Monday, October 28, 2013

Building the Perfect Sand-Art Pen

Building the Perfect Sand-Art Pen

Benedikt and Rosi, in their treehouse
Benedikt and Rosi, in their treehouse
Austrian maker couple Benedikt Wurth and Rosi Binder have designed the ideal sand art pen. Unlike sand pens already in existence, the Sand-Pen has a button which engages the built-in motor, allowing the sand to flow freely. Holding the pen close to a surface achieves fine line, while pulling the pen farther away gives a wider, more airbrushed look. In fact, they describe it as a mixture between an airbrush and a pen, and it looks like a lot of fun to use.
sand pen2
The Sand-Pen concept
I was curious about how they came to design the Sand-Pen and launch their Kickstarter campaign, so I asked Benedikt a few questions to find out more about the design process, and their background in the world of sand art.
Laura: How and when did you get started making sand art?
Benedikt: My father introduced me to this medium when I was a child. At the time we simply put colored sand in small bottles with tips. It worked more or less, and it was a lot of fun. Years later, when my children were born, I remembered this art technique and I wanted to develop a tool which allows you to draw easily with sand.
L: I think the Sand-Pen is a great idea, and I haven’t seen anything like it before. How did you come up with the idea for the Sand-Pen?
B: I wanted to improve the ancient art of Sand Painting and give it a technological touch. I enjoy inventing things, most of the time creating a new combination of known things. It was actually mobile phones and their tiny vibration motors that gave me the idea for the technological details of the Sand-Pen.
The heart of the Sand-Pen
The heart of the Sand-Pen
L: Did you design the pen yourself, or was it a collaboration with Rosi?
B: It was a collaboration with several people. It took us about two years from the first idea of the Sand-Pen to the realisation of the last prototype. We wanted to create a Sand-Pen which should be easy to handle. So we always tried to improve our design and technical implementation.
L: What do you do for work?
B: I am the owner of a small business — I produce and sell ear candles. Besides that I do photographs ( and websites and grow mushrooms!
sand pen
L: Tell me a bit about the design process. How many prototypes did you build before you created the one you use in your Kickstarter video?
B: The first prototype was a Hexbug Nano stuck to a bottle of sand with a tip on it. In the next step I reused the vibration motors out of my old phones. Later, a friend helped me to make a first 3D printed prototype. It worked well, thus proving our concept. We made another 3D-printed prototype that used existing parts, i.e. the tips and vibration motors. I molded this prototype and refined it per hand. And did another mold with that … Finally we produced about 20 handmade Sand-Pens. So the journey took at least four steps!
L: What was the biggest challenge you encountered in the process of making the Sand-Pen?
B: It was the tiny size of the Sand-Pen and the sand. The movement and handling of sand is not always consistent!
L: Can you re-use the sand, once you paint with it?
B: It is possible, if you only use one sand color. But if you are using more than one it gets hard to separate them. We do try to use environmentally friendly pigments, so that sand left on the ground or in the garden won’t be of any harm to the environment.
L: I see that in your free time, you like building tree houses. Do you have a favorite tree house you’d like to tell us about, and show us?
B: My favorite tree house? That is, of course, the one I built on my very own ;-) It was a project over the last two years. I really like the connection between architecture and nature.
The treehouse Benedikt built
The treehouse Benedikt built
L: What creative people inspire you? (They can be famous or just people you know.)
B: My Dad, of course. And also my children. I think it is curiosity that makes us creative!
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Benedikt and Rosi’s children. “First, we wanted to create a tool for our kids,” says Rosi.
L: What are your favorite tools (apart from the Sand-Pen, of course)?
B: I like tools that can be used for many things. I don’t own much equipment so I spend a lot of time improvising with the “wrong” tools to do the right thing!
L: Does Rosi use the Sand-Pen with the handicapped children she works with?
B: Of course! She found out that the kids concentrate better while using the Sand-Pen. The connection of the drawing, the trickling of the sand, and the gentle vibration activates a lot of senses. We think that’s the reason why kids love to work with it and are so focused on the drawing process.
Screen Shot 2013-10-26 at 10.07.47 AM
The Sand-Pen has eight days left in its Kickstarter campaign. I just backed their project. If you like it too, please show your support!