Although 3D printing technology has existed for some time, it’s only now beginning to cross over into mainstream awareness, thanks to increasingly affordable access to the printers themselves, as well as attention-grabbing headline...
Although 3D printing technology has existed for some time, it’s only now beginning to cross over into mainstream awareness, thanks to increasingly affordable access to the printers themselves, as well as attention-grabbing headlines about 3D printed guns and life-saving medical applications. While less eye-catching, perhaps, the innovation is also powering a new class of creatives, who are using 3D printers to produce art instead. Their “handmade” goods, including jewelry, home decor, gifts and more, appear on sites like the marketplace for crafters, Etsy, and the 3D printing resource center and online shop, Shapeways.
These modern-day artists don’t always fit the traditional mold – or stereotype, rather – of what an artist should be. They don’t necessarily have a studio or workshop, nor do they always have an art background or related experience. Sometimes, they’re drawn in because of the technology and science involved, only then discovering their more artistic side.
And sometimes, they’re just everyday people working day jobs in unrelated fields who have discovered 3D printing as a new way to express themselves creatively, communicating their visions and ideas to a wider audience than they had ever thought possible.
These are their stories.
This is part two of an ongoing series which will showcase some of the art that’s being fueled by the ever more accessible 3D printing technology, and the artists behind the work. In part one, we profiled a formally trained artist who was inspired to use 3D printing for her work, after first coming across the technology years ago.
Part Two: The Self-Taught Learner
When Dutch designer Maaike van der Horn wanted to learn how to use 3D modeling software, she turned to YouTube. The site, she says, is filled with several tutorials that walk you through the basics, and sometimes she would watch these over and over while trying to find her way.
“If you have an idea in your head, and you spend a little bit of time – well, a lot of time, actually – you can actually get pretty far,” she says with a chuckle.
Van der Horn currently works as a market researcher for a European airline, but over the past couple of years she had been trying to learn something entirely different: she wanted to be a goldsmith.
Hoping to make a career change, van der Horn has been training part-time at a school for goldsmiths in the Netherlands in order to learn the trade.
“But I got frustrated because I had all these ideas in my head about things I wanted to make, but I realized that with the traditional goldsmithing techniques and practices, I wouldn’t be able to make those, or would only be able to make those after 20 years of experience, maybe,” she says.
Even if she became an expert in goldsmithing, the soldering and welding techniques wouldn’t have allowed her to make some of the jewelry that’s she’s able to make today using 3D printing, and whatever she had ended up producing because of those limitations wouldn’t have been her original vision — only some watered-down version instead.
“You wouldn’t be able to make such complex and very geometric objects,” she explains. “You wouldn’t be able to be so precise.”
3D printing offered a better alternative.
Van der Horn first heard about the technology after spotting an article in her local newspaper, which talked about the website Shapeways – a site offering printing services as well as tools and help to guide those who are new to using the technology, and which just closed on $30 million in Series C funding in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz. The website soon became a valuable source of information for van der Horn.
She then began teaching herself how to use free software like SketchUp and Blender - a feat that’s even more impressive considering that she never had formal training, nor does she