Thanks to everyone who responded to the thermoform landscape image. The primary response was that it needs to be accompanied with a verbal description! I hear you and I promise to make descriptions available with all subsequent images from now on. Scroll to the bottom of this post for a verbal description. Enjoy!
I received a number of thoughtful comments and started some interesting conversations.
This from Jim Ballard, a fellow stone sculptor, who creates tactile paper embossments.
I showed your landscape design to friends of mine who are blind or visually impaired but I modified parts of the surface before doing so. Both front and back were modified. The brown strip seen in the photo below is a sprayed on section from a sandstone texture spray can, the section to the left is untouched , the strip at the far left is a “plastic dip” spray from a spray can. It has a rubbery feeling.
Three people liked the untouched plastic just as you sent it and three liked the slightly gritty sandstone texture best and everyone ranked the Plastic Dip spray area third. Some thought that a combination of the natural plastic surface with select sections altered with the sandstone texture would work better than only a single surface. They wanted to feel a contrast of textures like having leaves with a gritty surface and the rest of a tree left in the natural plastic surface. I haven’t found a paper-like texture that I can apply over the plastic.
So, this small sample shows the natural plastic surface is acceptable to the adults I had feel it. Maybe children would have a different experience if given these same choices.
I like to have my final results in paper rather than plastic. I learned from Carolyn Meyer, a braille transcriptionist and director of the Louis Braille School, a school that
taught children braille using many different teaching aids, that children most often preferred touching embossments made of paper rather than plastic. Some children
refused to touch the plastic because it irritated their fingers. I know that the standard for book illustrations is the Thermoform sheets which makes practical and economic
sense. But, in my experience, paper is the preferred material if a user is given a choice.
Could you do me a favor and show the paper embossments to the children (or adults) who you teach? I’m curious about what they will say to touching the paper embossments because most embossments they have experienced are made of plastic.
I will gladly show these images to students who are coming to the Colorado Center for the Blind to work with a scientist from the Carson Nature Center who is coming in to talk about birding. Perfect opportunity.
I learned from one of my students that if you use cornstarch it allows your hands to move smoothly over plastic. I like the feel of that and use it on warm days frequently. Ann
Lana Van Horn, is a fantastic embroidery artist, whom I had the privilege of working with in a class for a number of years.
I have been enjoying the landscape you sent and have a few observations.
The mountains were wonderful. The sun looked like a moon, though. I think most of us have heard of the concept of a sunburst so that thin lines representing rays extending even just a fraction from the disk would better represent that big bright ball in the sky.
The ridgeline threw me until I reviewed the audio presentation describing the piece. Then it made perfect sense. The thing is, I had never encountered the subject depicted before. It is amazing the basic little things we must learn.
I loved the trees and the way they were shown on the slope such that some were below the line of the hill and some rose above it. I am surprised, though, that none of the trees overlapped one another. It would have been truly confusing, just a jumble of bumps, if they had been overlapped too much, but a few distinct individual trees with one or two overlapping with their trunks and tops showing distinctly might have worked. Also, I was surprised at how skinny they were. I suppose that goes to the kind of trees they were. It was good, though, that they weren’t all the same size or on the same level.
Some of the shapes to the right of the trees were a little confusing. I gather they were hills, but they were below the level of the treetops. Did that mean they were at a distance off to the right? Or did I misidentify what they were entirely? There was one straight line that was especially confusing. It looked like the ridgeline but wasn’t in alignment with it. Was it a different ridge? Why was it located lower than the trees?
I found the path easy to follow and could trace the almost U-turn at the far right.
A fun piece. I am enjoying it. Let’s have some more.
Colin Antwis, from UK wrote:
Morning. Thanks for your landscape received this am. Thermaform I think. I have tended to use swell paper that is easily and quickly(and cheaply), reproduced. Always supplied a large print/braille/audio guide/description, guiding the reader across the paper, which has a cut out corner top rhs. Like me with an ordnance survey map of a new area, I too need time to assimilate the information. Time must be given to the reader of our tactile illustrations to understand the layout and orientation.
Think I agree that trying to include perspective could confuse more that clarify. I am trying out tactile pictures by using a paint material that adds a textured surface on which is painted colours for those with some residual sight. Near and far shown by the thickness of lines.
I find over here that illustrations and maps do not feature high on VI’s agenda. Even colleges didn’t seem to focus on them. So we have an uphill struggle getting acceptance as 1) a need 2) benefit 3) how to use. Although I have sold several of my tactile bird images and other subjects(guide dogs), pictures are seen as a bit of a “luxury” item rather than a necessity with benefits on offer.
Fieldsman Trails www.fieldsmantrails.com.
David New, a new artist friend of mine writes:
I thought it was spectacular! This process can be used in so many applications. Perhaps we can talk in Orlando? That’s right, I think
I‘m coming up for the NFB convention. I can bring one of my smaller sculptures for you to see as well.
Dawn Wilkinson, educator par excellant responded,
Being someone who has never had vision, and although I consider myself to be pretty good with tactile graphics, I personally find art to be very difficult. Actually, I would find absolutely ANY tactile graphic impossible to figure out without some kind of description accompanying it. Part of what makes a student a “good tactile graphic reader” is that he/she takes the time to obtain any and all information provided before ever really attempting to decode the graphic. A description, whether it be braille or audio, is a must. I know this sounds contradictory to the purpose of a picture, as pictures take the place of words. Although this is true visually, 99.9% of the time, this would not hold true for a tactile reader. If you gave me, let’s say, a page with nothing but the outline of a heart on it, I would know it was a heart. But, if you gave me a page with a round circle on it, it could be just a circle, but it could be a ball or a ring. Without context, tactile graphics just don’t mean much; unless they are so obvious like the Tactile Treasures series from APH. Where they take real objects and thermoform them—pretzels, beads, etc. Those are absolutely obvious, as long as a child has actually seen a pretzel or crayon before.
I think having this raised depiction is awesome, as long as you have something like the video with Josh to watch along with it. I think having the tactile drawing is imperative to provide someone who is blind some way of having accessible art. But, without an accompanying description, I just couldn’t begin to have any concept of what this is, no matter how good the art is; and I know it is. I’m just saying that, as a blind person, I couldn’t even tell you which part of the page is the top with certainty. That’s absolutely no reflection on the quality or expertise behind the drawing; it’s just a fact of tactually not being able to discern any of the details that are obvious to anyone with vision. A map would mean absolutely nothing without a key. A bar graph would mean nothing without the labels. And even a coloring page of a turtle needs to have a label that says “turtle.” I’m wondering if you would consider adding a page of description to accompany the drawings so that someone with no background at all could easily enjoy the tactile artwork? Would it be possible to put a short title at the top to help orient the page?
I know that Josh had vision until age four. I have no idea how much of this he would have been able to figure out without having some background information ahead of time. My guess is that having vision during those early years certainly offers a solid foundation that someone who is congenitally blind absolutely does not have. Actually, that’s not a guess as it is well documented in the research. That is not to say we can’t be taught, because I believe we have missed out over the years with that assumption. Thank goodness for the research done by Kennedy, right? Getting rid of the misguided theory that blind people cannot understand art is where you shine, and I am so grateful that you have done so much to teach these skills. But, I would encourage you to include descriptions if you possibly can.
I hope you can understand where I am coming from. I have your book Sadie Can Count sitting right here, and it makes perfect sense to me. But, again, there is text which brings the pictures to life for the braille reader.
I really hope this makes sense. Thank you so much for sending this to me. I know how much thought and time these take, and it is much appreciated. So, in order to make sure I get it right, I am going to go listen to Josh’s interview again.
I think the picture itself is very thought provoking and leaves the observer with the message of a nice peaceful feeling.
Brian Jernigan, who teaches 3D printing in public school added:
I appreciate your gift. My 2 and 4 year old boys immediately took it from me and painted it before I knew what was going on.
The following is the promised description:
Position the image so that the circular shape is in the upper left hand corner with the circle projecting out towards you. This is the front of the image with the sun in the sky. That is the sun or moon, your choice.
Starting at the bottom of the image, in the foreground, there is a strip of grass that runs beside the smooth path that starts at the left hand side of the page and runs to the right. As it crests the hillside, near the right hand side, you will feel it drop back to the next hillside where the path will turn back to the left. You can follow the path up the page as it recedes into the foothills. The path disappears behind a hill when it turns back to the right. It is very small at this point. You can tell it is crossing large gentle foothills.
A mountain range runs across the entire picture in an extremely rugged line describing the peaks. This is These mountains are positioned above the hills and below the sun in the sky.
If you go back to the bottom of the picture, in the foreground, you will find a row of tall, narrow trees that start at the path on the left hand side of the image and run up over the hillside to the right. There are seven trees, the sixth is near the crest of the hill and the seventh is on the other side of the hill. The trees near the ridgeline extend above the hill they are planted on.
I think I could have done a better job of this if I had gradually eliminated detail and the amount of relief of the trees the same way I diminished details and thickness in the receding hills.
At the very top of the image on the right hand side you can feel a few wispy clouds.
OK, now it is your turn to chime in, post comments below!