Happy Returns logo, a pink smiley face, with the text happy returns rotating arounds it



Bert Green Fine Art


Fish Out of Water

The World’s First* t-shirt screen printed by an industrial robot


S, M, L, XL

Edition of 10 per size



Happy Returns studio director Cody Norman running t-shirt printing program on the Kuka KR-16 robot using a custom fabricated end effector.


Happy Returns:
Tom Burtonwood and Cody Norman
"Counterpoise [Fish out of Water]"

January 15 - February 25, 2022

Bert Green Fine Art
8 S Michigan Ave Suite 620
Chicago IL 60603

Gallery Director: Bert Green

Phone and text 312-434-7544
Email inquiry@bgfa.us


Fish Out of Water

“Fish Out of Water” is a limited edition T-shirt printed by design studio Happy Returns. In a world first they used a “Kuka” industrial robot to flood the screens and print the design. Drawing from the ideas of the Arts and Craft Movement, especially William Morris and John Ruskin, Happy Returns explores how industrial robotic tools might be deployed to produce limited edition print designs.

In this version of the age-old fight between authenticity and simulacra, Happy Returns polarizes the relationship between the copy and the original by producing unique screen printed T-shirts hand in hand with corresponding video works that unpack the production process and show the designs being printed.

Fit For Porpoise
Video monitor, 3D printed PLA, Acrylic on cotton. FFP001.mp4: Duration 05:19
Series of 3, each a unique color and video edit.
10 x 12 x 3”
The design of the shirt combines the Kuka Teach Pendant, a handheld computer used to train the robot, with a floral William Morris pattern mapped onto the surface of the pendant's case. 

Recalling ornate Arts and Crafts objects, this collaboration of the ergonomic interface and flowing stylized patterns gives rise to the title of the accompanying video sculpture, “Fit For Porpoise,” a play on the Morris dictum of whether something is “Fit For Purpose,” and the Douglas dictum “So Long and Thanks for All the Fish.”  

Happy Returns repurposed a Kuka industrial robot formerly used in an automotive factory and retooled it with a custom squeegee to flood the screen and pull the shirts.

Each shirt is individually numbered 1/10, 2/10 and so forth, in S, M, L, and XL. The production process is extensively documented by art house video drawn from a number of perspectives and vantage points overseeing the printing phase.

“Fit For Porpoise” references the dialogue between two states of being. The virtual or simulated space where the robot is choreographed and then the studio environment where it performs.

It negotiates these two modes of making to produce an artifact that embodies a conversation between simulated routines and the physical process that enacts them.


Counterpoise 001 - 005

Counterpoise.001 -005 is an edition of print + plots on paper.

They are produced in an edition of five.

The porpoise pendant motif is printed by the “Kuka” robotic arm once again.

Line drawings plotted by an Axi Draw drawing machine show stills from the simulations we ran in order to test, refine and perfect the tools paths used by the robot to print the shirts.

Each image is slightly different and the drawings show different stages in the printing process. 

Counterpoise.001, Ink (screen print and plotter machine drawing) on paper Edition of 5 17 x 11” 2022
Counterpoise.002, Ink (screen print and plotter machine drawing) on paper Edition of 5 17 x 11” 2022
Counterpoise.003, Ink (screen print and plotter machine drawing) on paper Edition of 5 17 x 11” 2022
Counterpoise.004, Ink (screen print and plotter machine drawing) on paper Edition of 5 17 x 11” 2022
Counterpoise.005, Ink (screen print and plotter machine drawing) on paper Edition of 5 17 x 11” 2022

Counterpoise.001  - 005
Ink (screen print and plotter machine drawing) on paper
Edition of 5
17 x 11”

>>> ORDER HERE <<<

Happy Returns is a creative studio directed by Cody Norman and Tom Burtonwood that weaves together research interests in robotics, materials, and digital imaging to produce a range of outcomes for commercial clients and art projects alike. 

Their name is both a play on “returning” or recycling physical materials such as plastic or paper and on “returning” code for programming robots and similar tools. 

The Happy Returns studio, located in Chicago, is home to a number of industrial tools including a Kuka robotic arm and an artisanal materials recycling line.

For more information about this project or other endeavors by Happy Returns please email us using the link below or clicking ︎ here