Interview with the creator of AxiDraw
The Axidraw has become the reference for pen plotting in the generative art community and no day goes by without some amazing artwork plotted by an Axidraw popping up on my Instagram feed. I'm a proud owner of a V3/A3 myself so it was particularly insightful for me to have had a chance to interview one of its creators Lenore Edman.
GH: To start with, tell us about yourself and what you did before starting EMS?
Lenore: I'm Lenore Edman, and together with Windell Oskay, I co-founded Evil Mad Scientist. When I was in college, I got my degree in interdisciplinary studies (English and Greek). I used to think that what was useful about my degree was that it gave me a grounding in the liberal arts and a basic understanding of how to look for information. However, looking back at the things I've done here, interdisciplinary is a good word for it. I worked staff positions in academia in most of my jobs, but my last "day job" was at a biotech company, supporting the research & development, engineering, marketing, and sales teams at various times.
"We started seeing interest from artists almost immediately after launching the AxiDraw."
GH: Initially you were making electronic kits. How did you decide to start developing the Axidraw?
Lenore: AxiDraw is actually an evolutionary descendent of the EggBot, which was one of our early robotics kits, dating back to its release in 2010. The EggBot was a collaboration with motion control artist Bruce Shapiro, who we met through Maker Faire. He had seen our kits and appreciated how we document and present them, so we worked together to bring the EggBot out to a wider audience. The EggBot was the inspiration for the WaterColorBot, which was a collaboration with our friend Zephyrus, (formerly Super Awesome Sylvia) and was inspired by EggBot and built on some of its building blocks. Finally, AxiDraw was inspired by WaterColorBot and was a collaboration with Lindsay Wilson. We recently released a kit version, the AxiDraw MiniKit, which is reminiscent of the early EggBot kits.
GH: Did you think about generative art when you created the Axidraw? At which point did you see interest from generative artists in using your machine in their practice?
Lenore: All of our drawing machines have been used by artists, and they are one of our favorite sets of users. We started seeing interest from artists almost immediately after launching the AxiDraw. And the plotter art community has embraced the AxiDraw, which is very gratifying.
GH: What is the biggest challenge you faced during the development?
Lenore: We've had a wide variety of challenges as we've produced AxiDraw. Everything from part consistency, to logistical delays, to increased import tariffs, to expanding production to meet demand. I don't know that there is any one "biggest" challenge, though.
Our goal has been to provide high-quality products that are accessible to a broad range of people, and the challenges are often mundane! Our most recent challenge has been catching up after our local lockdown earlier this year.
GH: Would you mind sharing with us the most interesting and unusual uses of the Axidraw you've seen from the community?
Lenore: A recent favorite was a group that was using AxiDraw to prototype a system for remotely controlling a ventilator from another room using a stylus on the touch screen control in the isolated patient's room.
GH: What’s been piquing your curiosity these days?
Lenore: I've been thinking a lot about how we can stay connected during this time when our recent patterns of social interaction don't seem safe. I've been sending and receiving more personal mail these days. One thing that I love is the number of plotter art postcards that I've been getting. It's wonderful to feel a connection to someone through a physical object when being together in person is so challenging.
– Lenore M. Edman, Evil Mad Scientist, California
The Axidraw is a reliable pen plotter which many generative artists come to appreciate as their go-to plotting instrument. It’s not the cheapest but will go a long way as you develop your generative art practice.
If you're interested in learning more about the Axidraw, have a look at the article we wrote specifically from a generative artist point of view.
You can currently get 10% off on all Axidraws with coupon GENERATIVE on Evil Mad Scientist's shop.