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Being Creative: Kelly and Dave's Wedding Gift and Card


My friends Kelly and Dave got married in June 2003.

The Gift

Sometime toward the end of 2002, I think (the details of the chronology are a little fuzzy now), I was inspired to make them a wedding gift (don't worry, I got them a real gift from their registry too). What I had in mind was a largish plate with "Dave" and "Kelly" in "upside down writing" (designature style) running around the rim. In my mind, the plate was snowy white and the text was jet black. A nice idea, but of course I had to come up with the design for "Dave" and "Kelly". Dave turned out to be relatively simple (see below). Originally the 'd'/'e' was curved, a little like a lowercase Greek "delta", but in the course of working on transferring the design to the plate, I made it consist solely of straight line segment. It's a nice simple example of the design process; the 'd' maps nicely to the 'e', the name rotates between the 'a' and the 'v'. Using a capital 'A' (and 'V', but lowercase 'd' and 'e', anything goes of course) allowed me to detach the 'A's horizontal line so that the name rotates about it. The eye naturally binds it to the 'A' not to the 'V'.
dAVe #1The first version of "Dave". dAVe #2The second and final version.

Kelly's name was quite a bit harder. The double 'l' is so strong that the name wants to rotate about that point. That means the 'k' can map to the 'y' (relatively easily) but the 'e' is left without a counterpart. I spent a lot of time doodling with this. I only produced two designs, differing by their treatment of the 'e'. Initially, I had the 'e' floating between the 'l's, it was really only three horizontal lines (actually, a capital 'E'). I quite like the look of it, it has a nice almost Asian feel, but the name wasn't as clear as I'd like. I was stuck on this design for a while, and I feared I'd never get anything good enough. That could've jepardised the whole project, but I at least convinced myself that if nothing else it could be treated as a "nice abstract design" (I imagined myself having to explain it to D&K). Eventually I did come up with an alternative design. This doesn't rotate about "ll". In fact their are two sets of 'l's, the idea is that the "other" set is the (double) vertical on the 'E'. The "feet" of the rotated 'L's become a single serif on the 'E'... Still a bit of a stretch I know, but I decided it was an improvement and to go ahead with the plate using it.

kEllY #1The first version of "Kelly". kELLY #2The second and final version.

Happily, I found a "do-it-yourself" ceramics place quite close to me, in the Valley Fair Mall. I bought the plate ("14 inch charger", I think) and hired some paints (black for the lettering, red for my signature & date on the back and green because I thought I'd also put a "dishwasher safe" icon on the back, but later changed my mind -- it's just too big for a dishwasher!). Then the next challenge -- I pondered for quite a while how to transfer the design onto the plate. Trace it using carbon paper? Make a stencil and pencil it on? What I did in the end was write some PostScript (yet again) to render the designs (the images above). I then printed them, along with some extra lines for guidance, onto clear acetate sheets (for overhead projectors). At each line vertex I used my craft knife to drill a small hole. I glued two large sheets of paper together, inverted the plate onto it, drew around the plate and found its center. Then I used a protractor to find the 8 locations for the 4 "Dave"s and 4 "Kelly"s. I then put the plate back on the paper and transferred the 8 locations to the rim, then turned the plate upright again and began the laborious process of transferring the design. I used the guide lines on the acetate sheets to position each "Dave" and "Kelly" in turn and made a small dot with pen through the vertex holes onto the plate's surface. I then inked a straight line between the appropriate vertices to recreate the names (this is mostly why the 'd' in "Dave" is made of straight lines, easier that way). This gave me guide lines for the painting process. In the past, when I've done ceramics like this, I've used pencil to draw the design. However, this time the people running it claimed that presented a risk of lead poisoning! Here's the plate just after I started transferring the design onto the plate, you can see my "templates" in the middle and faint outlines of the designs at around 9 and 10 o'clock.

Transferring the design

Painting the lines took several hours. It was tricky, I wanted very precise lines but I'm just not that good. The final result has a definite "home made" look, which is perhaps not a bad thing. Overall though, I was rather pleased with it.

The finished plate

It had already occurred to me that the ideal box to wrap the thing up in was a pizza box. I went to a local pizza place and asked for "just an empty 16 inch box". I got a slightly funny look but the box too, for nothing. I turned the box inside out, so "Tony and Alba's Pizza and Pasta" wouldn't be the first thing Dave and Kelly saw when they opened it. Here it is, with a little foam packing, prior to being encased in tissue paper and gift-wrapped.
The plate in it's box

It is a big plate, I needed a reasonably large canvas to work on, but I hope Dave and Kelly can find a use for it!

The Card

Some time in all this, I was also inspired to make Dave and Kelly a wedding card (uh oh!). I'd been thinking about their names quite a bit, Dave's surname and Kelly's nickname (and vanity plate) led me to come up with the "curley bell". Wedding bells are a common theme for wedding cards. I envisioned a wedding bell defined by a helical ribbon -- a curly bell. I clearly also had M.C. Escher works like this in mind:
"Rind", 1955

Here is the card's final design:
Curley Bells

Yes, I know, there are glitches in the rendering, the 3D isn't quite right (and the shading isn't realistic). I'll get to that... This was yet another PostScript project, but a very very long one. Here's a brief history. I decided very early on that drawing the bell's ribbon by freehand would be way too hard. I came up with the idea of computing what the ribbon should look like and using that as a guide. I planned to produce some kind of printout that I could trace onto drawing paper then ink-in and shade (with my "dot" style) by hand. The first thing I did was google for a good drawing/photo of a bell. I was lucky enough to find an AutoCAD DXF file of somebody's foundry project, I think. After some hacking, it gave me a nice representation of the profile of a real bell (a list of coordinates). I also googled around for a 3D version of PostScript. Instead I found a library I could include into my source to provide 3D primitives. Then the fun began. I took it all quite slowly, going step by step to the final output you see above (which is about 500 lines of PostScript). The shaded, double bell is "curleybell10.ps". "curleybell1.ps" implemented a simple project/interpolate to draw a single bell using a helical line (not a ribbon). The bell is a helix, resting on the x-y plane and spinning up the z-axis. An ordinary helical spring would have a constant radius. The bell gets it's varying radius by projecting & interpolating the current z onto the bell's profile. I do this as a series of very small discrete steps, the curved lines are actually a large number of small straight segments. "curleybell2.ps" looked like this:

The next important step was to make a ribbon. I added code to compute another bell helix, slightly above the first. At each step I draw the short upper line segment and the lower one. These are joined with verticals to make a small trapezoid, which I fill with colour. Although it wasn't neccessary, because I only wanted construction lines, I added some fake shading and also split the bell into front and back halves -- I draw the back half first, then over-draw the front half, to get a more 3D look (note however that the fill isn't perfect, there is some bleeding of the back into the front, these images are drawn from my PostScript source by GhostScript). "curleybell4.ps" looked like this:

My simple bell profile interpolation code had to go. So far the "thickness" of the ribbon is a difference in z. If it was a real piece of ribbon wrapped around a bell, it would seem to be changing thickness (because of the changing slope of the bell's profile). Unacceptable! So, I had to write some tricky code that first projected a point onto the profile but then "walked" up the profile until the accumulated length was equal to the desired ribbon thickness. "curleybell8.ps" looked like this:

Later versions were simply refinements and the addition of a second bell. With the final orientations of the bells, my simple front/back trick broke down. You can see in the big "curleybell10.ps" image above that parts from the back appear to protrude through the front. To get around this I think I would have to store all the small trapezoids and then sort them by their view-point z value ("z buffer") and draw them as a separate pass from true "back" to "front". Maybe one day. All I really wanted was construction lines. "curleybell11.ps" looked like this:

Done, finally! I printed this directly onto good quality, slightly heavier than normal paper, using very fine, almost invisible lines. This let me avoid the tracing step. I had originally though I'd do a single bell and just black ink on paper. However, most commercial cards featured two bells, perhaps not surprisingly. I also decided that maybe a wedding card done in black ink would go against some convention of wedding etiquette. So, with a fine-tipped black pen I enhanced the ribbon outlines. Then I filled in the ribbons with a gold pen (with ink thick enough to cover the obscured construction lines) and very lightly shaded them with fine black dots. I cut out the image and glued it to a blank card (after I was happy with the message I'd written in it). This is the final result:
The Card