3-D Printing Turns Jewelry into ‘Wearable Art’
March 8, 2012
“Drudo Silver Pendant”
The rapid development and adoption of 3-D printing have spawned a litany of custom products whose novel forms speak almost exclusively to the ‘newness’ of the technological processes which produced them. The tendency curbs the development of a robust design criteria fitting of our times and thus only diminishes the objects’ capacity to express the full breadth of contemporary life. This is the gap that designer Kevin Wei attempts to fill with his works, which meld digital tech with historical narratives and traditional methods of manufacturing. Continue.
“Cosma Silver Bangle”
Based in New York, Wei is an architect-turned-jewelry designer who moved away from making buildings to crafting intricately patterned sterling silver bracelets and necklaces. Combining 3-D printing with classic metalworking techniques, Wei creates original constructions characterized by overlapping latticeworks and complex engravings, which he describes as being “hand made…with the aide of precision machines in limited editions.” The hybrid manufacturing process begins with Wei feeding his design to a printer which then stacks tiny layers of material, in this case, engineered wax on top of the other to build a physical object. The wax is then processed using investment casting techniques to yield a mold that is filled with sterling silver. Once they’ve set, the pieces are removed and hand-polished by Wei himself. “In my work, the robots I use are just as much an artisan as I am, and they add just as much of their personality into the work as I do,” Wei explains, “Yet, no matter how mechanized a process becomes, the human hand has an incredible finesse, a softness, a careful touch that in my mind can never be improved upon by machines.”
The resultant works represent a unique class of “techno-luxurious” jewelry that draws on the rich legacy of lasting cultural artifacts, such as Byzantine mosaics, whose dense, interwoven geometries are evident in Wei’s own “Cosma Silver Bangle“. In this way, Wei’s jewelry inhabits a role role akin to architecture’s own, in the sense that the pieces both record cross-generational stories from the past and casts them anew for a high-tech context. As Wei says himself, “In my mind I make jewelry-sized buildings, so in this way I never really left architecture, just as I was never only a building maker.”
Several pieces of Wei’s jewelry are currently on show at the PRINT/3D exhibition hosted by Material Connexion, which runs through May 11. To learn more about Wei and his work head over to the designer’s website and blog or visit his shop to find out how to purchase the pieces seen here.
“Beraldo Silver Bangle”