Payson McNett Inspires Cabrillo College Students to Take Their Dreams to the Next Level
His own personal next level was a giant man-height skateboard that he created with the use of a 3D printer.
Payson McNett’s working area in the VAPA art complex at Cabrillo Community College looks like a combination of tech shop, artist’s corner and graphic designer desk. And that is because he is all these, and much more; he is also the man with the giant skateboard that he will bring to the Santa Cruz Maker Faire for people to touch, feel and ride.
But mainly, he is the man in the Fab Lab – the fabrication lab, that is – in the Arts Department at Cabrillo College. Come fall, the Santa Cruz local and Cabrillo College educated artist is going to use 3D printers & scanners, vinyl cutters, laser cutters, cnc routers, software, and computers to teach one of the first digital fabrication for the arts classes at a community college in California. McNett has great plans, as this is only the first class of a series of four, each a pre-requisite for the next.
Growing up in Santa Cruz, Payson started his classical art education at Cabrillo College, moved onto San Jose State University for his undergraduate degree and immersed himself into digital fabrication research while pursuing his MFA in Fine Arts at Indiana University. Back in Santa Cruz, at Cabrillo College, his home turf, as a member of the faculty this time, McNett is here to inspire a new generation of artists and to show them a technological bridge that closes the gap between art and technology.
“A Fab Lab is a space where you add the digital component to the traditional art studio and make it a makers’ space,” said McNett about the space at Cabrillo that hosts workspaces for both classical and contemporary art forms. His area of jurisdiction, in the back of the studio, hosts four core pieces that Cabrillo students get to understand, work with and apply in their art work. “We want to open a door for students. Oftentimes, they have great ideas but they can’t execute them. By teaching them to apply technology to arts, we teach them to see how they can use this technology to make more complex forms and bring their ideas to fruition,” said McNett.
He is talking for example about a CNC router – a computer numeric control router – a digital instrument that looks like a combination between a sawing table and a printer, that can cut with the finest precision a large range of materials from plastic to aluminum, can cut patterns and create templates.
He is talking about a 3D printer that can print gypsum or sculptures or forms that can be used as a base for other projects, such as wax casting, or as work of art by themselves. In fact he has used the bigger 3D gypsum printer in the Cabrillo Fab Lab to create a 3D printing mold for this giant skateboard’s wheels and trucks. “By using a 3D printer, you get accuracy and scale at the same time” said McNett.
He is also talking about an FDM printer – a fused deposition modelling printer that in conjunction with a computer software can create and print 3D objects such as skull, a ball, a frame – you name it. He is also teaching about a vinyl cutter that can cut anything from shapes to letters to intricate designs. McNett tells a story of empowerment and entrepreneurship when talking about a student at Indiana University who at a young age used this technology to create an e-commerce site to sell pins that she would sell at comic conventions and make some pocket change. Proof that this new technology and art go hand in hand is a huge piece – 20 feet tall – commissioned by Hoosier Energy in Indiana to represent the hard work of their employees. McNett used the 3D technology to create prototypes to secure the job. McNett said that the technology not only opens up new avenues for artists, but also enables people who don’t consider themselves makers to make exciting things.
The poster child for the program and his four arts classes to be offered soon at Cabrillo is definitely the giant skateboard that stands taller than McNett. Embracing the skateboarding culture of Santa Cruz, he was referred to as the skateboarding professor by many of his former students at Indiana University. Before coming back to Santa Cruz he wanted to create something that would return him to the age of innocence when he got his first skateboard, something that would make him feel like a kid again. The leap to a giant skateboard wasn’t that big from there.
Explore the technology that Payson McNett is teaching to his students at the Santa Cruz Mini Maker Faire, where McNett is bringing the vinyl cutter to make sticker and keychains or name tags using a desktop 3D printer and of course his giant skateboard.
All photos courtesy of Alexandra Proca