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JAM: Joy's Art Machine - Design Meetup (Recap)

BackgroundThe JAM (Joy's Art Machine) is a machine that distributes art. This project was fully funded by the Alchemy community. We are on track to collect somewhere between 200-300 pieces of art to distribute, including works by Catlanta and Evereman. We are actively collecting works of art, so if you're interested in contributing, you can email Joy at

The JAM explores two of the 10 core Burning Man principles: Decommodification and Gifting. We express Gifting by distributing art through the machine. Gifting trees are a familiar sight at Burns, but suffer from accumulating trash or trinkets. By gifting art (a gift in itself) we create a sort of on-demand gifting tree. We express Decommodification by not allowing the JAM to accept money. Instead, art is distributed by the machine on a timer. The machine lights up, and you push a button to receive art.

If you're interested in learning more about the project or want to get involved, check out our Meetup calendar for the next meeting or build, or email me at

First off, thanks to everyone who attended!  We had an impressive attendance of both Freeside members and beyond, and there was much information exchanged and discussion.  Rob brought some pizza, and Joy and I brought some chocolate chip cookie dough hummus, spicy black bean hummus, and beer (of course!)

All apologies if I forget exactly who contributed what to the discussion!  Everyone had excellent ideas and really helped us commit to a workable design.

We spent a little time discussing a couple of key components of the project.  First, we discussed the housing itself.  Since we learned that the JAM won't be consumed in flames at the end of the event like we had planned, this meant we had to rethink the materials.  On the upside, this means that we have a lot more liberty to decorate and paint the walls of the JAM (no worries about fumes released from burning paint.)  Eventually, we settled on using 4x8ft sheets of lauan with some kind of frame backing it (somebody suggested using 3/4in steel square tubing).  Zach suggested that door hinges have been used on similar projects (like the Tardis) at past burns with good success, as it's just a matter of dropping the pins back in to secure two walls.  I'm following up with a few other folks via email to see if we can make a final design.

After much discussion related to the use of boxes, after some brainstorming we concluded that using a carousel-style design would be best, both in terms of loading the machine (cutting down on reloading frequency, due to more number of slots or "wedges") and in terms of being able to avoid using boxes altogether.  One of our members, Don suggested the carousel concept.  For art that was at risk of getting tangled in the machine (ex. felt or knit items) we would simply put them in a plastic bag.  The carousel would rotate and the slot would move over to an opening that would allow the art to drop out.

Since the base of the machine is 4x4ft, if we use something like a wheel with diameter of 3.8ft, then this works out to about 23-24 wedges (if the length of the carousel the wedge takes up is about 6in.)  If we maintain a dispense rate of about one wedge per hour, and slow it down in the early morning hours, we can probably look to reload the machine once per day, which is just about ideal for the Alchemy environment.
I spent some time tonight and added a few things to our Adafruit order: LED strips, Arduino, a big red LED button, power supply and connectors.  This should be enough to independently program the timer and button/lighting mechanism.
We're still not completely sure how exactly to drive the carousel, but we have enough to build a prototype that can be operated manually.  Kevin and Edward, who helped build the prototype for the Infinity Portal, threw their hat in to help construct the carousel.

Stay tuned for an announcement about the next meeting!


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