I’m Kasia- I’m a Wisconsinite by birth, New Yorker by choice, designer by trade and woman by chance.
I came to Brooklyn about 10 years ago, a fresh-faced Midwestern teen with all the cliche New York dreams. I wanted to be a fashion designer- a job that, for all I knew, existed only in movies and TV, because I certainly didn’t know any. But I was determined to find out, and if it was a real job, damn it, I was going to be one.
And so I got a degree in apparel design, and days after graduation, went to work full-time as a womenswear designer, specializing in bridal and gowns. I became quite adept at carefully composing lace appliqués, draping elaborate gowns, and hand-drawing beading layouts. I loved the work, but I also felt that there had to be a way to combine this type of handcraft with modern fabrication. See, this particular sector of the fashion industry is decidedly low-tech, which is part of why I loved it- but I would watch over the shoulder of the industrial designers I knew from school and covet their ability to turn lines and points into renderings worthy of an Apple product launch. It was like I was stuck in a sewing-room version of “The Devil Wears Prada,” while they were living it up in Tony Stark’s basement, pulling diagrams up from see-through computers and flying through the sky in shiny suits. It was hard not to be a bit jealous.
Fast forward a few years, and I now have a business designing 3D-printed jewelry and accessories. My life is now a sort of hybrid- The Iron Man Wears Chaumet, if you will.
As much as I’d like to pretend that the path was easy and that I was immediately printing beautiful, complex flowers and delicate hair combs, the truth is that I had several false starts over the years with 3D modeling.
Learning to 3D model is hard. But I figured it out, and in the process, realized anyone can. And here’s the secret- I figured out how to apply 3D printing to the things I already loved. I didn’t try to change myself or my design sensibility to fit my preconceived notions of what 3D printing should or could be. I stopped trying to learn all the tools at once, and focused purely on problem-solving my own work, one function at a time. Before I knew it… I knew how to make stuff. Lots of stuff.
But I started at zero. I’d download trials of different programs and accompanying step-by-step tutorials, but quickly lose steam when I realized that I had no interest in slogging through tutorials for obscure mechanical parts I’d never use and no time or patience to comb through the boys’ clubs of printing forums. The resources available, be it tutorials or blogs, just simply didn’t apply to what I was trying to make, and so I would abandon the cause, each time a bit more intimidated and skeptical that this was a medium that could ever possibly be mastered by someone like me.
Then, my industrial designer boyfriend gave me an engagment ring he had designed digitally and had 3D printed. It didn’t look like it came out of a Cracker Jack box, and it didn’t look like what I had come to think of when I heard the words “3D printed ring.” It was delicate and refined, and well, looked like actual jewelry. If my
dumb boyfriend could make it happen, why couldn’t I?
And so, I downloaded yet another program, drew out some ideas, and tried again. It took a while, but it started to click. And I made this:
And I really liked it -and wore it at my wedding (the silver one, not the plastic ones)- but I really wanted to level up. For years, I wanted to make whimsical, life-life, romantic floral jewelry- but was simultaneously too busy and too lazy to spend the time needed at a bench to casually become a master metalworker/jeweler. I thought maybe 3D printing could hold the key. So I tried another thing. And I made this, and it looked… well, not very romantic or whimsical.
I spent a lot of time yelling at my laptop screen as inscrutable error messages popped up over and over. I struggled with learning how to move around the digital workspace without suddenly zooming out 10,000% or zooming in so far that I was suddenly INSIDE the model. It wasn’t pretty. I made a lot of crappy things that took me a really long time but were basically garbage. I basically worked my way through every tool and function in an attempt to make something that looked even a little nice.
But then I made this. And I impressed myself when it came back from the printers, because it looked kind of good. Simple, but on the right track.
Newly emboldened, I made this next:
And now I make all these things (+ more):
As it turns out, 3D printing is not that intimidating. It’s not that hard. You don’t need to be a computer scientist or an industrial designer or an engineer to embrace it- you just need to have an idea and a little tenacity. 3D printing is a tool. That’s it. And anyone can learn to use any tool.
I always like to say that the products I make are “made by hand + machine.” If you’ve ever said, “I want to learn to knit,” or “I’m going to learn to bake bread,” or “I need to learn how to retile my bathroom myself,” consider adding 3D printing to the list. This is some next-level DIY. You should absolutely still learn to knit, but maybe consider 3D printing your own knitting needles next time you need a custom size. Learn how to retile that bathroom, but think about printing some tiles, or a complex tile-setting template, and amaze your friends and relatives with both your decorating savvy and your technical skill.