The Loveland Public Library has strings of hearts along the windows of the iExplore and iCreate computer lab upstairs and soon will have more hearts downstairs — but first community members need to make them.
The library encourages the community to stop by the iCreate Lab to make hearts through the end of the month for “How Much Do You Love Loveland?,” a community art project that juxtaposes traditional art and technology.
They can choose to paint ready-made 3D and carved wooden hearts or custom design and make their own using the lab’s maker equipment. The hearts are in the fashion of candy hearts with clever sayings and are part of the lab’s first large in-house display.
“We really wanted to keep up with idea of community art projects with maker equipment, and we have these amazing machines that have the capacity to unleash people’s creativity,” said Erik Rock, technology and innovation lead in the library’s information technology department. “We wanted to put them on display and let people know we have these.”
Print a heart
The iCreate Lab houses one of the library’s three LulzBot 3D printers called the LulzBot Mini. A second one is behind the staff desk in the iExplore Lab for large-scale projects and a third one is being set up in the teen area. The printers, made by Loveland-based Aleph Objects Inc., use a polyester-based 3D printing plastic that comes in rolls and is melted and transformed into the image or design.
Within the next month, the computer lab will receive two new 3D printers allowing for outreach and doubling its large print capacity.
The lab also has an Inventables Carvey tabletop 3D carving machine, in use for about eight months. The machine is a computer numerical control, or CNC, router that uses drill bits to carve into wood, plastic and acrylic, working off designs created with cloud-based software called Easel.
Using Carvey is simple, involving clamping down the material, making the design on Easel and hitting “carve,” Rock said.
“It’s like CAD (computer-aided design) but easy to use,” Rock said. “If you can hold a mouse, or drag and drop with your finger, you can design with this computer.”
Try out 3D printing
The community art project encourages community members to try out the 3D printer and carving machine, while also engaging in art, Rock said. They learn how to use the software and equipment, hopefully encouraged to return to make other things, he said.
“We wanted folks from all over to come in, use the technology to write messages of love, kindness and joy, and leave them on display, so other people can see them,” Rock said, adding that the messages also are about “why do we love our town, why do we love our library, and things like that.”
If they make their own hearts using the equipment, they can expect to spend a few minutes to a half-hour or even longer, depending on the size of the heart and the design involved.
Daryl Braden and his son, Leonard, both of Loveland, tried out the 3D printer on Feb. 5 after reading about the project.
“It’s a little different than a regular printer, that’s for sure,” Daryl said. “It melts the plastic as it goes in and makes whatever you program into it look like the different designs.”
Community members can make their custom and premade hearts and leave them at the library or take them home to do additional artwork. They can paint on them with paint markers or metallic pens that they own or use the supplies at a table set up in front of the iExplore Lab. After Feb. 28, they can keep their hearts or donate them to the library for future displays.
How many hearts?
By the fifth day of the project Feb. 5, 56 community members had made the hearts, which hung clothesline style at the top of the windows looking into the iExplore and iCreate labs. The hope is there will be 150 by the end of the project.
Four-year-old Lincoln Drohman colored one of the hearts and started to write his name, but didn’t quite finish, said his mother, Stephanie, of Loveland.
“I really like to do this,” Lincoln said. “This is so cool.”
Stephanie brings Lincoln to the library every week and after getting some books Feb. 5 decided to try out the activity with him.
“It’s fun to get involved in community things, and we’re pretty lucky where we live,” Stephanie said.
Jacob Alexander, 8, of Loveland, came with his mother, Heather, and wrote “Mom and Dad” and “xoxo” on his heart.
“It sounded interesting, and I just wanted to hang it up to be with my family,” Jacob said. “It’s fun to be with other people and to be included with others.”
Library director Diane Lapierre plans to make a heart as soon as she comes up with something creative to say, she said.
“It’s a great way to celebrate what makes Loveland special … and it’s a great way to introduce people to the technology offerings that we have that they may not be aware of,” Lapierre said. “We are a creative community, and we really believe one of our roles in the library is to encourage people to explore their creative sides and to bring people together in a shared experience. This is a great way to build community and to spark creativity.”
Examples of hearts
The hearts are pink, red, yellow, green, blue, gray, black and color-changing purple. They say things like “LPL loves 3D printing! Yah!” and “We love 3D printing!,” coming from staff, and “Kiss me,” “We love reading,” “#lovelibraries,” “Books 4 Eva” and “I love the genealogy section!” from the community.
“Making something fun like this is just the beginning. From there, we can teach you to make even more complex designs,” Rock said.
The lab will offer spring and summer design classes for the Carvey machine beginning in March and continue classes for the 3D printer, which were started last summer. Staff members also offer one-on-one sessions with registration.
“We really want folks to use this great equipment. It’s easy, and folks shouldn’t be intimidated,” Rock said.
The lab will not charge for materials for the community art project, though there is one to cover costs for other 3D printing.
Reservations are recommended for custom designing of the hearts and other maker space projects. Call the iExplore Lab at 962-2599.
Shelley Widhalm is a freelance writer and editor and founder of Shell’s Ink Services, a writing and editing service based in Loveland. She has more than 15 years of experience in communications and holds a master’s degree in English from Colorado State University. She can be reached at shellsinkservices.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.