Design and Inspiration
A few years ago we had a 3D printer in our living room that I had no idea how to use. It was often churning out personalized toys for our kids and over time I got a little jealous. I wanted to figure out something to 3D print that wasn't a play hammer with my name on it. Earrings hit me as an idea when I noticed a friend's laser woodcut earrings.
With no 3D-modeling skills, I started out first sketching ideas and designs. I figured out how to convert drawings to 3D models and overtime taught myself how to manipulate them in a 3D modeling program. I still primarily use this technique of converting hand-drawn designs to 3D models to make earrings. My designs that are geometric looking are created entirely on the computer. I usually need to print several prototypes to get the design tweaked just right. Starting a business just kind of happened when I received great feedback on my first design. With some encouragement I tried selling them for the first time at Artisan's Asylum Winter Open Studios in December 2015. To my pleasant surprise, people actually bought them!
Maybe you've never seen a 3D printer, never heard of 3D printing, or just don't understand how it works. Believe me, I was there once too. The technology is kind of hard to wrap your brain around so here's a very quick breakdown for you. 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that was developed in the 1980’s. The 3D printer I use takes a 3D model and prints it out layer by layer. Spools of PLA (a hard-plastic) are heated up and extruded, kind of like a hot glue gun. There are many different types of 3D printers that can 3D print in a wide variety of materials such as metals, porcelain, chocolate, and even skin.
Most other jewelers who sell 3D-printed jewelry outsource the actual printing to large 3D printing service companies (like copy shops for 3D printers). This is because it takes a lot of skill and effort to maintain 3D printers but I think it's worth it for the cost savings, which I am happy to pass along to my customers.
Think of the jewelry you already own and wear. What’s it made of? It’s most likely made of some type of metal such as silver, gold, bronze, or copper. Mining for these precious metals and gemstones can result in water pollution, greenhouse gas emission, and soil erosion. These resources are also non-renewable.
Winter Hill Jewelry is different because it is made of primarily, PLA, a plant-based plastic, which is a renewable resource. PLA is compostable and biodegradable. I strive to be as eco-conscious as possible, through the materials in my products and the packaging used to transport them.