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Beeps-a-Lot Box, Arcane Device, and Stylophonic Device each answer a question I hadn’t considered: What would have happened if H.R. Giger had decided to teach band? These graceful sculptures are working musical instruments produced by Gulf Coast artisan Mike Ford Designed to evoke curiosity as well as admiration, each is heavy with mysterious controls, indicators, and attachments, all beckoning to be explored. Growing up in a family of Gulf fishermen. Ford learned the value of inventiveness early on. Even as a tyke, he embraced this heritage, secretly designing and building a control panel for an imaginary rocket ship Sadly, his space exploration dreams were cut short after some critical knobs had to be unglued and returned to his grandmother’s TV set. A skilled stringed instrument builder, Ford was inspired by an article on circuit bending to start modifying discarded electronics boards. Dissatisfied with common project boxes for these creations, he began developing cases as exotic as his circuits. Finding this new challenge artistically satisfying, he pursued refinements to his design process and metalworking skills while an art student at the University of Mississippi Nowa full-time artist.

Ford melds the electronics of his instruments with cases that, despite their fluidly seamless look, are largely composed of repurposed or found pieces that he works with hand tools. His design is decidedly deco-industrial, a look that has captivated him since he first glimpsed the retro-futuristic gadgets in movies like Dune and Brazil. This inspiration is easy to see in the wonderfully strange effectors on his instruments, whose functions seem both obvious and inscrutable. giving his gear the look of something from a not-quite-parallel world (a world where they use a lot of chrome). Besides building up his stock of sculptures, Ford is now constructing microsynthesizers based on vintage analog integrated circuits. l’m guessing those won’t be in plastic boxes.

Mike Ford’s website: mikefordsculptures.com
>> His work is also featured at: getlofi.com

From the column Made on EarthMAKE 6, page 21 – Bob Scott.

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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