from: "Wired", by Liat Clark
Bored of the standard printing process, artist Sam van Doorn has created STYN, a playfully chaotic design tool made from lithographic ink and a pinball machine.
The idea struck van Doorn while he was printing off a poster. “I realized the printer did exactly what I told it to,” van Doorn told Wired. “What would roll out of the printer would be predictable; every program and machine has its own aesthetic, which is easily forgotten when working as a graphic designer. Everything was too predictable, I wanted to be surprised.”
The prints are made on a poster that is placed under the pinball machine’s flippers. It has a grid printed on it outlining the field in which a 26mm ball, covered in ink used for lithography printing, will move. By playing the machine, the balls leave behind a trace of their path, creating an unpredictable pattern.
It took van Doorn hours of research to create the right ink mix to make sure the ball retained the ink for as long as possible, without making it too sticky to move.
“The challenge was to get the right paper and ink for the project, as well as the right rubbers to let the ball have a good bounce. The ball has to be able to move smoothly across the surface of the machine, to create a good game environment — the project wouldn’t be interesting if the machine wasn’t fun to play.
“If the ink was too thick, the ball would stick to the paper. But if the ink was to smooth, it would simply slide off the ball. The paper had to be smooth for the ball to create good patterns, but not too smooth so it would lose grip.”
After much trial and error, van Doorn was able to find a balance that allowed a single ball to be played with for hours and still leave a pattern. The resulting experience of play and print is an engrossing one.
“I underestimated the attraction of a pinball machine. Once people started playing they were dancing behind the machine to keep the ball in control, completely focusing on the game. Everybody wanted to play, not just for a print but for the fun of the game.”
Such is STYN’s design, that prints betray those players who struggle to keep the ball in play. Van Doorn was surprised to find the players to emerge with the best prints during the interactive exhibition were the 40 to 60-year-old men. “Man they could play that machine like I never could. After years of experience in pinball, damn they made that ball fly.”