Things of Beauty- Curci

Bypassing Productivity Roadblocks with Technology

“I am a very skilled wood carver and sculptor. Give me a pocketknife or a hammer and a chisel and I can make just about anything. But if you give me a CNC mill and Mastercam, I can do it and make money. It’s like being able to work three shifts with one person—while the machine is cutting my designs (and working overtime for 16 to 24 hours) I can be designing something else.” Gregory Curci, Kinetic Sculptor, Boston, MA

Gregory Curci’s claim to artistic fame is kinetic sculpture (works of art that incorporate motion.) His body of work is impressive and much of it can be reviewed on the Curci Studio website

For a couple of decades, Curci produced his works of art entirely with manual tools. “My process typically starts in my sleep. I dream up an idea. I’m an older guy and an artist and things always begin on paper for me. I get some ideas, cut some cardboard, pound in a few nails, and string up a model of my concept. Then I go into fabrication.”

He was becoming frustrated because his mind was capable of dreaming up creative ideas much faster than he could make all the pieces required to implement them. So at the turn of the century, much to the amazement of his wife, he went out and spent $45,000 on a CNC (computer numerical control) milling machine for his studio. That expense was way out of proportion to the cost of his usual tools (e.g. a pocket knife and hammer & chisel) and there was a steep learning curve. However, that year he learned to program his mill manually and produced enough additional art to more than recover his investment.

Ten years later, the artist hit another productivity roadblock. Manual programming of his mill, particularly pieces of increasing complexity, was slowing him down. When he learned that Mastercam® CAD/CAM software could import Adobe Illustrator files to be used as the starting point for creating programs for his mill, he jumped in and purchased a seat of the software. This was another purchase way out of proportion with the usual artist tools. However, he once again experienced a leap in productivity comparable to the boost he got when he first started using his CNC mill.

Curci discovered that he could simulate the PC environment required for running Mastercam on his Mac using parallel software. He drags his Adobe Illustrator file from his Mac desktop into Mastercam running in parallels where he can begin generating programs for his CNC mill immediately. He said, “This process allows me to start manufacturing parts in short order. While they are running, I can be designing more parts to keep my project going. This approach transforms my mill into a non-salaried assistant and takes me to another level.”

He concluded, “Mastercam allows me access to complexity. Programming a CNC mill manually, you have to pay attention to every detail while programming. It’s time consuming and sometimes you compromise on your design to make it simpler to program. Now with Mastercam, it is so much easier to design exactly the part that I want and create CNC programs that will produce the pieces I need with great fidelity. For me it’s become another tool that I use in my studio with increasing familiarity just like I use my pocket knife.”

Kinetic Sculptor Gregory Curci at work using Mastercam on his Mac.

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