Friday, October 3, 2014

Is 3D printing Art?

There has been a lot of talk about the use of prototyping machines, like laser cutters and 3D printers, as essential tools for creative processes. But what can CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines actually design? Nothing, really. Laser cutters and 3D printers are just tools, they can't create anything on their own. The creative process is the same as with sculpting or manually creating prototypes. The designer imagines and translates an idea in three dimensions. When loaded with meaning, the interpretation of a concept, it might become Art. The decision of using one's own craftsmanship, like sculpting or painting, or digital tools like softwares, is and must be driven by a different reason than "this is what I can do". 

Of course, the warmth and uniqueness of a high-quality hand-sculpted piece is unparalleled. But in the same way photography can't be directly compared to painting, the quality of a CNC fabricated piece can't be compared to fine arts along the same meters of judgement. A piece of sculpted clay and a 3D printed object are expressions of a different language.

So, why choose digital fabrication tools over manual fabrication? Because digital prototyping is so damn efficient.

- Use the right tool for the right job. For example, our toys have mechanical parts and details which make a lot of sense to sculpt using 3D modeling softwares rather than manually. They appear cleaner and more realistic. Creating engines with clay, for example, may be wonderfully artistic but rather impractical and messy. This doesn't mean it's impossible, it just means it would need much more time and effort, and my time is precious.

- The Holy Trinity. Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V, and Ctrl+Z. No one who has ever experienced the blessing of those three simple commands will deny that they deserve a place in the World's Wonders. They save us a ton of time and anger. They prevent us from swearing and because of this, reaching out to them might as well have saved more souls than reaching out to the good old Trinity, lately. Try Ctrl+Z the model your cat has pushed down the shelf.

- Nothing to clean, no need of tons of material. It's cheaper and you can work whenever, wherever you want. No need to replace countless specific types of tools. Bring all your models with you. Flexibility.

- You can try out variations without having to redo all your work. Quick editing and comparing of possibilities. 

- Sharing is caring. You can send out your models and let other professionals have their take, use them to create videos, animations, images, or physical objects. 

- Archive. Easier to keep track of your creative and technical evolution.

The cowl doesn't make the Monk. Holding a brush doesn't make you an artist and owning an expensive camera doesn't make you a photographer, no matter how many hipsters on Instagram think their HDSLRs will transform their croissant into a shot worthy of an art gallery. On the opposite side, many artists make awesome drawings using ballpoint pens. Talent comes from one's creativity and sensibility, tools are just a mean.

I love handmade stuff, I love drawing and sewing, and hand painting my toys one by one. 

I've chosen to model my creatures with a software and 3D print the prototype with which to make resin copies. Can they still be labeled as entirely handmade? Probably not. Is Digital Art as "artistic" as handmade things? Absolutely yes.

We 3D print prototypes, and if we are satisfied, we print a negative version of the mold we'll use to make resin pieces.
The negative for the mold is a "mold for molds".
Wood Chums are an exception, all pieces are entirely 3D printed.
Actually sculpting them in wood would mean that I couldn't afford a single one myself.
How about a Raccoon in Wonderland?


  1. It is amazing this kind of printings!
    Your blog is awesome, thanks for sharing this information, I would to start to
    make these kind of products:

    Thanks for sharing the technique, is very useful !!