Final Project – Gem Portal

My final project for light art creates a mystical looking display on the ceiling that looks like a portal to a magical world. The viewer controls the display as they rotate a plate to change the colors and patterns being displayed

The original goal of this project was to have a ceiling display that was similar to looking through a kaleidoscope. The goal was to allow multiple viewers to see a display similar to a kaleidoscope to make a piece that is traditionally isolated to one viewer at a time into a more social piece. While the idea of having the display on a wall was played with, it was purposely kept to the ceiling to make the experience similar to stargazing.

Overall the original idea of this project was accomplished but, it had some changes made to better fit the goal experience and changes based on what the materials were able to do.

The display has multiple parts to it, a major one being the base it sits on. This base is made out of cardboard and foam. The foam part holds the light source of a flashlight in place underneath the cardboard part. There are markings on the foam to allow the cardboard part to be placed correctly on top of it. On top of the flash light is a big clear gem which helps create an effect described later in this post.

The cardboard part blocks the light from all but one part in order to focus it. It also serves as a holder for the dish of gems. To hold the dish in place as it is being rotated, small black gems were placed to center the dish each time it is placed on the base. The base was kept to look like a cardboard box as it makes the viewer feel as if they are opening this box that opens up a portal to an unknown world. It was also meant to contrast the elegant look of both the gems and the portal, making the viewer think about how something so boring looking can contain something more.

Another major part, if not the most important part, was the dish of gems. The dish is a standard petri dish, while the gems are 4.5mm  arcylic that were sorted out from a package of 10000.

An element of depth was created in the display through the interaction of the light when shining through multiple prisms. The big gem over the flash light starts this effect and reflects the light through the smaller gems. This depth made it seem like a portal someone could jump into, thus giving the project it’s name. The multiple prisms interacting a long with the slight angle of the base allowing for some gem movement created the kaleidoscope effect without the major use of gravity that an actual kaleidoscope uses.

Originally, the main effect of the rotation was going to be the pattern changing. However, I was given a dish that was divided into four sections which allowed for separation between the gems.

Since color can affect a person’s mood, I wanted to give the viewer the opportunity to control the mood of the room. To do this, I experimented with how the colors from the gems were displayed and then created different color pallets to fit moods.  Pink is a color that creates a playful mood while green creates a relaxing mood. The red based mixture is meant to create a warm environment while the blue based one does the opposite.

Red Based Mixture
Blue Based Mixture

Rotating the plate also creates an effect that looks like water moving while it mixes between the color mixtures to create an unknown mix.

Sorry for poor quality. Had to make the file smaller.

Overall, I am happy with how this projected turned out. The challenges I faced during this project were not ones I would have expected when I started. The major one being the issues with getting the materials as finding gems of this type is harder than I would have expected. If I had more time I would try to get more gem of different sizes and colors to play around with the prisms interacting. However, I am still happy with this project and will be keeping it around for more people to enjoy.

Polish & Present

Over the past week I have been working on improving three parts of my project.

The first part was improving the light that shines through the gems as the stand alone flashlight was leaving a big white spot in the middle. I bought a new light source to use as shown in the picture below. This light source did not work as hoped as instead of either staying as one color or at least shining one color at a time, this light shine the three colors in multiple patterns. While this light looked cool underneath the clear gems, it did not do well with the colored ones.

I decided to stay with the flash light as the light source but try to improve the light some how. This lead me to try putting various things in front of the light to defuse it. Through this, I found the effect of putting a bigger gem in front of the light gives one similar to a kaleidoscope without needed the gems to move around much.

The second part was creating a somewhat nice stand for the dish to sit and rotate on. I started by trying to design one that sat at an angle to make the gems move around more when rotating the dish. This caused problems as the dish was not as easy to rotate when at angle and would cause gems to either fall into the wrong section or spill out of the dish entirely. (You can find these gems all over the floor of my room now) Another problem with the stand being at an angle is the amount of light it lets through as it was hard to tell how much it was letting through.

I decided to make the stand with the dish only at a slight angle for multiple reasons. The slight angle allows for some gem movement to work like a kaleidoscope and combining it with the effect described previously gives a kaleidoscope effect to the projection without removing the norther lights style feeling.  Having it at a slight angle made it easier to control the amount of light that was getting through the cutout in the stand as the angle did not have to be factored in. It also made building the stand easier as I no longer had to cut metal wires as I was very bad at it. The new stand is made from cardboard which rests on top of foam to secure the flashlight in place.

The last part was creating the gem mixes. I had ordered bigger gems from amazon to mix up the mixes. However, the gems that I was sent were not what was advertised as they had metallic backs on them which makes them unusable for this project. There was not enough time to get new gems so I played around more with what I had. I tried to make mixes to fit different feelings. This required testing the mixes as I often put too much of a clear based color (clear, yellow diamond, light pink, light blue) into the mix, which let too much of the original light source color show.

The final mixes that are used in the main dish as shown below with some (bad) names that I gave them based on how they look in the dish and not how they look projected.  Playful Pink is a mixture of half salmon pink, and half dark pink that has the goal of making the viewer feel playful based on the pink colors it displays.  Fire is a mixture of yellow diamond, salmon pink, and red. This mixture is meant to make the viewer feel warm and passionate. Meadow is a mixture of yellow diamond, light blue, and green playing on the peaceful feeling of a meadow. The last one is Space which is a mixture of light blue, purple, and dark blue to create a cool environment for the viewer.

Everything (almost) Working

The past two weeks have been multiple failures and iterations of this project for me. My first failure was that I didn’t post the post for last week.

Last week I had two failures that set me back. The first one was that the broken gems did not have the same effect as the whole ones when shining light through them. This left me to find another thing to shine light through to get the effect I wanted. After searching online for a while, I was able to find smaller plastic gems that I could use. (The search term that got me to the product I needed was “wedding confetti” and I have no idea why.) My second failure of last week was with the shipment of the small gems as it got sent back the first time and did not get here until last Wednesday, making it hard to have a set up ready in time.

This week I made changes based on feedback. I made a test stand for the dish to be placed on so the light can shine up through it and sorted through all the gems to get different color mixes to play around with the mood they set. (I learned that it needs to be dark out to take pictures in my room cause there is too much light during the day.)

Temp stand with light

All dark pink gems


Various color mixes

I had a major failure this week that taught me to check the shipping location when ordering from amazon as the new light and bigger gems that I ordered shipped to my house instead of the school. I luckily will be able to get them this weekend but it does set my plan back a bit.

The next step I plan to do is create a stand that sets the dish at an angle so the gems move when rotated. I have not decided if it will shine the light up through the gems or down and off of a mirror.

If I have time, I would like to play around with having  patterns over the light coming from the gems to see what effects it creates.


For my Maquette, I held the pieces together to try to get them to project on to the ceiling. Unfortunately, this did not go as planned as the pieces did not pick up light as well as I had hoped. However, smashing them was very fun.

I did some other tests with the gems to figure out ways to get this project to work as shown in the pictures below. I put the pieces into a clear plastic bowl and shined light into it.

*Need to fix the pictures to be postable. Will edit to add*

I also tried an infinity mirror with light projecting through a gem and got a cool result as seen below.

My plan is continue experimenting with my first idea by trying different parts and seeing the results. If I figure out that the idea won’t work no matter the changes, my plan is to move to my second idea.

For parts, I do not know everything that I will need at this time. However, there are a few pieces I plan on getting to use and experiment with.

  • Petri dish to put pieces into (My roommate got them for me)
  • Glass pieces
  • Something to rotate the petri dish

Overall, my idea is very much trial and error as seen with this maquette. While my plan is to continue experimenting, I do have a plan for points I would like to reach over the next weeks.

  • Have something that changes colors when moved (4/12)
  • Have a set-up that allows for part to easily move (4/19)
  • Have set-up together in a portable system (4/26)

Concept Proposal

For my project, I have two concepts that I would possibly like to explore.

The first one I have been ceiling kaleidoscope because I have horrible at naming things. This was inspired by the colors that I will sometimes see on my wall because of little plastic gems that I have near my window.  At certain times of the day they cause the colors shown in the pictures below.


I am curious as to what would happen if multiple are mixed together, which got me thinking about the kaleidoscopes I would make as a kid and how they are limited to one viewer at a time. The idea I have is to make a kaleidoscope style projection on to a ceiling. This could be done by having a light source shine through the objects that would be on some rotating surface to change it like a kaleidoscope would.

The second one is similar to Chul-Hyun Ahn’s work. In his Forked series, he creates portals of infinity using a florescent light between mirrors.  The idea I have uses this concept but uses either a different type of light source or shining a light source through a gem type object. Using a candle as a light source between the mirrors is interesting to me as it might not only create a portal of fire but change over time. Shining the light source through a gem between the mirrors is also interesting as the gem itself refracts light.

Chul-Hyun Ahn

Chul-Hyun Ahn or 안철현 is a light artist from South Korea who is known for manipulating perspective with light and mirrors to create portals of infinite space.

Ahn is from Busan, South Korea, which is a coastal city marked on the map above. He went to Seoul to attend Chugye University for the Arts where he received a B.F.A. After college he moved to the U.S. to attend the Maryland Institute College of Art to get an M.F.A. Ahn is currently 47 years old and living in Baltimore, Maryland.

Space is the root of Ahn’s art even though he is labeled as a light artist. He started on the subject of space when he was a freshman in college. He became frustrated with the limitations that 2D mediums put on exploring space. Ahn got the label of light artist because of his use of light to show off space in his works. The goal of many of his works is to help the viewer by calming them, offering an escape, or helping them find something. Emptiness is a work of Ahn’s shown in the picture above, that he hopes helps viewers find something when looking at it. There is an infinite emptiness between the two lights that is filled with something even if it’s just air as it shows the space between the lights exists.

Ahn currently has multiple ongoing series. One of these is series is called the Forked Series and has at least 39 pieces in it. The pieces in this series are created by having two mirrors behind a light with a one way mirror on top. Changes to light position and the mirrors behind the light creates the multiple pieces in this series, a few of which are shown above. This series highlights some of Ahn’s techniques as it uses reflections to make the light bend in different ways to create an infinity.

Primary tools that Ahn uses to create his works are mirrors and LEDs to create infinite space. He does this by layering the mirrors in a certain way and shining light on them. Details in how the lights bend and what direction the light fades in are used to give a deeper sense of space. To put the pieces all together he uses various types of woods and concrete to hold it in place. Tunnel #7 shown above, is an example of Ahn’s work that uses concrete to hold the lights and mirrors together. He uses elements of repetition and gradients on some pieces to make them look like the outcome of a computer graphic. Using the fact that the amount of each reflection in a mirror get consistently dimmer. Ahn uses a computer program called 3Ds Max to first generate drawing, especially for bigger pieces. He then uses the outcome data to start working with real objects.

Scratching mirrors is another technique that Ahn uses. A series of his called the Mirror Drawing Series uses this technique. This series is done by drawing the design on the back surface of the mirror with a sharp tool. It makes it so light can come through the scratches to make infinite reflections when light is projected from behind the mirror. Pieces are shown above that highlight that this process creates a calming infinite space. Ahn hopes that people could spiritually travel through these calm infinite spaces to escape reality by looking and falling into the calm infinity.

Laurie Mazza – Introduction and Portfolio

Hi everyone! My name is Laurie Mazza and I am a senior who is double majoring in IMGD art and CS.  Art fits with my goals as I want to work as a technical artist one day.

My experience with art goes all the way back to high school as I took a heavy load of art courses through out all four years. I did primarily physical art in high school as shown in the pieces below.

Since starting at WPI my focus in art has shifted to digital to help me towards my goal of becoming a technical artist.  Below is various pieces of work from art classes I have taken such as 3D modeling, animation, and artistic game development.

My more recent work has focused on technical art which does not have much to show visually.  I am looking forward to stepping a bit away from technical art with this practicum.

Along with art, programming as been a major part of my career at WPI as I am CS major.  The most recent project I have worked on is my MQP which is a game called Konbini Konnection.  A picture of a character used in the game is shown below.

Outside of class work, I like to draw and listen to music as a way to relax. I also like to watch random shows on Netflix and Hulu.