in the news (129)

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december 2016 | by jason piper

I have recently joined the team here at Sea Reach and it has been an exciting adventure already! There are many different creative projects happening on a daily basis and it’s awesome to work with such a talented group.

Shortly after I was hired, Sea Reach purchased a CnC router to expand capabilities and have tighter control of the manufacturing process. Thankfully, I have a lot of experience operating this particular piece of equipment—I ran it for the past 5 years at my old job.

We set up the 5’ x 10’ CnC router table in our new space just down the street from our main office (which now also houses a full wood shop). We installed all the appropriate electrical outlets and muscled the hefty machine into place. I got everything connected and the computer communicating with the CnC control box and router again.

I had the CnC dialed in just in time to start production on a big project: a visitor center for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. I have worked on this CnC a lot, but I’ve mostly cut different types of wood, so this project was particularly interesting and fun because I cut different types of acrylic.

In the end, I cut out 36 sheets of material:
3 sheets of brown cast acrylic to make 38 wood ants
8 sheets of OSB for foliage and canopies that we then sanded, sprayed, and faux painted
25 sheets of clear cast acrylic that had tree canopy graphics laminated in our print studio.

It was a fantastic first run with the CnC in the new shop and I am looking forward to learning more about how to use the machine to cut all the unique signs that we design here at Sea Reach and also see what other creative outlets are possible. Stoked to be a part of the Sea Reach team!

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december 2016 | by jacob cordova-krahn

One thing that I enjoy about working at Sea Reach is getting the opportunity to explore a multitude of illustration styles. Tight and controlled, you ask? Sure thing. Or perhaps we want to see a more loose and expressive representation? I’m on it. Whatever it may be, I enjoy the challenge of adapting to new styles, which keeps things fresh around here!

An example of this can be seen in a recent project that I worked on. For the River Ridge trail in Tualatin, Oregon I thought it would be interesting to showcase two different styles... in the same panel! I got to experiment with digital watercolor layered over a pencil sketch, which offered an almost painted look. This was juxtaposed with a cleaner and refined style in the sidebar, offering a peak into another world. I enjoyed mixing the styles and hope to do some more experimentation in the future.

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december 2016 | by alex ogle

Peter and I recently trekked out to the Abraham Lincoln National Park in Hodgenville, Kentucky to check-in on one of our recent projects. This installation is particularly exciting because it engages the visual, auditory, and tactile senses. That’s because this exhibit is intended for the seeing-impaired. More importantly, this project is intended to set a new standard for how the National Park Service offers experiences that are as accessible as possible.

With a 3D printed braille panel from Stratasys, visitors are able to gather information about the trails without needing to see. In addition, the exhibit has buttons that activate an audio message about the conditions of the trail. The best part is that the audio unit recharges via a solar panel installed on the back.

Besides making a few final changes to the exhibit, we were able to enjoy something Kentucky is well known for: juices from fermented grain mash! We traveled to a nearby distillery and learned how whiskey gets made in Kentucky. But what good is knowing how something is made unless you can apply that knowledge? No worries folks, we made sure to apply that knowledge by doing some sampling!

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november 2016 | by kathy hocker

You are hungry. The scent of fresh salmon saturates the air, pulls you down the riverbank. There are many humans standing in the river, lined up and waving thin sticks in the air—but you’ve learned not to fear them; you just walk on by.

The salmon here are fast and strong—hard to catch. But just downstream, three fat fish lie dead, gleaming in the shallows. The nearest human is far away, across the river—so you take a chance. The human shouts as you move in and pick up a fish. To your surprise, the other two fish come along as well—they’re tied together! Dragging your prize into the bushes, you ignore the shouting humans; you’ve learned not to fear them. In fact, you’ve now learned that humans provide food: you just need to watch for them to leave their fish and walk away.

Later this summer, you will startle a human into dropping a backpack, and inside it you will find delicious things. Next summer, you will teach your cub to take fish and food from humans.

The summer after that, you will be shot.

Each summer, tens of thousands of people descend on a tiny stretch of Alaska’s Russian River to fish for red (sockeye) salmon. The anglers create fish waste (filleted carcasses), which attracts bears.

The US Forest Service, which manages the site, has issued special orders to help reduce fish waste and protect people and bears. But it can be hard to get those rules across to anglers. Eager to get to the river NOW, they tend to rush past the regulation posting boards. The messages are lost, and the dangerous cycle of "feeding" the bears continues.

Sea Reach’s task at the Russian River is to help create interpretation that "fish blinders" can’t filter out—to deliver those critical messages so all visitors arrive at the river prepared. It’s challenge! But it’s a task that will help keep people—and bears—safer.

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november 2016 | by linda repplinger

Eugene, Oregon recently replaced an outgrown middle school with a brand new facility. The old Roosevelt Middle school—a rambling single-level building, originating in the 1950s—was adapted over several decades as population and needs expanded. Sea Reach was challenged to create commemorative exhibits of the old school to be placed in the new school.

As part of these exhibits, we retrofitted the old school’s lockers as snapshots in time: 1950s, 1970s, 1990s, 2010s. We started off with cleaning out our attics and closets, which produced a lot of items from the 90s and a few from the 70s: walkmans, cassette tapes, floppy disks, and a troll doll. One of our teammates brought in a stack of funny illustrated short stories and old school papers. Homework assignments were downloaded from the internet and passed around the office to be completed (stuff we learned and possibly forgot a long time ago!). The rest of the items were hunted down on eBay. We focused on subjects that could be compared to each other, such as a slide rule, calculator, graphic calculator, and an iPad.

After everything was collected, it needed to be artistically crammed into the 5" deep retrofitted lockers behind a piece of acrylic. It required a two-person team and a bit of flexibility to tuck in papers, trapper keepers, and a skateboard (which had already taken a quick run down the new school hallway), and other memorabilia. It was all placed behind a clear sheet of acrylic.

With the locker doors closed and primed with surprises, the exhibits stood ready for students to discover as they explore their new school and remember the old one.

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october 2016 | by leia reedijk

We knew some of the sites along the Rock Creek Trail in Hillsboro, Oregon could pose challenging for our installation of wayfinding signage. The area floods regularly and the trail is completely under water for parts of the year. Because of that, I was anxious to get all our 51 signs in before Oregon’s notorious rain started and the sites became inaccessible.

I woke up the morning of our install to find that the forecast predicted a 99% chance of rain. Oh boy... We went out into the field, hoping the meteorologists were very wrong.

There are always challenges on an install. Maybe you discover there is a sewer main exactly where the client wanted a sign, or your adhesive suddenly won’t adhere. After a few installs, you quickly learn there is a solution to every problem. For this installation, there were plenty of challenges.

First, it started to rain. Then, the truck started having problems. Then, we realized we didn’t have a tool we needed. And then, it started really raining hard. That’s when it started to feel like the universe was plotting against us—and the install was never going to be finished! It is at these critical moments when the team has to persevere and rely on each other (because, of course, the install has to get finished).

That’s what we did. We moved methodically and took one site at a time. The rain pelted down, but we focused on the hole we were digging, the sign we were leveling, the batch of concrete we were mixing. Our clothes were soaked through, but every team member knew their task so we could work as efficiently as possible. By the end of the third day, our boots were full of water. We were all happy to be done—and we finished in half the time I had expected.

Three days later, I returned to the first site to take some photos. It had all turned out well. The signs looked great and I knew the client would be happy. The sunlight was streaming through the trees and the sky was clear. I wished we had postponed our install. Just as the thought ran through my head, I rounded a bend in the trail to find a small lake where the path should be. Three of our signs were already partly submerged. It seems we installed just in time.

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october 2016 | by melissa boettcher

In the past few months we have been working on concepts for a visitor center in Texas. One of the concepts was to show leaf cutter ants climbing up the wall to a tree canopy and collecting leaves. The kick is: the ants increase in size from actual to giant.

We will now explore taking a concept into reality. In this case we will take a picture of a leaf cutter ant and turn it into a 3d object of an ant.

A few things need to be considered when taking an idea into reality:
How realistic do we want the ants to look?
How easy it is to put multiple copies together in multiple sizes? Will it be sent out or are we building these ants in-house?
What kind of materials should we use?

After some research we decided to move forward with our own version of a balsa wood ant. Looking at several photographs of a leaf cutter ant at various angles (top, side, underneath, front facing) we broke down the single planes of one ant. Using the "balsa wood dinosaur" concept we rebuilt the ant using the crossing planes, forming a new 3d ant. Prototypes were built to discover areas of issue in connection of the planes and to see the overall look in comparison with the real ant. After we completed the final design, we were ready to fabricate.

The ants were built in house, in four different sizes, from small to large. We used the design to cut the pieces out of acrylic using a CNC router table. Every piece, 25 pieces per ant, had to be assembled and glued together. We ended up with 38 ants in total. How many pieces was that in total? You do the math!

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september 2016 | by alex ogle

Pew pew! Guess what’s new: we’re firing our lasers over here at Sea Reach. Peter recently got a 5.5W laser engraver, and I had the pleasure of putting it together and testing it out. Curious about the strength of the laser, I ran a few calculations and discovered that if you were to look directly at the laser beam it is a little more than 2 trillion times worse than looking directly at the sun (yikes!) So first things first: no one gets near this without safety goggles!

Besides having to MacGyver a few of the electrical connections to the motors (our kit came with the wrong connectors), the mechanical and electrical build of the engraver went smoothly. Calibration is where the fun and the challenge lies. To determine their suitability for engraving, we ran tests on the variety of materials that Sea Reach has in its shop, including wood, plastic, painted aluminum plates, and even clear acrylic.

With our safety goggles and a little tinkering, we’re now able to etch our designs into whatever can be burnt…experiment #1: Cory’s lunch. Now no one will eat Cory’s carrots!

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august 2016 | by cory schott | show project

It’s the hottest day of the year, but I’m shivering. I’ve just emerged from the Yamhill River, wet and muddy. As I stand in the sun trying to warm up, I spot two bleached ribs from a deer slowly dissolving in the slightly alkaline water. I was told they would be there. However, as my eyes scan the 3 inches of water I see a familiar shape. It’s also a bone, sort of like the shape the makers of dog treats try to make their products, but it’s one that is thousands of years old.

We get to meet all sorts of interesting people in the course of our work. For over a decade, Sea Reach has worked with the City of Tualatin, Oregon to plan, design, and fabricate exhibits that interpret the area’s Ice Age past. During this time we’ve teamed up with a number of experts to ensure that our materials incorporate the latest research and are historically and scientifically accurate.

One such expert that we’ve relied upon is Mike Full, Willamette Valley Pleistocene Project Founder. When our most recent project (Tualatin ArtWalk Extension) wrapped up, Mike graciously offered to take Linda (our senior designer) and myself on a fossil-hunting expedition along the Yamhill River.

It was there—only a few miles from my house—that I found a metacarpal of a Bison antiquus calf. The bison antiquus, the ancestor of the bison, was massive, weighing around 3500 pounds when fully grown.

We found several other fossils that day, including ivory, part of a mastodon or mammoth jaw, and a piece of a skull (not sure of what yet!). Each piece we found became part of the Willamette Valley Pleistocene Project’s collection. GPS coordinates, extensive photo documentation of the fossil in situ, and other metadata was collected before we took it out. When the fossils are stabilized, Mike and his team will follow-up the field identification with a more thorough evaluation.

It was an experience of a lifetime and I know both Linda and I are excited to try it again!

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july 2016 | by kent puntenney

By now most of us have heard about how creative people are "right brain" and logic loving people are "left brain". Recently, though, scientists from the University of Utah studied 1,000 participants’ brains in 7,000 different activities. Surprisingly, the study found no evidence supporting the idea that people preferentially use one side of the brain more than another. Both sides of the brain are equally engaged.

Are left or right brain exercises worthless? Not so.

In a 2012 study published by the American Psychological Association, German scientists found that athletes were less likely to choke under pressure by clenching a ball in their left hand before a race. Their theory was that by clenching the left hand, the right brain became more active and allows the athletes to trust in their trained muscle memory.

This has broader implications. It is thought that the elderly sometimes fall because they are overly focused on maintaining their balance. By clenching their left fist and engaging their right brain, the elderly may find improvement in walking and climbing stairs.

So what does this have to do with an interpretive design and fabrication company?

If, as the above research suggests, the two sides of the brain are different, but equally important, it suggests that the best interpretive materials might be ones that, like clenching the left fist, boost the activity of the opposite hemisphere and enable the brain to engage more fully in the experience.

What would that look like? An exhibit mounted sideways so viewers have to lean to the left to read it? A patterned border that engages the spatial skills of the right brain in support of the left brain’s understanding of the written message? We don’t know, but we’re fascinated to think about how this brain-research frontier can apply to our work.

And maybe some of us will be squeezing rubber balls in one hand or another when faced with a challenging task!

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