Paging Judy Jetson

Crushing on 3D jewelry printers Hot Pop Factory

Three-dimensional printing may seem more akin to sci-fi conventions than fashion ateliers—Makerbot did call their newest machine “The Replicator” after all. But for industrial design and architecture students, 3D printers and computer-aided design (CAD) modeling make up a big part of their curriculum. A lot like a regular paper printer, 3D printers read information from a computer, then translate it into something you can touch. These just have one more axis and some super hot melted plastic. But this time, architects Biying and Matt have applied their keen sense of geometry and form to something a little smaller: they design and print jewelry pieces from their Toronto apartment under the moniker Hot Pop Factory. They talk to WORN about their process and the dichotomy of small scale digital production in the handmade world.

With backgrounds in architecture, your skills lend themselves both to 3D modelling and thus printing. Why did you choose to make jewelry objects?
Jewelry and architecture operate at vastly different scales, and yet, fundamentally, they are both about establishing relationships with the human body. For us, this was an amazing opportunity to apply our skill at creating space and form at an extremely intimate scale. We found the kind of connection that a person has with jewelry is much more personal and immediate. Contrasting our experience in architecture, designing at this individualized scale can help shape personal identity and style in a way that has been very rewarding for us.

What inspires the forms you use?
For our initial foray into 3D printing, we drew inspiration from the fabrication process itself. We wanted to establish a deep understanding of the technology, both in terms of the opportunities it affords in the creation of novel forms and also in the terms of the wider social and cultural implications. Our first collection, Strarigraphia, which, as the name implies, is about this stratification of many layers, seeks to uncover the inherent beauty of the additive manufacturing process and at the same time evoke the accretion of knowledge and sharing of resources that are prevalent in the wider maker community.

What does your design process look like?
While working on architectural projects, one is always limited to iterating their work through forms of representation: sketches, models, drawings. For our jewelry collection, this process was radically changed through the use of the 3D printer. We were able to touch, feel, and wear every iteration of our design from the very start of the project. This resulted in a design process that was essentially a litany of ever evolving prototypes. Each generation accumulated several small changes which were ultimately reflected in the final product, this allowed us to create highly personal and evocative objects which was the ultimate goal of our work.

You sell your work at craft shows and on Etsy. Do you see a distinction between “handmade” crafts and batch 3D printed work?
Digital design and fabrication technologies are merely tools in what is ultimately an artisanal process. There is an art form that is developed in how they are finessed and manipulated to fulfill a design vision. Like in any other craft, they can be used more or less successfully depending on the talent and experience of the artisan. In this respect, there is a striking resemblance between the way we design and fabricate our work and more traditional handicrafts. Ultimately, the biggest difference might be that, due to the digital nature of our work, there is the opportunity for it to be shared and modified freely among many artisans allowing it to become a platform for other creative works instead of a singular object.

Where do you see digital fabrication technologies fitting into the world of fashion manufacturing at large?
It’s difficult to pin down where this is all going so early on. I think the most prominent and exciting feature of this technology is how it radically lowers the barriers to entry in the creation of physical objects. This means that many fresh innovations will begin to arise from unexpected places. We will no longer be boxed into the role of “consumer” but will all have the opportunity to be the author of the objects that define us. This whole process will be compounded by the fact that all of this knowledge and work can be shared freely over the internet due to its digital form.

Any plans for large scale Iris Van Herpen statement pieces in the future?
Yes. Iris Van Herpen is a huge inspiration for us in that she uses rapid prototyping of unconventional materials to dress the body. Like Van Herpen, we are very interested in the intersection between traditional fabrication techniques and rapid prototyping technologies. Currently, we are experimenting with creating textiles with our 3D printer—a spin on chain mail structures. The idea is to design printable modules with its individual links already interlaced. This process allows us to create extremely intricate designs computationally, and produce those designs with more precision and less time.

What jewelry inspires you?
We love Kate Cusack’s zipper necklaces; she is a great example of an artist who has really mastered her medium and material. We also covet the bold use of elemental materials and clean lines in Mimi Jung’s Brook and Lyn Jewelry. In the 3D printed jewelry world, we love Michiel Cornelissen‘s coin necklace, which is a great example of the kind of innovation and unique vision that can rise from jewelry created with a digital fabrication approach.

video // Daniel Reis
photography // Laura Tuttle

Four Eyes

Crushing on Lauren Archer, Toronto eyewear designer

A pop-punk song once taught me, “If you’re bored, then you’re boring.” If that’s the case, Lauren Archer is the most interesting woman in the room. She is a history buff, working in historical preservation for the City of Toronto by day and maintaining many hobbies by night. When she isn’t making robots, casting metal, or creating dry ice milkshakes, Lauren designs custom eyewear. She talks to WORN about her prototyping process and her love of glasses and mixing old techniques with new technologies.

What inspired you to make glasses?
It all started with a laser cutter class at Site3, a collaborative makerspace at Bloor and Ossington full of strange, creative people making awesome things. They offer a series of classes that give you access to a bunch of really neat tools, including a laser cutter. I made my first pair of glasses on a whim shortly after that. I knew fairly early that I wanted to make a functional pair of frames, something I could get optical lenses made for. Eyewear straddles this really neat intersection of creativity, engineering, design, tradition, skill, and practicality that I am really attracted to.

You use some unconventional methods to construct your frames. What steps are involved in the process
I have a pretty extensive prototyping process. I steal guitar boxes from behind Long & McQuade so I can cut test frames out of the cardboard until I get all of the sizing and styling right.

Then I do the design on a computer-aided design (CAD) program called Rhino, which I then export directly to the laser cutter. This ensures my final frames stay true to the original design. Then I cut the shape of the frames with the laser. That part’s pretty cool.

When it comes to the hinges, I use a type of traditional rivet hinges that you only really find in vintage frames and traditional glasses. Hinges are typically heat sunk or ultrasonically inserted, and I don’t have the equipment to do that so I’m basically using the Victorian method of smashing metal on metal.

How did you learn to do all of this?
Pretty much through experimentation and observation. I have found a handful of promo videos online that give the briefest of glimpses into the mysterious innards of eyewear factories. Other than that, it comes from a billion eclectic Google searches, guesswork, and many, many failed attempts.

I wasn’t able to find any books or classes on designing eyewear. People who make glasses professionally are quite close-lipped about their methods. I guess this sort of secrecy makes sense in the high-tech industry where every new innovation means a patent and a fortune, but framemaking has been around for hundreds of years. You’d think there would be at least one good book on the subject.

What kind of responses have you received for your handmade glasses?
After I finished my first pair, I took them to optical shops for lenses. Some opticians thought they were vintage frames. This was a huge compliment. I had a few opticians suggest I sell my frames. One even offered to sell them for me. This was super encouraging, but I don’t think I’m quite there yet, skill-wise.

How do you feel about people wearing non-prescription lenses as an affectation?
I don’t really see any problem with it. Glasses are cool. There was a significant and intentional shift in the eyewear industry in the ’40s and ’50s that took glasses from medical device to fashion accessory. There’s really no going back from that.

What’s the next step with your venture?
Eventually, I would like to sell my frames. One of the hazards of having a strange, uncommon hobby is that the tools and materials I need are expensive, so selling the finished frames will help. When I tell people that I make my own glasses, they usually ask me how much I sell them for or if I do this for a living. I really like the idea that people find enough value in what I do that they want to pay money for it. Also, the finished frames are kind of sad without a purpose. They’re made to be worn!

In the new year, I plan to run a class on glasses making at Site3. It’s open to anyone. Everyone who participates will leave with a pair of frames they’ve handmade themselves, as well as the knowledge to design more. There are so many talented and creative people out there but there are so many boring glasses. I blame this entirely on the inaccessibility of the eyewear industry.

Who are your favourite eyewear designers?
Xavier Derome of Derome Brenner, an independent French eyewear brand that does really brilliant original things with cellulose acetate.

Jesse Stevens, an independent eyewear designer who has worked with Cutler and Gross, Oliver Goldsmith and Claire Goldsmith, Prada, and with Victoria Beckham.

Elena Doukas, who does Design and Development at Garrett Leight California Optical. I really like the branding and dedication to quality she has, but GLCO is also known for their experimental approach to design in general (they post pictures from inside their labs, and it makes me happy.)

Mel and Shilo Rapp of Rapp Eyewear, a Toronto-centric brand that is designed and made in small batches in Toronto, and sold at optical shops all around the world.

photography // Claire Ward-Beveridge