Games about brutalist architecture and teaching 3D modeling are all in a day's work.
From September 8 to October 17, Yifat Shaik’s job includes leading lectures about Dames Making Games, and introducing Torontonians to concepts like 3D modelling and creating textures in Photoshop. As the Toronto Public Library’s Innovator in Residence, Shaik, 32, is part of a constellation of residencies at the TPL—including the Entrepreneur in Residence and the Illustrator in Residence—who act as resources and educators during their posts. Shaik came to Toronto three years ago from Jerusalem for her Masters of Design from OCAD. Her previous—and current—work focuses on games, illustration, 3D modelling, and “basically anything that involve digital design,” she says.
Our conversation with Shaik—about what the Digital Hub offers, the gratification of teaching to newbies, and her satirical game about the IDF—is below.
Torontoist: How, exactly, does the Toronto Public Library’s Innovator in Residence spend her days?
Yifat Shaik: The residency mostly involves a few parts: creating and teaching workshops for library patrons; organizing meetups and office hours for people who are interested in one-on-one instructions; organizing talks and lectures which are connected to residency subject; and finally training library staff and creating some sort of workshop structure for the library staff to work with once the residency is over.
Tell us a little bit about the application or interview process for this position: what kind of staff were they looking for? What did you have to provide or talk to them about?
The application process is pretty straightforward. The library posts a call for proposals every few months for a new innovator in residence, generally in different fields which are somewhat connected to the Digital Hub. That’s everything from 3D printing, film-making, robotics, and more. They are usually looking for someone who has both artistic and commercial experience, and has some sort of teaching experience. This time they were looking for a 3D designer who could teach workshop about 3D printing. While I know very little about 3D printing, some of my friends who had done this program before me encouraged me to try to apply anyway, but to suggest a residency that would fit more with my 3D modelling specialty. The library staff is open to new ideas, so don’t be afraid to submit an application if it’s not exactly what they are asking for. I was required to submit a written application which had some information about me, a proposal for the residency—usually class plan and workshops—and two recommendation letters. After I submitted, I had an interview with the library staff, and a few days after I was announced as the new innovator.
It’s a short residency—what kinds of things are you hoping to accomplish while you’re in the role?
Aside from the obvious (introducing 3D modelling to a general audience), I have a few personal goals which I wish to accomplish during the residency. The most important one for me is to encourage and show people who might not have access to 3D learning tools, mostly people past university age, how much fun it can be to create 3D objects in a 3D program, and how despite how it appears, it’s actually not that hard to model things in a 3D environment.
My second personal goal is to try and experiment with a different way of teaching 3D modelling. I personally find that the way in which I teach 3D in a university environment to be the wrong way to instruct 3D in an environment like the library. As a result, I am trying to approach instructing 3D modelling differently and create a teaching plan introducing 3D to a new audience and encourage them to explore more of it in the future.
“Innovation” is such a buzzword today. How do you see as being different from, say, a creativity-driven role? Or an inventor-type gig?
Oh, that’s a difficult question! I think every word that is used too much quickly reverts to being a buzzword, so it might be hard for me to really differentiate between the different roles. If I’m allowed to elaborate on the idea of innovation as it relates to this role, I think it mostly due to the newness of the design and art practices that the library residence explores. Each resident, including myself, engages in art and design practices representing new and innovative directions which might point to the future of such practices. The concept of innovator, compared to something like an Artist in Residence, is someone who engages with practices that are new, different and create a new way to engage and create art.
When you’re not the TPL Innovator in Residence, how do you spend your days? How does this role fit into your larger professional profile or goals?
Aside from the residency, I currently teach game design and 3D modelling in a few different universities and colleges around the Greater Toronto Area, namely OCAD, York University and Sheridan College. I’m a busy gal! I’m also working on a few personal game projects, mostly on Real Army Simulator: a satirical narrative game about my service in the Israeli army, as well as a game in which you explore architectural spaces which are based on modernist brutalist architecture style. I also try on occasion to have some sort of of a social life. I am not particularly successful in that regard.
What is the best part of this job?
I like when people who have never done any 3D work, or have any technical ability, end my class with a finished or almost finished 3D model and some experience with the world of 3D. It’s an experience that I hope they will continue to pursue farther. I also am truly impressed with the Toronto Public Library, and their willingness to open the library to different and new services, and to modernize and change the meaning and role of a public library in the 21st century.