium. The exhibition represented a diverse sampling of the different approaches, methods, and projects completed in the course, showing the interdisciplinary nature of the course—from the students’ chosen majors, level of education, and primary language to their previous digital fabrication experience. Graduate and undergraduate students—and even one faculty member—from a myriad of backgrounds, including graphic design, fashion and apparel design, ceramics, and sculpture, created products based on their own areas of expertise, including clothing and accessories, a chessboard and chess pieces, decorative art, and functional tableware. A short biography accompanied each work, providing insight into the perspective of the artists.
“As an educator, any time you get a group of students who are this eager to soak up the coursework, your job becomes vastly more enjoyable and interesting,” shared Callahan. “That energy circulates among the students and the resulting work that comes out of the class is progressive, leading the students down paths they did not know existed.”
Callahan is teaching the Ways & Means (ART 4020) studio again in spring 2017, and the work will be exhibited in Design Building Atrium toward the end of the spring semester.
Students in the College of Art & Design can look forward to more technology-driven courses with the new Fabrication Factory, opening soon across the hall from the Design Shop in the Art Building. The factory will provide the capacity to create a multidisciplinary, active, team-learning environment by leveraging large-scale digital fabrication equipment for cutting, shaping, and forming metal, wood, and plastic toward the resolution of creative design problems and for creative endeavors. These enhancements will have a broad impact for university education, recruitment, and research in the application of digital fabrication technology in architecture, art, interior design, and landscape architecture.