Water Bugs in Japan: Designers are Inspired to Make 3D Printed Haiku, Visible Only in Water

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UntitledFor years I lived on the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina, on a tiny island jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. My drive to work was so mesmerizing in its beauty and so absolutely demanding of being translated into creative expression that each morning I formulated a haiku in my mind while behind the wheel, and then shared it with friends and family after coffee had helped me to sufficiently polish each little work.

Sometimes the haiku were about honking geese overhead, sometimes about jubilant, jumping fish–and sometimes just what my kids were bickering about on the way to school. While I typed these comfortable little poems and left them on a hard drive somewhere, I was never quite sure how to preserve them in a more unique way.

waterWhy do we love the haiku so? It’s a quick and easy way to make poetry, and it’s hard to go wrong, whether you are being sentimental or snarky. Whether you do the conventional 5-7-5 syllabic pattern on three lines, or choose something shorter as seen here in the example by Drzach & Suchy, it’s hard to go wrong with so few words, and especially when you are expounding on ethereal subjects like spring birds out nesting, sparkling summer morning dew, first winter’s snow. Fun for all ages, nearly anyone can master the haiku, and perhaps be led into other writing endeavors as a result.

However you may like your haiku, designers Drzach & Suchy, of Zurich, have become doubly inspired over the miniature literary works, and now have a novel new way to show them off via 3D printing. Nothing short of magic it would seem, they’ve created a way to meld your words with nature, rendering them invisible until they are gently immersed in water. Only then do they show off your way with words, on 3D printed structures which cast shadows showing off the letters.

Drzach & Suchy caught a glimmer of the idea when visiting the Jakkoin Temple near Kyoto and watching water striders (also known as water bugs or pond skimmers) ‘run’ on top of the water, as they are able to do thanks to unusually thin, agile bodies. This practice allows them to catch their prey rapidly and by surprise, with their front legs. While most of us are familiar with haiku, most are familiar with these bugs also, seen mainly by their shadows as their tiny bodies make their way through the water. The designers were fascinated by the illusion that the insects were invisible, all but for the dark tones cast by their legs. In turn, they translated this into their own vision, fabricating the haiku in 3D print that only appear in water.3053966-slide-s-10-this-3-d-printed-haiku-is-invisible-until-you-put

“We wanted to mimic water striders and achieve a similar deformation of the water surface, yet in a controlled way, to be able to ‘paint’ on the water,” Drzach & Suchy said. “The goal was to create a structure, a kind of net or grid with varying heights, which could float on water surface and deform it at predetermined spots: the dominant parts of the net should be touching the surface causing the shadow spots, while the others should be hanging above the surface, letting the light go through.”

pondTheir chosen haiku is as follows: old pond / frog jumps in / sound of water

The haiku was penned by Matsuo Bashō, of Japan’s Edo period. Appropriately, the artists used fishing line to see if they could make the concept work in water at all. They then experimented at the 3D printer with several different materials, producing 3D printed sheets just ready to reveal their words. The haiku boards were 3D printed by i.materialise.

While this particular concept could be made to fit numerous delightful applications, Drzach & Suchy are still rather hung up on the concept of the water bugs, and would like to investigate more miniature versions of the shadows, as small as the striders.  Discuss this story in the 3D Printed Haiku forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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