Blackout Poetry Goes Electric, Part 1

Posted: June 24, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

So, I’ve been thinking about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) projects lately. I spent some time over winter break making Chibitronics projects with my personal kids. And then I decided to introduce paper circuitry to blackout poetry.

You know how sometimes you think 2 kids or people should be friends? You see all these connections, but they don’t? It was a little like that with my Chibitronics and Blackout Poetry matchmaking; they were not friends right away. However, as they have sat day after day near each other on my desk, a friendship has developed. Here are some details.

I started with my blackout poem.

Then, I had been playing with DeviantArt-Muro and the drawing with text options. I entered my entire poem as the text and then drew with the words in the shape of exploding fireworks, since that is what “bursts of sound and light” suggests to me. I printed this, enlarged, on to various colors and qualities of vellum. I ended up with this. (many, many tries later).

poem words printed on vellum in the shape of fireworksSo, then I used the copper tape, light stickers, and some sensor controllers to make 2 circuits that light my “fireworks”. One lights in response to sound, which you can’t see in the static image; the other is set to twinkle. However, the copper tape lines and battery folds are a little distracting, I think. Plus I wanted the actual words of the poem to be more prominent.

My next idea was to create another circuit that would be on a lower layer and position the lights at the location of the words in the poem. With one battery, the lights were not lighting consistently and were not powerful enough to be seen through the paper unless they were pressed together. I tried sewing the layers together, messed up the order, removed the thread, and then realized that another battery would help.


With all the layers together, here I am.


Issues still to be resolved:

  • How to connect the 2 pieces of vellum? or just have one and leave the bottom part “exposed”
    • sewing, glue?
  • Do I somehow cover the path of the circuit on the fireworks lights? I find it distracting.
  • How do I piece it all together
  • Does it need some color
  • Will it sit in a frame

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  1. Herman Porshnikoff says:

    Would coloring the Cu in black ruin the connection? Could you place the Cu tape UNDER the blacked out paper, slice little slits to slide the connection points off the lights through and under? I think the B&W contrasts are perfect for a “black out poem” color would be off theme? Wire frame it?

    • mseiteljorg says:

      Thanks for your thoughts. I wish I had done the tape underneath. I think I am going to try putting black tape over the copper tape. I like the wire frame idea. I could “sew” with wire to a stiff shape. Hmmmm. Lots to consider.

  2. I love your idea with the poem. Going to try it. My MS students have made circuit art either with a drawing or a photo copied, enlarged photo.
    With an art knife they cut out the areas where the lights will go on their drawing or photo. Then they make the circuit on another piece of paper. This technique would work well with your poem. We hinge the two with tape or begin by folding paper in half if the design is small. They put tissue paper on the back of the holes to diffuse the light. It makes a great effect. If they solder the copper tape joints and really smooth out the traces, one battery usually works with several LEDs. Here’s an example I made for my students for Dia de los Muertos.

    • mseiteljorg says:

      I’m sorry your image did not appear. The final products sound beautiful. I agree a little diffusing of the light is helpful. I wonder if cutting out the spaces where the words are, making them even bigger, and then printing the cut out word even larger on either vellum or tissue would be worth trying. I think I will also need to do a little soldering at some joints. Good point. Thanks so much for your feedback.

  3. Diane Glosson says:

    Wonderful idea to combine the two art forms! I like the idea of making some words larger than others, to add variety to the blackout poetry instead of the appearance of a heavily redacted government file. I’m also wondering about making the firework texts in color(s) since they represent bursts of light and can add varying degrees of importance. If having problems with joints, try using a pencil eraser to smooth out the copper tape connections, this will also help adhere the conductive materials. (My preferred copper tape is Adafruit’s with the conductive adhesive, part #1128, which can be cut in half to make 1/8″ wide lines).
    If you wanted to actually frame this piece (for wall art) how about adding a piece of glass between the layers? Also you may want to think about using a battery holder with a switch, which can be made of paper (generally I use 110 lb cardstock) here is Jei Qi’s tutorial For durability reasons I also add a layer of the shiny scotch tape to both sides of the battery holder top flap used to connect and disconnect the battery.

    • mseiteljorg says:

      Thank you for your great suggestions. As to the fireworks, I am considering also having metalic thread/wire actually bursting off the page and landing where the lights are. Certainly need to consider some soldering and a switch. Thanks for the link to the tutorial. I have a lot to consider. Not sure if I will continue with this exact iteration, or move on to version 2.0.

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