R o c h e s t e r A r t i s a n s
Artist Interview: 10 Questions
1. What is your name and what is your business name? Where can we find you online?
2. How long have you been an artist and how did you get started?
I remember in kindergarten when we were asked to write down our dream job, and I wrote artist. I’ve always had my hands busy in some sort of creative endeavor. Years later and a PhD in chemistry, I realized I needed to do what I was most happy doing, so I left chemistry and transitioned to being a full time artist (kindergarten me knew best). I started selling jewelry when I was 14 and called the business Beadwork by Amanda. About 9 years ago, my brother was attempting to repair the family computer. He was unable to diagnose and fix the problem, but I was transfixed by the beauty and complexity of circuit boards, so I made a few jewelry pieces with them. Years later, many refinements, and some serious business changes, Circuit Breaker Labs emerged.
3. Explain a bit about your process, please.
I start with recycled circuit boards, with most of them coming from computers, calculators, telephones, cell phones, and other small electronics. I’ve been collecting them for nearly a decade, so I’ve amassed a really neat collection of colors encompassing the entire rainbow, plus gorgeous shades of turquoise, lime green, mint, and lavender. With a range of tools, I remove bulky items like heat sinks, PCI and memory slots, peripheral connectors, and extraneous wires. Then I cut and shape the board to fit the piece, clean off dust and trim the edges, then set them in bezels. It is a VERY messy process, so I use a dusk mask, goggles, face shield, gloves, dedicated clothes, and ventilation to protect myself. I use an epoxy resin to seal everything because it completely encapsulates the circuit board (no chance of a hazardous exposure) and it creates a neat lensing effect that magnifies the resin to create a really nice, polished look.
4. What’s the comment heard most about your art?
“What a neat idea,” and “Is that the real color?” are the most common comments. Most people have only seen green circuit boards, so seeing them in this context with a rainbow of colors often stops shoppers in their tracks to take a closer look.
5. What is one thing people find surprising about how your art is created?
A lot of people think I use glass to cover the circuit board and don’t know about the versatility of resin. I take great care to produce bubble-free resin, so it is mistaken for glass at times.
6. What’s the one tool you couldn’t live without, in creating your art?
Quite literally, I couldn’t produce my art without wire cutters, but the workhorse in my process is my Dremel tool. From cutting to grinding, it does a lot of the heavy lifting, which is a life saver because circuit board is such a tough material to work with.
7. How has your art changed over time?
I originally started by casting circuit board pieces with resin in a mold. Those first pieces were clunky and very simple. I still stick to a simple, contemporary aesthetic, but it’s much more refined. Recently, I’ve been playing with creating my own settings so that I can have a lot more design flexibility and produce one of a kind works.
8. What’s your favorite part about making your pieces? Least favorite?
I love picking out the circuit board. There are so many colors, designs, components, and patterns to look at. And as computing technologies have evolved, the components have gotten smaller, more intricate, and more interesting. My least favorite process is dealing with bubbles and dust that develop as the resin cures. When I check on a batch about 16 hours later, there are inevitably a few pieces that come out wonky and fixing them is tedious.
9. What’s your dream project?
I’d love to make a ridiculous collar piece- something large, detailed, and full of character. Most of what I make is production work, so venturing out into a “museum piece” would really test my skill and creativity.
10. Where is your art available for purchase?
Locally, my work is at the MAG and Little Button Craft & Press. I also exhibit at Clothesline Festival and Mayday! Underground. Online, you can find my work on my website and through Etsy and Amazon Handmade. I’m pretty stoked that my work is at a couple of really awesome science museums across the country, including the Exploratorium in San Francisco.