Playing Paper

Playing Paper was created for the Paper exhibition put on by Analogue Social. This exhibition show from the 9th April to 12th May at the Lighthouse, Glasgow. 

Eight designers were chosen to create a project using paper for this exhibition. The designers choosen were Kate Colin, Kerr Vernon, Kerry McLaughlin, Lisa Catterson, Alan Moore, Jemima Dansey Wright, David Ross, Craig McIntosh and myself, Mike Shorter.

I decided to propose an evolution of The Invite. In creating the Invite I learned a lot about how to screen print with Bare Conductive carbon based ink. I saw this project as an opportunity to deploy all the things I had learnt, from graphic limitations to ink dilution.

Playing Paper consisted of three artworks, with the aim of showing that paper electronics doesn’t have to be all circuit diagrams, but can be much for artistic. This was achieved by having the artworks display three different levels of circuit, one very technical and traditional, one with hand drawn components and the other with instruments drawn. When plugged into the mixer the three artwork were all turned into musical instruments, all creating the same sounds. Three printed buttons on the bottom of the page gave off different drum sounds when touched, and a distance sensor printed at the top changed pitch the closer you got to the ink.


To make the screen printing a much less stessfull the Bare Conductive paint was diluted with water (roughly 4 parts paint to 1 part water). This made the paint less sticky so it flowed better on the screen, and also slowed down the paint  drying in the screen.


With this new diluted version of the paint the printing became much easier and we were able to print out over 50 artworks with about 100ml of Bare Conductive. Last time when we printed with Bare Conductive we made the trace thickness 1pt in illustrator which made it far to easy to mess up printing if enough pressure wasn’t applied when printing let alone the paint drying in the screen. This time the traces were all 2pt which led to a 100% success rate!


I decided to print out a bunch of the artworks in a couple of different colours. I was planning on exploring how other colours would print on top of the Bare Conductive but forgot due to the excitement of the printing going much better than expected! They look pretty good as a collection.


I decided I wanted to output noise to be a bit more exciting than that of The invite, so i decided to add an MP3 Trigger to the electronics inside the mixer. This allowed the three buttons along the bottom to control drum samples. In doing this it also meant that the ‘theremin’ sound was a lot smoother. Playing Paper stilled used the bespoke bulldog clip that was used with the Invite. This method still remains the best way I have seen to connect paper to other devices.


The preview of the show at the Lighthouse was absolutely packed! Playing paper was in constant use as the grubbiness of the prints illustrated, two hours of being constantly touched by excited fingers…

Below is a quick little video of Playing Paper at the Lighthouse on the preview night. After the show is finished I plan to upload a video with real time sound…

Playing Paper from michael shorter on Vimeo.

2 thoughts on “Playing Paper”

  1. This is amazing!!
    I want to know how did you make the sound using the box.
    I am very curious what is inside the box and what I need to make.
    I also saw your work ‘party invites’.
    It was good as well.
    I am a student and interested in paper electronic.
    Could you please reply me.
    Thank you.

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