The Season of the Roundest Moon

It’s the month of the Harvest Moon – or in China Yifeng tells me they call it the Roundest Moon…and indeed it is a turning point in the year for my friends and collaborators on the Illuminated Forest which debuted on September 22 as part of the evening program at Champlain Maker Faire. There’s a shift in the season and a shift in mindset as we just pulled off something that was ridiculously challenging, rewarding and energizing. If we can do this, imagine what else we can do!

We had 16 powered installations in the woods next to the coach barn of Shelburne Farms. Artist and friend Holly who attended the event described it this way:

“I will never forget the magical experience that was Saturday evening thank you for all your work and vision.”

The work and vision she mentions here is shared by our determined event visionaries and facilitators Ken H. and Terry; adventurous Vermont artists and makers who participated; and generous anonymous donors who funded equipment purchases that allowed us to push our work to new levels. Additionally we had a great turn out of “early adopters” who came to the event for its first showing ever, even when they didn’t know what to expect.

Dancing Stars

Public installation premier,  1.0
Illuminated Forest
September 22, Shelburne Farms

I had the unique opportunity to tap the brain power of John C. in the collaboration that was the installation
Dancing Stars John describes his work on this project here where he also documented a test run we did at Generator.  And a few of his photos from the event are below.













Yifeng, Coco and Diane were central in getting the installation up on Saturday and creating its first time forest ambience!

Coco and Yifeng installing Dancing Stars. They are studio art majors from UVM.



















For those of you interested in the origin of the star shapes here are the original Dancing Star sketches which iterated the basic geometry of UVM’s Old Mill Tower ( an octagon and eight triangles)

Ken M. is o n a business trip so I made this video for him that explains how the installation came together (and in the daylight).



Calls from the Dark

Sound Installation

Three locations in the Illuminated Forest September 22, 2018

Illuminated Forest was also the debut of a sound series I started work on shortly after the Trump election called Calls from the Dark. In the last decade my work in sound came to focus on sounds that symbolize the origin of the human need for connection, non verbal calls that I think of as symbolic, essential and at the nascent beginning of our need to relate and connect with others, a longing for primal unity. This series includes calls of humans, animals and machines  that sometimes sound on their own and are sometimes combined.  For example the call of whale might be turned into midi (data) and then a fog horn sound will pass through it. Here are the three compositions that were debuted at Saturday’s Illuminated Forest:

Location 1

Location 2

Location 3



And I couldn’t end without saying how proud I am of the students in the UVM FabLab who created this majestical Kangaroo Carousel Zoetrope!

At the end of the night, Yifeng and I packed up all the non waterproof parts of installations and hopped in my Mini. Freezing cold and starving, I turned on the heat in my car for the first time since last spring. We satiated our hunger with jumbo chocolate cookies I had bought earlier in the day from Healthy Living.  As we drove out the winding path of Shelburne Farms our conversation went something like this: Chomp chomp chomp ‘That was fun!’ chomp chomp chomp… “when can we do that again?”


Professional photos from the whole forest will be available soon and I will be sure to share them with you. I’ll also make edits to this post as more details become available.

FYI if you still want more we documented visit  the Vermont Makers facebook page.

Here’s John’s post about the event


Welcome to Winter in Vermont

It’s the coldest and darkest time of year here in Vermont, a time for studio work, friends, family, reflection and renewal. Above is a celebration of the season’s sounds and snow – I love the softness of these snowy days! Below are two poems about the dark that were shared through a Dharma Seed podcast with Donald Rothberg on December 19, 2016. I find them very inspiring and so share them with you today. They are thoughtful reminders of  the light and color that can be found in the depths of dark, far from the bright glow of our mobile devices and the distractions of entertaining TV and computer screens.

Wendell Berry: “To Know the Dark”

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

Passage from Wishing Bone Cycle

All the warm nights sleep in moonlight
keep letting it go into you, do this all your life 
do this and you will shine outward in old age.
The moon will think that you are the moon.

It’s Piezoelectric!

logo shows cityscape of burlington and sound waves

“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”
— Henry Miller


The JuJuScope is a device that discovers hidden worlds of sounds in everyday environments.

The JuJuScope provides access to new ways of exploring, knowing and mapping a place. Unlike most other sound devices that tune out the surrounding environment, the JuJuScope provides a unique opportunity to tune into environments; explorations with the JuJuScope activate what resonates and blurs boundaries between natural and unnatural occurrences.

The following workshop is available:

Track sonic footprints and create an experiential sound map of obscured ambient noise inspired by John Cage’s experiments with everyday sound. In part one of this two-part workshop, participants make a simple electronic listening device by repurposing the ubiquitous and inexpensive contact microphones (piezos) found in old cellphones, computers, and other devices. In part two, participants discover hidden sounds and contribute to the creation of a unique sound map of Burlington.

Read more about this workshop in press clippings from 2015


Trends in Rapid Prototyping Tools + FabLabs

Thank you to the American Institute of Architects – Vermont for the invitation to speak at the recent ACX 2014 Architecture and Construction Expo. It was a fantastic and dynamic day of discussion!

It was long overdue to bring local architects into the conversation of “making” in Vermont and the conference served as the perfect opportunity to get the conversation started. I hope to see many of you again at the Neri Oxman talk this fall at UVMFollow this link for more information about the Neri Oxman event.

Here’s what we talked about on June 6 at ACX 2014:

Toy Hacking!

Thank you to the Vermont Department of Libraries for inviting Jenn to work with librarians from all over the state in July. We shared a Toy Hacking activity, a reverse engineering project that is accessible to many different ages and really fun. Expect to see similar workshops popping up at a library near you! Thanks to Jeff Branson and SparkFun Electronics for sponsoring the workshop with materials and Jeff’s extensive knowledge in electronics and tech education.
We’re taking our Toy Hacking workshop on the road – see you with Vermont Makers at these great events!

South End Art Hop

September 6-8, 2013
Champlain Maker Faire

September 28 & 29, 2013
Vermont Tech Jam

October 18 and 19, 2013

Memorial Auditorium, downtown Burlington
Vermont Afterschool Conference

Friday, October 25, 2013

Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa * Stowe, VT

Innovation on the Waterfront

We’d like to take this moment to advocate for five projects submitted to Burlington City’s Public Investment Action Plan (PIAP).

Battery Park-Waterfront Park Pedestrian Connection (1) and Signs of the Times (4) are highlighted in this Seven Days Newspaper Article – Check it out!

All images by Ken Mills

1. Battery Park-Waterfront Park Pedestrian Connection: Using Manhattan’s High-Line as inspiration, we envision a new pedestrian ramp/stairway/walkway connecting Battery Park Extension at Pearl Street and at Cherry Street as well as the north end of Battery Park to the existing pedestrian rail crossing located at Waterfront Park’s midpoint, halfway between The Echo Science Center and the Coast Guard Station.

2. Eco-Boardwalk: This project envisions a circular above-ground boardwalk that transverses the wetland and natural preserve while protecting its integrity; Seating decks along the waterfront allow for relaxation, contemplation, or simple viewing of the dramatic Lake Champlain while protecting the shoreline from human activity. Signs along the trail inform (perhaps interactively via a smartapp) the visitor of the geological, ecological, historical, and cultural significance of the area.

3. Moran Vertical Park: Green roofs are often an intriguing but abstract conception, because rarely are the sites accessible by any of the public and most importantly, they cannot be seen from the ground level. Our proposal seeks to directly link a series of overlapping green roofs with the bike and walking paths, and to create a series of businesses, performance space, and workshop space located within the re-interpreted structure.

4. Signs of the Times: The entire Burlington waterfront is the site for a broad range of interests, ideas, history, business, and interpretation. Creating a smartphone / tablet application that delves into all of these, and allows for a series of links that allows anyone to explore in great depth any applicable topic related to the waterfront, can become a model for urban areas across the country.

5. The Electric Works: The reclamation of the post-industrial waterfront Moran facility, with its high ceilings, concrete floor, and conceptual ties to this new use, is ideal for maker activities. It gives makers of all stripe the physical space, the use of a common pool of expensive tools, the flexibility of terms and space, and the ability to make noise and spectacle without incurring neighbor complaint, all on a relatively low budget.

Connectivity Lab Live at Malmö University, Sweden

In December 2012 IBM Chief Scientist John Cohn and I participated remotely in Connectivity Lab Live at Malmö University in Sweden. It was a great opportunity to introduce Vermont Makers, swap stories about the maker movement and share our explorations arts, science and technology. To learn more see the links and video documentation below.


Connectivity Lab Website

BM Chief Scientist John Cohn and artist Jenn Karson speak at Connectivity Lab Live, Malmö University, Sweden


An office intercom still works, its switches clearly labeled North Corr., Bubble Office, Dining Room, Kitchen, Ground Activity, etc. We flick its switches and listen to the rooms, each one echoes a unique memory and its own sound, each room sounding a distinctive blend of overtones and textures. The slow damp decay of the building’s structure holds all this. This sound piece begins to imagine the release.



When and Where:

A sound installation at:

Art Installation and Closure Ceremony

Saturday, October 27, 2012
Sunday, October 28, 2012

Photographs of the hospital that were included in the exhibition 

Read more in this VT Digger article 


This sound composition is created from recordings made in Dale and Brooks on October 19, 2012 – just over a year after the hospital was evacuated due to floodwater damage from Tropical Storm Irene. The Vermont State Hospital was officially closed on October 20, 2011.

The building’s mechanics dominate its inner soundscape with churning, humming and buzzing that echoes in its empty hallways and rooms. Outside and heard through open windows, the area is circled by sounds of traffic, birds, the Vermonter train and the river. On this day it is raining.

An office intercom still works, its switches clearly labeled North Corr., Bubble Office, Dining Room, Kitchen, Ground Activity, etc. We flick its switches and listen to the rooms, each one echoes a unique memory and its own sound, each room sounding a distinctive blend of overtones and textures. The slow damp decay of the building’s structure holds all this. This sound piece begins to imagine the release.

Lighting by Jeffrey Salzberg

Thank you to Tom Stevens and Kevin Rogers.


The Vermont State Hospital in its early days.

Construction for the Vermont State Asylum for the Insane began in 1891. It was expanded and modernized through the early 1960s. 1963 – 2011 is considered a period of deinstitutionalization for the campus.  The hospital was evacuated due to floodwater damage from Tropical Storm Irene in the fall of 2011. For more information about the history of Asylums in the U.S and around the world:

Read more in this VT Digger article 

Installation Experience:

The Installation RELEASED is projected through two sets of speakers, one set is inside the blue room listening area, the other set outside and directed toward the open sky. As you listen to the composition in the contained space of the blue room, at the same time it is released out into the open air.


Listen to RELEASED.

Released. Waterbury, Vermont 2012
Looking into the blue-lit room from outside the hospital. The installation sounded inside the blue room and was also “released” into the open air from speakers on the roof of the building.

Upcoming Presentations, Exhibitions and Installations

It’s a busy fall! Coming off of Champlain Maker Faire and the recent “ZAPPPP! A High Voltage Vermont Makers Meetup,” we are still in full swing this fall. Please join us![sws_divider_basic]

Tech Expo: Vermont Tech Jam
Presenting With: Vermont Makers
Our Contribution: Weather Balloon demo with the Internet of Things and Max/MSP
Where: Champlain Mill, Winooski Vermont
Friday, September 26, 2012
More Information:[sws_divider_basic]

Installation: Going to Waterbury: An Art Installation and Closure Ceremony
Our Contribution: Onsite Sound Installation
Where: Vermont State Complex, 4 South, Waterbury, Vermont
When: Saturday, September 27 + 28, 2012
More Information: Facebook Event Page[sws_divider_basic]

Conference: Pushing the Envelope: Innovation and the Future of Museums
New England Museum Association Conference
Our Contribution: “Presenting Art in Unconventional Space” A Panel discussion organized by Margaret Tamulonis, with Ken Mills and others
Where: Sheraton Burlington 870 Williston Road
When: Thursday, November 8, 11:00 am – 12:30 pm
More Information: Conference information[sws_divider_basic]

Exhibition: Audible Observations: Ethonographic Terminalia 2012
Our Contribution: Sound scores and recordings from “Power and Ground”
Where: SOMArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan Street, San Francisco CA
When: November 16 – 20, 2012
More Information: Site for the Ethnographic Terminalia Collective[sws_divider_basic]

Vermont Makers Late Fall Programming 2012:[sws_divider_basic]

Program or Be Programmed Douglas Rushkoff
Thursday November 1, 6pm
Miller Center, Champlain College
More Information[sws_divider_basic]

You are Not a Gadget,  Jaron Lanier
Thursday December 6, 6pm
Miller Center, Champlain College
More Information[sws_divider_basic]