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Exhibit Design: Archives and Research Facility

The Placer County Museums acquired an old dental clinic for re-purposing as a state of the art Archives and Research Facility. It was a huge upgrade in square footage as well as the overdue consolidation of two separate facilities into one. The only problem with converting an old dental clinic is that even after you take out the exam chairs, it still feels like an old dental clinic.

Since there was a lobby, which was totally unnecessary, we decided to turn it into a small gallery.

One thing the curators wanted was some kind of sign to let people know which side of the building was which so I painted some giant old timey graphics to eliminate ALL possible confusion.

Next I converted some old suitcases from the prop collection to small exhibit cases.

One fun little accent I came up with was for a matching padlock and key design, for the visitor’s lockers. They wanted some kind of vinyl numbering to match up key fobs with the locks, but I thought it would be way more fun to use photos from the collection instead.

Placer County Archives and Collections Lockers detail

With all that done, all I needed to do was make a postcard for the grand opening and call it a day.

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Product Design: St. Whovius Novena

My buddy Nick had cancer. It was heartbreaking deal. He was one of the 20% of people who get lung cancer that never even tried smoking. It was one of those super raw deals where a guy who’s too good for this world ends up having to leave it too soon.

Nick was huge Dr. Who fan and I wanted to get him something Whocentric for Christmas, but it was impossible to tell what he already had. So I made him a Dr. Who novena candle.

I started with this great Joan of Arc painting, hrew in a little TARDIS action in there, put a frame on it and dropped it into outer space. To finish it up, I found a prayer for the sick and Dr. Who’d it up a bit, printed the whole thing out and stuck it on what used to be a St. Jude candle.

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Exhibit Design: What Killed the American Hat?

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This exhibit started with the simple idea of showing off the Placer County Museum’s great and varied collection of women’s hats. The richness of the collection made the exhibit an easy win, but it also posed a great question; If hat wearing had been all but mandatory since well before the birth of our nation, why did they all of a sudden disappear?

Keeping with the period of the hats, 1940s – 1960s, we looked around pop culture of the era for an iconography that would make a good platform to showcase our collection and invite people to become part of the exhibit. To that end we chose to stage it as a detective’s office from a Crime Noir novel. We came up with the appropriately provocative title, “What Killed the American Hat?” and were off and running.

Now that we were going to put the answer of the titular question into the hands of the audience we needed to figure out a way to give them as much information as they wanted about the forces working to dislodge the hat from its perch as a fashion necessity.

There was a lot of anecdotal information about the change but we were having trouble finding any reliable sources. It wasn’t until we stumbled upon the archive feature in Google’s news search that we found what we were looking for. Just by typing in keywords and choosing a date range we had access to scans of newspapers from around the country, and the world, concerning hat culture.

In order to display all this information without overwhelming the viewer we created an analog of an internet drill down menu in the form of desktop file folders.

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These folders were left loose on the desk so that people could pick them up and leaf through them, though the table was labeled as to where the folders should be replaced.

Since we were asking people to make their own decision we had to give them a way to easily register their conclusion. To that end we built a counter out of hand held tally counters and attached it to the side of the desk so that people could just push a button to record their vote.

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If people disagree with all the suspects we’ve chosen, we have provided them with a note pad to nominate a different suspect. Once filled out they are slipped into the desk drawer where museum staff goes through them and posts them on bulletin board to the left of the exhibit.

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The background of the exhibit is in homage to Saul Bass, a popular graphic artist of the era whose work included the opening credits for Alfred Hitchcock’s films. Our first sense of how the exhibit would be received came while painting the background. The title alone caused groups to stop in front of the empty case to discus and debate their views on the causes of the hat’s disappearance.

While the presentation of this exhibit was unorthodox for our museum, it’s been well received by our visitors and docents. It’s inspired a lot of conversation, participation, donations and even a poem by our local Red Hat Society.

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Author: If You’re a Robot and you Know it

My kid’s music band Musical Robot was approached by pop-up book artist David A. Carter to collaborate on a book. It’s based on our reworking of the folk song, “If You’re Happy and you Know it” except with robots and was published by Scholastic. In addition to reworking the song so that it worked as a pop-up book, we also rerecorded it to be offered as a free download.

Set Design: Bad Comedy for Bad People

I was hired to do design and build a set for the taping of a Keith Lowell Jensen comedy special on Stand Up Records. Below is the set from first the first meeting with Keith, to an illustration of what things would look like, to the real set.

It was built to feel like a museum with Keith as an exhibit, complete with an onstage museum docent (which ended up being me) who opened and closed the ropes to allow performers to access the stage.

Since the show was going to be called Bad Comedy for Bad People, Keith asked his fans to come up with a list of “bad people” I could photoshop to be laughing at him.

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Repurposing: Flip Clock Anniversary Present

A couple months ago, my wife mentioned that she wanted one of those clocks where the numbers flip down as the time changes. I thought it would be cool to have one, but since smartphones and computers have made clocks are pretty much irrelevant I decided to use the clock mechanism to illustrate how much fun our marriage has been over time.

On a builders note, just in case anyone wants to try this at home, in an attempt to not have to make modifications to the guts of the clock I printed the photos on bright white paper instead of photo paper. My hope was that it wouldn’t add too much weight or mass and would still be thick enough to keep the numbers from bleeding through. I ended up being half right. When I put it all back together it wouldn’t turn because the extra width of the paper shrunk the gap between the number plates and the clock frame. I ended up having to take the whole thing apart and shave the apperature with an X-Acto blade. Putting it back together and getting everything to line up was a small nightmare, but darn it, my wife is worth it.