Sharing your 3D design work has always been a bit ,well, awkward. You pour your heart and soul into a model and all people see is a flat representation of it. There are various web GL viewers available, but those always require downloading plug-ins which, let's face it, is not something you want to spend your time doing. For a short while now, Sketchfab model embeds have been natively supported within Wordpress blogs. So, ta-daa; here's a test piece - an apple blossom bangle model that hasn't made it to the production, but demonstrates the functionality well. All fellow 3D tinkerers can join through this link.

https://sketchfab.com/models/a90a9f4668c64a08af30824185a76f51

Recently, I got an assignment to create custom work for two music teachers. Personalized and reasonably priced were the only guidelines. Otherwise I was given free rein and let my creativity go wild. Well, not that wild, but I had fun. The obvious choice for custom personalized jewelry was to create 3D models and then get them 3D printed.

In the picture above, you can the see cufflinks for a piano teacher with initials TH. Each letter is surrounded by two octaves of miniature piano keys. The material is silver plated polished brass.

DG-AltoClef

The other piece was a pendant for a viola teacher. It had to be delivered as soon as I got it from the service bureau, so the picture below is a rendering. On the note lines you can see the alto clef which is also called viola clef because it's often used with viola music. Also the notes, D and G, represent her initials. This pendant was made with 18K plated polished brass.

 

 

When you spend a considerable portion (ok, almost all of it) of your waking hours by your computer, the comfort of your work station becomes important. The angle of your chair has to be just so. The phone has to be reachable. The background music can make or break your day. It was therefor incomprehensible that I let my mousepad bother me for so long. It had served me well for many years, but the corners had ripped, the edges scratched my wrist and some kind of plastic residue seemed to collect under the mouse. It was clearly time to let go.

Commercially available options didn't appeal to me. They just seemed, well, too commercial or at least impersonal. As a crafty designer, I needed to tackle the issue hands on. For materials, I chose felt and leather and got them laser cut to size. The beauty of laser is that you can also cut the holes for stitches. It is then easy to glue and backstitch the pieces together.

Even if my waking hours are mostly spent with the computer, there is something incredibly satisfying to touch needle and embroidery floss. It made me miss my knitting. It is also nice to look at and feel my hand stitched mouse pad every time I work.

IMG_2651

row

When designing and wearing jewelry, I like to go with selected statement pieces.  Same seems to be true with graphic design work, or even interior decoration. One big bold piece with lot of negative space keeps it clear and simple. However, when I mean bold, I really mean bold. So, no wonder I ended up experimenting with  a statement bumper sticker.

Although I try to keep my bumper stickers to bare minimum, I enjoy reading them. Sometimes political,  often funny and occasionally outrageously obnoxious, they reflect car owner’s personality and provide infinite entertainment on long car rides.  But really, are these people being paid for advertising ski resorts or local coffee shops? I thought your own car (and bumper) should remain the free zone for expressing yourself, not promoting some random business.

If it wasn’t clear to everyone who’s reading my blog, I row. I row competitively. I love rowing. Rowing is now build into my core with such force that being out of the water for longer than a day causes physical withdrawal symptoms. One big bold statement word on my bumper should naturally be ROW.

The bold statement sticker (or in my case, magnet) should of course be in-your-face, metallic and 3D.  I modeled it with Rhino and got it printed in strong nylon. After adding the magnets and giving it many (many, many) coats of spray paint, it was done. The material turned out to be rather porous and the final color wasn’t as chrome-like as I would have liked. The next step will be to experiment with different materials to achieve better finish.

PS:  Adding a little bit of gangsta bling to my preferred sleek European car definitely appeals to my screwed sense of humor that I so proudly nurse and cultivate.

This is the first post in the upcoming sporadic series of DESIGN LAB. I will experiment with new manufacturing methods and techniques. Results and pictures, good or bad, will be posted here. Some of these sketches may eventually find themselves in production and the web store, but mostly I’m just playing around.

For the longest time, I’ve been wanting to try laser cutting. Though the laser cutter is pretty old technology, the price point is still very high. It is not in my radar to purchase my own machine quite yet. So, I turned to a service bureau; Ponoko.

Ponoko carries a vast catalogue of materials from leather and wool felt to acrylics and plywood. The prices for materials are reasonable, but price for an individual design may hike up fast, if the design is complicated and specifically if it includes lots of engraved details. This makes balancing between designer’s and consumer’s happiness tricky. Seemingly simple designs may end up carrying a hefty price tag.

This time, I chose to work with white melamine MDF, Cherry Veneer MDF and natural cardboard.

rowPendant

Cherry veneer has a nice sheen and works quite nicely for jewelry. Here, I made a simple pendant by utilizing a ready made silver setting and designing a piece to fit in. The lesson here; Fonts need to be bold. Otherwise, the result is too subtle with the natural wood grain. The “CHILL” text on the bracelet below is barely visible.

chill I was particularly excited with trying the “live hinge” method. Stiff material, such as wood, can be made flexible by cutting  a pattern of vertical lines. Each thin part will give in a little, just enough to for a nice bend. However, for jewelry purposes and heavy usage items, this is just too brittle. It might be possible to use some kind of enforcement. For the bracelet below, I used duck tape :). For this to work, it needs more R&D.

liveHinge2

Laser cutting is essentially flat design. With some construction, one is able to expand it to 3d. Here is a simple egg pendant which can be shipped flat and assembled when received.

pendant

The white melamine picks up detail really well. Even the thinnest lines will read clearly. Also, the material  tolerates high heat pretty well. Therefor, it was my material of choice for this trivet.

trivet720

One last material I wanted to experiment with was cardboard.  These earring display cards will easily fold flat for gift boxes.

packagingOver all, much fun to play with and definitely a learning experience. Next, I will try leather and felt for some bags and cases.

Oh, and a word of warning: All natural fibers and organic materials such as wood, leather or felt will be smelling like smoke. Laser cuts by burning. Eventually, the smell fades, though.

What make nature beautiful are its little flaws: a wrinkled petal or crooked tree trunk. That’s why fashion models, with their perfectly symmetrical faces and a fully checked list of culturally agreed  beauty requirements, seem like plastic clothes hangers. Adding glimpses of personality would take attention away from clothing, I guess.

With little effort, my trusted Nikon SLR delivers perfectly lit, sharp and color balanced photos. Sometimes, almost too perfect. I found myself missing the grittiness of old photos. So, I went a little Snapseed crazy. Snapseed, just like Instagram or Hipstamatic, is an app that allows you to grittify images with just few clicks. Adding blur or vignettes transforms those perfectly composed images to something much more fun and interesting.

What is Snapseed?
Snapseed, originally an amateur cousin for the pro photo manipulation software from Nik Software, was purchased by Google in 2012. It used to be available as a Mac app, but if you want to use it now with your desktop system, you’ll have to go through Chrome browser, powered by the Native Client technology. It is currently available for iOS and Android mobile platforms for free and has more options compared to the original. However, this makes workflow a bit cumbersome because non-mobile photos have to be imported to your device. 
 

Some years ago, photographers went to great lenghts recreating a tilt shift look that you were only able to get with vintage large format cameras, special lenses or with a camera which is manipulated so that a life-sized location or subject looks like a miniature-scale model. Previously I have also used multiple Photoshop steps to achieve the same effect, but the picture above was done with Snapseeds’s tilt-shift filter. Colors were also saturated to make the town (Jerome, AZ) look more like a toy

 

Above, see the before and after images of a trailer and a cable car, I photographed in California. I have only ran these through Snapseed, no Photoshop used.

 

Snapseed does an especially good job adding vintage details; light leaks, paper wear and tear and film grain. I am fascinated with the old tableaus in the natural history museums. These displays of taxidermy animals can only be considered entertaining with a thick coating of irony. However, I make sure to photograph them when I see one. They’ll be most likely gone soon. Running these photos through Snapseed gives the photos depth and mystery.

 

I liked this old photo of my son already before the Snapseed treatment, but somehow a vignette, blur and B&W transformation brought his face alive.