Humans of FoldHaus is a series celebrating the many, many amazing volunteers (like Cameron) who work tirelessly on their evenings and weekends to bring to life the FoldHaus Collective Art. Below is Cameron’s story.
But first, a brief note:
The FoldHaus team, the art collective behind Burning Man (and Smithsonian!) favorites #ShrumenLumen and #BlumenLumen, are building our most radical installation ever, and we need your help.
A project of this scale is only possible with the support of a large community. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support RadiaLumia.
How did you get involved in FoldHaus? Why?
“I first got involved because I saw Remy post a picture with the flowers [editor’s note: Remy and Cameron went to high school together, and the flowers were Blumen Lumen, in 2014]. So, I backed the Kickstarter campaign. I’d seen the projects go up over the years and they’ve been awesome. For unrelated reasons, I went by IDEO for a tour. I met Joerg, and he invited me to the project kickoff. I went, and now we’re here!
I’ve been going to Burning Man for 10 years. I haven’t directly contributed to art — until this year. I always wanted to but never found the right project. I always liked the aesthetics of FoldHaus — they’re well-engineered, nice-moving things. Right up my alley and what I like to do professionally.”
Burning man is supposedly life changing. Has it changed your life?
“I can’t imagine what my life would be like without it. I was hooked from the first time I went to the Playa. I said to myself: ‘I gotta come back every year.’ Building the city. And building a place to live for the next week. Not just for living but interacting. Talking with other random cool people you would not have expected to meet. I have always liked the harsher environments while I’m bundled up and taken care of. Having done that myself is important.”
Community is a big part of FoldHaus. What’s your experience been?
“Wonderful. It’s great to come and just work and hang out on the weekend. I like getting something done alongside friends and interesting people. This is the kind of stuff I might do on a lonely weekend on my own at my lab. It’s so nice with other people — meeting awesome people I wouldn’t have met and sharing new experiences all while creating something awesome.
Plus the team is great. There’ve been a few times when I didn’t have the full answer — but there was always someone who would have a good solution. No one person can ever do it all.”
What’s been one of the happiest moments of FoldHaus?
“Getting the first version of the boards done and making Jesse happy. We were all stressing a bit from the boards not being where we wanted them to be as soon as we wanted them to be. When we finally got a full working board, that alleviated concerns and made people happy. I’ve had experience building custom circuit boards and it can be tricky. But I do it every month. It’s been nice to be able to bring that confidence into FoldHaus (well, we won’t know until we try it on playa!). [Editor’s note: we did this interview before Burning Man. I can report that it all went well on the playa!]”
I’m looking forward to getting to say “yeah, I worked on that.’ Being a part of some art. I have a camp I can say I can help build but it’s not something people get to see. When I helped with math camp, that was fun. But, it’ll be tenfold the impact with FoldHaus. Pun intended.
It’s all back to this: I’ve been wanting to contribute more than myself and my camp for a while and finally found the right project that works for that.”
Do you consider yourself an artist?
“Yes. A technology artist I guess. I consider myself an artist, yes. I think what I do — sometimes what I do in tech, is artistic in some way. Art can be a lot more than what people think is traditionally art. It’s about making something that you think is awesome, that you get to share, hopefully with people who can enjoy and appreciate the awesomeness as well.”
What’s your contribution to FoldHaus?
“It could be put so many ways. Making the motors move is the simplest way of putting it. I designed the custom electronics that go in each node. We have an advanced system for distributing the lighting commands. I figured out how to piggyback our motor commands on the same system which drastically simplifies the wiring and allows us to have really elegant motion.”
What do you get out of being part of FoldHaus?
“Contributing to the art of Burning Man, finally. And being part of an awesome crew. I’m also learning things — some technical things, some dealing with people things. I don’t always work with a big group, usually 2–3 person teams. There are some things to be learned from working with a bigger group….”
By day, when you’re not part of FoldHaus, who are you?
“I have a startup. We’re trying to make a new kind of robot, nominally for package delivery. It’s still not funded [editor’s note: Cameron is awesome. His startup is surely awesome too. And needs funding…!] To pay the bills, I generally do R&D work for robotics-y things, everything that involves connecting motors and sensors to computers. Projects include over the counter medical products; home solar lighting systems for families in developing countries; assistive devices for elder care; active suspension systems; custom sensor data injectors, collectors, and loggers.”
Thank you for reading!
If you’re curious to learn more about how we make our art happen, read about how we make the impossible possible on the IDEO blog. And, to hear more about what we’re up to, follow us on @foldhauscollective on Instagram.