Bare Conductive - Interview
24 July 2014
Despite technology's ubiquity in modern life, electronics and circuitry often seem beyond the reach of the uninitiated. London-based Bare Conductive is changing this; marrying brilliant design with intelligent hardware, their accessible tools and kits let everyone experiment with technology.
Bare Conductive's projects - including Electric Paint, starter kits, and the new Touch Board - make electronics intuitive and fun, and offer a huge range of creative possibilities, from painting a light switch onto a wall, to making a paper piano, to creating a custom interactive surface.
Can you tell us who you are, where you were born and where you are now based?
My name is Matt Johnson. I'm originally from Colorado, USA and I'm now based in London. I moved to London seven years ago to study at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College and have been in love with the place since.
How would you describe what you do?
From one perspective, it might look like I (and we) do a lot of different and sometimes disparate things, but in fact I think it's aimed at one goal: creating technology platforms that can form the foundation for other people's ideas. This can mean technical work to make sure our hardware is widely useful, communication design to make sure that we speak to the right audience, or conversations where we try to understand how our work coincides with someone else's.
What tools and materials do you use in your work? Do you have a favorite material and is there a tool you couldn't do without?
I'd like to say that I work with every material, but actually I think there are some that I really prefer. I like working with metals for their precision and cardboard for the speed of prototyping. Nothing is so uniquely satisfying as a sewing machine (nor as intimidating as trying to make clothes!). I think that the best Maker will have the bravery to take on a project in an unfamiliar material and work through the learning phase. It's a challenge that I don't saddle myself with enough.
Can you remember the first thing you made?
I don't remember the first thing I made, but I do vividly remember the room in my parents house that was full of tools and materials. What I do remember is starting a lot of projects but not finishing them. I remember an attempt at an electric scooter (that only ran with a VERY long extension lead), a speedometer for a pair of skis, and countless models. I also remember being interested in electronics, but not sure where to begin. I think that what I'm doing now is very reflective of my diverse interests as a kid. I certainly keep the workshop cleaner now.
What do you feel the role of makers and designers is today?
With the exception of cutting edge technology, making is hard. Manufacturing is global and easy to access. What is difficult is having the rigour to create work that has meaning and manifest those ideas in a useful way. Put simply, "how" something is made is relatively straightforward. "What" it is for and "why" it should exist is much more difficult (and important). I think designers and makers are well-suited to developing these ideas and making them real.
Can you tell us what you're presenting with Saturday Market Project at LDF 2014?
Bare Conductive was born from a design background and we feel strongly that using design as a way to encourage holistic analysis of ideas (and products) leads to more interesting results. I think that SMP feels the same way and is very good at positioning design and making together. Showing our work with SMP gives us a great opportunity to reinforce that the Make Movement can be viewed in the professional context of the London Design Festival.
Why should people come and get involved?
That's an easy one. It's certainly more interesting to do something than to just read about it! But also, so much of what we do is about generating a conversation about potential forms of technology and interfaces and having these conversations is a lot more fun in person.
Images courtesy of Bare Conductive