How To Make a Minecraft Duvet Cover (in case that's a thing you want to do)

Recently I moved into what might be the most grownup place I've ever lived. Unlike my long-term-artist-work-in-progess home in Winnipeg (the one with missing walls, half finished murals, and a Darwinian experiment of a garden), or the commune style warehouse at the Brewery Artist Loft in Los Angeles that was my world last year, my new place in Toronto is insanely respectable. What's more, it has neither roaches nor mice, and I'm sharing it with only one other adult, who may be eccentric but definitely isn't subject to the same moody, defiantly antisocial tendencies as myself, and the other artists I've traditionally shared space with. 

I consider this levelling up, in most ways. But I definitely needed to add something personal to the new home. And for the first time in my life, scrawling all over the walls wasn't allowed.

A goodbye message to my Brewery friends when I left Los Angeles, drawn on the wall of the bathroom.

A goodbye message to my Brewery friends when I left Los Angeles, drawn on the wall of the bathroom.

One of the first things we did was get a bed and duvet. The feather duvet had no cover, so except for a little window of time about 2.5 minutes immediately after sweeping, it looked like chickens had recently exploded.

A duvet cover seemed like a pretty cool way to express myself, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone (so to speak - there was evidence of dead birds all over the place already) and design my own duvet cover.  

A quick Google search for 'design your own duvet' turned up a cool site called Deny Designs that seemed pretty legit and reasonably priced. Although they didn't have templates, it was pretty easy to Google 'king duvet size' and get the aspect ratio I needed. After that, it was all Photoshop.

My concept was Minecraft, since my boyfriend AC and I both have a pretty hardcore obsession with that particular virtual world. And since I often doodle us as a rabbit and a bear, it made sense to do a couple cute Minecraft animals.  

I started by locating reference art online. I used AgentDC7's bear, and the bunny from the Minecraft Wiki page.

 

image.jpg
image.jpg

I composited these together roughly in Photoshop, projected them on the wall, traced the projection, and painted the tracing in watercolors. 

Rough watercolor design

Rough watercolor design

Watercolor design complete

Watercolor design complete

Once that was done, I scanned the watercolor, and combined it with the original reference are and some texture layers to complete the composition.  AC located and/or drew all the little item icons.

Composite of watercolor and images sourced online. 

Composite of watercolor and images sourced online. 

This technique allowed me to increase the resolution of the original sampled images by a great deal, because I could blend them with the high res scan of the watercolor and woth a bit of blur, they blended really well. The compositing of paint and 3D renders gives the whole thing a more organic, textured look and feel.  Once I'd guessed a bit at the size of the borders and how much space to leave at the too for a folded over sheet, I sent the design to Deny and waited.

It took about a week (they're based in Colorado). Overall, I'm really happy with the result. The fabric's super soft, the print quality is great (I've washed it once and it didn't fade at all), and the colors are really vibrant.

My only change would be to increase the border area at the bottom. 

image.jpg

I'll definitely be using Deny Designs in the future. It's a great service. :)

How data-driven tech toys are — and aren’t — changing the nature of play.

When I was in first grade, I cut the fur pom-poms off of my dad’s mukluks. (If you didn’t grow up in the Canadian North and you don’t know what mukluks are, here’s a picture.) My dad’s mukluks were specially made for him, so he was pretty sore. I cut the pom-poms off because I had just seen The Trouble With Tribbles at a friend’s house, and I desperately wanted some Tribbles. I kept them in a shoebox, named them, brought them to show-and-tell, and pretended they were real.

It’s exactly this kind of imaginative play that a lot of parents are afraid is being lost as toys become smarter. And in exchange for what? There isn’t any real evidence yet that smart toys genuinely make kids smarter.

Read More

We’ll know that robots are self aware when they tell us they are.

Giulio Tononi said that a system displaying consciousness must be able to store and process large amounts of information, and that this information must be integrated into a whole that can’t be divided into parts.

Like humans, robots already have the first part down. In fact, for a robot, conscious and unconscious states are clearly defined. The second part is trickier - it deals with self awareness, or seeing yourself as an individual. Even though humans are rationally aware of the different, independent biological mechanisms that make our existence possible, we still see our ‘selves’ as unique and special snowflakes, with dreams, thoughts, and abilities all our own.

Self awareness is an emergent quality. We can provide an environment that will make it more likely to emerge (for example, by creating robot groups that must work socially to accomplish tasks, and therefore need to distinguish themselves from their copies.) But we can't predict exactly how a robot's sense of self will manifest, any more than we can know for sure what an elephant is really thinking when it sees it's teeth in the mirror for the first time.

Read More