Some assembly required: Interview with artist Ryan Goolsby

Hamon’s newest update to its lobby is a pair of customized computer kiosks that were designed and built by Meadows staff member, Ryan Goolsby. We interviewed Ryan about his position at SMU, his work as an artist, and the process for creating these kiosks.

Please introduce yourself to our readers and tell them about your work at SMU and outside of the University?

I work as the Technical Manager of the Division of Art at SMU. In this position, my main responsibilities are teaching how to use all of the equipment we have in the SMU Division of Art, which covers everything from the table saw to the 3D printers. I am also responsible for maintaining this equipment. Regarding my education, I have a BFA in Photography from UNT and a MFA in Sculpture from TCU. I also work as an artist and show at Liliana Bloch Gallery in the design district of Dallas. You can also see examples of my work on my website.

How did you get involved with this project and conceive the design of these kiosks?

I was initially asked to come over to Hamon to see if I could figure out a solution for the existing kiosks with the possibility of making them blend into the newly updated lobby. But due to the prefab nature of the original kiosks, I thought the best solution was to make completely new ones. My first idea – an angular block desk – was simple. But after viewing the Knoll couches they would stand next to, I decided to make something that would play better off their design. Coincidentally, I had just written and received a grant for a CNC machine, which the art department received last summer, and I was interested in using it to make something less angular and with more of a curve. I based the design off a piece I had made in grad school, but I modified the shape from the original in order to accommodate a monitor and keyboard.

Kiosk plan
Kiosk plan

What was the process for making these kiosks? What tools and materials did you use for them?

The process started on the computer. I designed the shape in Adobe Illustrator and included mortised slots to accept cross beams that I would use as supports to bend the plywood over. After cutting them out on the CNC, I used planks of plywood to fit them together. A CNC (computerized numeric controller) is a machine comprised of a cutting device (like a router or spindle) and attached to a robotic arm, which is programmable to cut wood, plastics, and certain metals. They come in a variety of sizes. The one owned by the art department is 4′ x 8′.

Studio Art's new computerized numeric controller.
Studio Art’s new CNC

In my next step, I used bendable plywood to cover the top, front, and back of the desks and glued all of it in place. For its entire construction, there may be one or two nails. I used clamps and glue to keep the whole piece together. Generally, I work this way because I don’t like seeing screws or nails in the final piece, or any wood filler covering the piece. I then used a veneer matching the sides of the desk’s oak plywood and covered the top, front, and back. I used a stain to match the shade of the existing wood in the library and lacquered them for protection against wear and tear.

In the process of this project, did you learn anything that you would like to share with our readers?

It took me a while to make these kiosks largely because I had to learn almost every step of the process while I was making them. I am fairly experienced in wood working but I had not used a CNC before I started this project. So I had to learn new software and the basic functionality of the machine before I could even begin designing them. Also, I had not ever worked with bendable plywood before and it took a bit of experimentation before I could get this material to behave as I needed it to. And the final stage of veneering the top and sides was really difficult. I employed a grad student to help me and watched many instructional YouTube videos before starting. There is little room for error when applying it.  If I had not done it right the first time, most likely, I would have had to completely start the desk over again. Overall it was a great experience and I hope to employ some of the techniques I learned in my new work!

Thanks to Ryan Goolsby, Technical Manager of the Division of Art, for this guest blogpost!

Featured image by Mariza Morin.

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