Category Archives: SHOWstudio

The Artistry of 3D

photo 2

3D printing has opened so many new doors in the scientific world. From everything from engineering to medicine, now scientists can create new parts for machines and people at the click of a button, drastically reducing manufacturing costs (once you’ve bought the ridiculously expensive 3D printer, of course). But now prices are dropping, and you can even find instructions online on how to build a basic 3D printer in your home, and of course, there’s always the concept of renting or borrowing a 3D printer and printing a 3D printer with it. Either way, this once elusive and science fiction object is become more and more of a reality day-by-day.

Of course, there have been a large amount of worries surrounding the fact that is becoming increasingly easy to download plans for anything off the internet, and print it yourself. Will people just stop buying things completely, and high street shops go into a downward economic spiral? It seems unlikely, although there’s sure to be a shift towards more personalised products as it becomes easier and cheaper for companies to produce one off items through 3D printing.

But what about people printing things they can’t find in high street stores – things like guns, and other weapons. Already there is a group based in America called Defense Distributed who have created a working, fully 3D printed plastic gun. It’s a worrying thought that nearly anyone could print out a working gun that would be undetectable to metal detectors (legally Defense Distributed have to insert a block to metal into all their guns so that they can be detected by metal detectors, but who’s to say that every person who 3D prints a gun will be so law abiding).

But whilst there’s been a lot of worry surrounding the danger of 3D printing, and excitements surrounding the technical and scientific breakthroughs it could bring, there’s been less focus on the amazing new format it gives to artists. For the first time in history you can create a picture-perfect sculpture – scan anything you like in, and print it exactly as it. What photography was for the visual arts, 3D printing is for sculpture. And just like photography did, it opens up new avenues; both by opening up sculpture to a whole new realm of artists, but also through the ability to edit sculpture. Instead of working for months to try and create a perfect representative of the real world, 3D printing allows artists to capture reality instantly, and then do with it what they will – destroy it completely and build it up even more. Whether it be digital customisation before you print the sculpture, or whether you print as is and edit after, it opens up a whole new world within sculpture that the other visual arts experienced at the dawn of photography. And look how many amazing artists of the past century were photographers – will the coming century spawn it’s own generation of 3D printing artists?

There are some who are already using this new material. Nick Knight and SHOWstudio have used 3D scanning in many of their projects, both 3D printing the final images, or purely using the scans themselves to create strange ‘more-than-2D, less-than-3D’ images, things which are almost fractal, but one dimension up. Iris van Herpen created the first 3D printed garments to grace the catwalk. There are so many artists from so many walks of life now using 3D printing as their medium, and their numbers will only grow as it becomes more accessible.

3D printing is literally something out of a science fiction novel, and although it brings with it so many opportunities, it also brings a large amount of responsibility. Like all exciting and new technologies, it is in the end not defined by the technology itself, but by the way people use it. Let’s try and make sure we use it well, and for the right reasons.


This blog post was inspired by the Science Museum’s ‘3D: Printing the Future‘ exhibition (hence the subtitle), which you should definitely go check out, but if you can’t they’ve got lots of very interesting information about the whole thing right here. It was also partially inspired by Nick’s use of 3D scanning and printing in his work – it really opened my eyes up to a whole new way of using the medium. Iris van Herpen’s 3D printed clothing also got me so excited, and I wish I could have seen the show it was all in! However, there are many many 3D artists out there, and I do not know all of them, and couldn’t talk about each and everyone one anyway. If there are any out there whose work you really admire and love, please leave a comment below about them, as I’d love to learn more!

On the more general things: I’m back! My exams are over! (Although I’ve still got a big project going on, which is why things may still be a little rushed and hasty at the moment). It’s all very exciting, and now I will be getting back to regular posting, and I’ll also hopefully be uploading some of my older work (essays, poems, etc) soon, so you have some new stuff to peruse. 

Alchemical art

In Metamorphosis on Sunday we looked into the bizarre yet beautiful way iridescent blues are created in the Morpho butterfly, and how the complex form and style of nature could inspire modern artists and artisans such as Shaun Leane. Still keeping with Shaun Leane, with a look inspired by the bespoke gold beetle brooch he created for SHOWstudio, we move away from the cool blues to the fierce and fiery reds and golds, from something delicate and purely organic, to something strong and alchemical, more representative of the jewellery and metals themselves than the nature which inspires it. 

Processed with VSCOcam with se3 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with se3 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with se3 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with se3 preset

 

Processed with VSCOcam with se3 preset

When I first heard about the ‘SHOWcabinet: Shaun Leane’ exhibition it was being promoted with the image of a golden beetle. Because of this, my journey to find the perfect outfit initially centred purely around metallics, the hints of which can still be seen in the golden accents of the final look (and the slightly less visible golden eyeshadow and nails!).

However, although I rooted through my mum’s closet and tried on all the garish gold and other traditional metallic pieces, nothing seemed to quite fit with the mood I wanted to achieve – something with an animalistic ferocity yet elegance, but also a hint of modern urban chic –  and the only thing I was sure of were the KG black and gold heels, whose height (yet elegance) also gave me a kind of feminine ferocity which fit in perfectly to the look.

Because I was originally looking for only golden metallic tones I didn’t originally look at the red iridescent wrap-around top, because I was thinking of basing the outfit off a more vibrant/garish metallic piece. When I realised the kind of mood I wanted to portray, however (instead of simply basing my choices on colours) I realised it was the perfect fit, especially with the almost serpentine red-and-gold striped ties. The realisation of the theme also lead me towards gold accents, such as the Accessorize gold cuffs, to create a sleek darker shape which used the gold as a highlighter.

Although the look was in some ways inspired by the natural world and organic forms, it also had to have a modern elegance represented by Leane’s work. From the look, the slicked back hair and tailored Westwood mini skirt contributed to that, and the chic urban setting of Knightsbridge completed it. This is possibly one of my favourite outfits yet – I almost wore it to the opening itself, but the tininess of the miniskirt and the height of the heels changed my mind. Still, I’d love to wear this outfit out at some point, maybe with the additional accessories of Leane’s own work – I’m pretty sure it’d come in at the definition of a ‘manneater’!


I know I’ve just said it, but GOD I love this outfit/look! Now I just need a damn excuse to wear it somewhere (or I’ll end up going to Sainsbury’s dressed like this, which may be fun, but will just make bringing back the groceries very tricky).

The photos were taken by the amazing Biju, who is not only a damn great photographer, but also a kick-ass writer! Some people just have all the luck, hah.  You can find her on twitter and tumblr and keep up with all the awesome stuff she does. 

My exams are coming up now, so although I will still be posting, expect shorter and maybe shoddier posts over the next fortnight or so. However, once exams are over? It’ll be high fashion blogging time! (Probably.)

Metamorphosis

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

For millennia nature has been a source of inspiration for humanity and the artists within it. From cave paintings depicting the birds and the beasts to fertility sculptures celebrating the human form, from the earliest of times we’ve received artistic inspiration from the organic forms and beings surrounding us, to a point that many early religions were based around the worship of the natural world. And really, who can blame them? Even now, with scientific explanations for so many of the wonders of the world so many people’s belief in a divine architect stems from the mindboggling creativity and complexity of the forms that surround us. Of course, whether or not you want to invoke the celestial, the science behind some of the beauty has it’s own elegance.

Take the colour of iridescent butterflies for instance, such as the Morpho butterfly.

The fabulous Morpho butterfly.

If you haven’t had the luck to see one of these in the flesh, then you’ve most definitely seen pictures of them before, or other creatures with the same iridescent colouring. It’s easy to wonder how the hell such brilliant blues can be created through pigment alone, and that’s because there is no pigment involved. In fact, the colour of the Morpho butterfly’s wings come from the physical structure – lots of overlapping scales with grooves in – as the wings themselves are actually colourless and transparent. How could transparent scales create such vivid colours without pigment is obviously the next question, and here the answer is physics! (Although technically, physics is the answer to everything.) To try and explain it simply, the grooves in the scales cause the light to reflect off the scales at slightly different distances, means the peaks and troughs of the waves (time to remember your GCSE physics!) start to add up, causing what is called constructive interference, which causes iridescence (as it makes the light brighter and therefore the butterfly wings shinier!). The reason the butterfly appears blue is because of the spacing on the groves of the butterfly scales, which correspond to the wavelength of blue light (or well, half the wavelength, but the spacing is equal to half the wavelength).

But I digress – but that’s kind of the point. The sights and science of the natural world are so inspiring it’s hard for me now not to go on another spiel about bioluminescence. Of course, it’s easy for everyone to get inspired by nature, but it takes a true artist to be able to communicate the beauty of the world without simply replicating it, and Shaun Leane is one of the few who can do it well. Not only is he inspired by organic forms, but as an artisan jeweller he also works with organic materials, which adds a whole new element to the elemental inspiration. The new SHOWcabinet exhibition demonstrates this all, not only showing bespoke pieces of his work, but also artwork, fashion pieces and natural specimens that inspired them. From emeralds in their natural forms, to feather Philip Treacy headdresses, an actual live snake, and a Damien Hirst butterfly painting, the sources of inspiration unlocks the story behind the showpieces. It’s an inspiring exhibition, and one that I would definitely recommend that you go see, whether your interest is purely aesthetic or deeper. Just be careful not to become broke from wanting to buy it all!


If you’re based in or around London you should totally go check out the SHOWcabinet: Shaun Leane exhibition, which is held at SHOWstudio (19 Motcombe, SW1X 8LB), which just in general has awesome stuff going on in it. Even if you can’t go there (if you’re not based in London, or whatever) you should check it out online. If you like Shaun Leane‘s work, or are interested in finding out more about his life and artistic process there’s a wonderful interview of him by the fabulous Lou Stoppard which I used as a primer to write this piece.  

Pretty much everything which goes on at SHOWstudio is awesome (although I may be slightly biased), so you should follow them on twitter/tumblr/facebook and also check out their website. I love seeing all the exhibitions and things which go on there – I haven’t been to a bad one yet, and everyone there is so lovely it’s ridiculous. 

The Fractal Universe

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Think about the coastline of Britain. Yeah, I know, it’s probably not your choice of scintillating subject (unless you’re a geologist), but hopefully that’s going to change. Now, if you were to measure the coastline of Britain with a 200 km ruler, you’d get a value around 2400km. If you measure it with a 50km ruler, you add about 1000km on to that number – the coastline is now 3400km. And as the ruler gets smaller, the coastline gets bigger and bigger, all the way to infinity. To put it in mathematical terms, as the length of the ruler tends to zero, the length of the coastline tends to infinity.

This sounds bizarre – am I really trying to say that if you measured the coastline of Britain with perfect accuracy that it would have infinite length? Yes. Yes I am, however counterintuitive that may sound. And funnily enough, the coastline of Britain isn’t some sort of anomaly of nature – shapes like these show up everywhere, from clouds to bark to lightening strikes. They’re called fractals, and are characterised in ‘the broken, wrinkled and uneven shapes of nature’ (in Mandelbrot’s words, who was actually the person to coin the word ‘fractal’), and on a deeper level the characteristic of self-similarity within an object, where smaller part of that object look the larger bits.

To fully understand this, it’s probably best to give an example of a classic fractal, the Koch snowflake. For the Koch snowflake you first start with a normal equilateral triangle. Then you put a triangle a third of the side in the middle of each of the edges, then a triangle a third of the size of that triangle along all the new sides. Lather, rise and repeat an infinite amount of times, and you have the Koch snowflake! Magnify any part of the Koch snowflake, and you see the pattern at the macro scale repeated at the micro.

koch_snowflake
The steps to create the Koch Snowflake fractal, but you’d kept on going infinitely so that no matter how far you zoomed in you get the same patterns. From here.

Fractals are far more representative of the real world than the traditional ideal Euclid forms. They are not perfect in the sense of being smooth and impeccably formed – they are perfect in their complexity, in their pitted and splintered nature. From the minimalist Sierpinski’s gasket, to the (initially apparently simple) infinitely intricate Mandelbrot set, fractals are mesmerising, and oddly familiar. Once you’ve got the concept in your head, you start seeing fractals everywhere, both in the physical world, and in art. Complex subtext in literature doesn’t have a linear relationship, it has a decidedly fractal one. More than one dimension but less than two, fractals have a kind of convoluted cohesion that springs up everywhere in nature, and lends itself equally to both the scientific and artistic eye.

Fractals are everywhere around us – in the sky, in the plants in your garden, even in your food. (Believe it or not, broccoli is fractal – that’s why smaller broccoli florets look like shrunken heads of broccoli!) You’ve probably seen fractals hundreds of times, and maybe even admired their beauty, whether it be appearing in the bark on trees or in clouds in the sky, and learning and understanding the mathematics behind the art just makes it even more mesmerising. Learning the mechanics behind the artistry of the universe does nothing to detract from it’s beauty, as some would like to claim, but simply adds to it. Ignorance, in this case, is most definitely not bliss; knowledge is.


If you’ve enjoyed this blog post, I strongly recommend ‘Introducing Fractals: A Graphic Guide‘, which was one of the first books/comics I read explaining the subject, and was such a great form of media to get into fractals via – it’s definitely a subject in which the use of images helps out! (I also recommend ‘Introducing … : A Graphic Guide’ series in general – they’re very good at explaining a subject in brief without overly simplifying the concept!)

Also, if you’re loving the beauty behind fractals, there are so many mesmerising videos out there which zoom in on the border of the Mandelbrot set which I could watch for hours – here’s one I found quite quickly on Google. I must also give credit to Theo Emms (who’s does theoretical physics with me, and lives in the same halls) for the enlightenment that broccoli is fractal!

This blog post was inspired by the topics I babbled on about in the recording for the fashion video for The Elegant Universe editorial which just came out (and I’m the star of – let’s not forget to mention that!), most of which got cut out in the final video (as I babbled on for over an hour!). If you love the influence of science on art, and vice versa, you should definitely check out the editorial – it’s in V magazine, with so many amazing people who worked on it. Nick Knight shot it, Amanda Harlech styled, Sam McKnight was on the hair, Peter Philips did the make-up, Marian Newman did the nails, and last but not least, Kev Stenning did the 3D scans (yep, there are 3D scans!).

The Elegant Universe

So, today was the release of an editorial I’m in! It’s called ‘The Elegant Universe‘ and published in V magazine, and was shot by Nick Knight, and styled by the lovely Amanda Harlech (and then there’s so many other awesome people who worked on it – Sam McKnight, Marian Newman – pretty much everyone was awesome).

It’s really inspired by the artistry and elegance of mathematics and beauty, and vice versa –  how maths and science turn up in art. It was such an amazing thing to shoot – firstly because I love everyone on the SHOWstudio team & co (they’re like some sort of fashion family to me), so I was comfortable with everyone and in my element, but also because (as you’ve probably realised by now) the junction between science and art is my element. If you watch the video, everything I babble on about in the video is straight from my head, no prompts or practice.

You should definitely go check it out – not least because this weeks posts are sort of inspired by the themes that inspired the shoot (or at least the tangents that I managed to babble on about, not all of which made the cut for the video). Also, because it’s turned out really well, and for all you geeks – there are 3D scans involved! It’s for both the science and the art nerds!