This weeks Designer Spotlight focuses on Rob Drummond, also known as Vertigo Polka, who makes a regular appearance on this blog with his fanciful creations, like these flexible woven cups, so it's high time to find out more about this designer!
Tell us a little about yourself: Who are you? Where are you located?
Hi, I'm Rob Drummond, also known as Vertigo Polka. I live in Evanston, just north of Chicago, and am a freelance designer and production artist. I am the proud father of three amazing kids in their twenties. And although I seem to be spending an ever-increasing amount of my precious spare time with 3D modeling/printing, I still try to devote some hours here and there to my first love, drawing.
The reason I’m showing my hair is because I’ve been growing it for a while, and at the end of this year, I am going to have my daughter cut it all off so that I can donate it to Locks of Love. In addition, I’ll invite people to pledge money (per inch cut) to the American Diabetic Association. I should have close to 15 inches by December.
What's the story behind your designs? What inspires you?
I'm a math geek and an artist. There is an elegance and beauty in mathematical expression, from very tightly controlled geometries to the more amorphous, embryonic, inceptive shapes that only hint at their potential nature. I also enjoy developing special, one-of-a-kind, personalized gifts for friends and family. And my hope is that some day I will earn enough in sales to afford my growing 3D printing obsession.
How did you learn how to design in 3D?
I am self-taught, have been on the Mac since 1984, and have been playing with a wide variety of 3D modeling software for the better part of two and a half decades. In the eighties, I beta tested a French 3D application (I can't recall the name) and used Pixar's Renderman to render the images, usually writing my own shaders. I then moved on to the robust and very user-friendly 3D modeling software called Infini-D, created by Specular International. As a computer production artist at a design firm, I used it primarily for design, rendering, illustration, simple animations and virtual 3D environments, occasionally using stereo lithography to print model prototypes. I now use a wide range of 3D software, including many of the freeware packages like TopMod, Wings 3D, Blender and MeshLab.
What brought you to 3D printing with Shapeways?
A few years ago, I read a few articles in the New York Times that heralded the services of Shapeways, the Netherlands 3D printing start-up company that had just opened headquarters in New York City. They offered a variety of 3D printed materials and colors, which has expanded greatly since then. Very soon after "discovering" Shapeways, I uploaded some STL models and received my first 3D prints within two to three weeks. Because of the models' complexity and inner structure, it would be impossible to manufacture using any other process. As soon as I held in my hands the physical representation of these intricately detailed "impossible" 3D designs, I found myself hooked and felt the need (obsession?) to keep on exploring this new realm. And the Shapeways community and customer service are unparalleled.
How do you promote your work?
A sizable percentage of visitors to my shop come from my YouTube channel, where I post simple videos of some of my printed pieces. I’ve had over a million views. There is a benefit to seeing a video of a model from all angles. I also try to keep my own website current with images, works in progress, video links, and Shapeways shop embeds. Occasionally I post to Twitter and Tumblr, although I wish I could devote more time and effort to that. And I have a large family, including nine siblings, to help spread the word. Thank-you!
Who are your favorite designers or artists?
I find inspiration in the drawings and etchings of Leonardo DaVinci and Albrecht Dürer, the incredible colors and perspectives of Ivan Albright and Vincent VanGogh, the creative passion and humor of Ralph Steadman, the subversive satire of Robert Crumb, the driving spirit and subjectivity of Wassily Kandinsky, the surreal imagination and technical expertise of Salvador Dali, the impossible constructions and the divine mathematical influence of M.C. Escher, the simplicity and genius of Buckminster Fuller, the patience and delicate subtlety expressed by my dad, and graffiti and guerilla artists everywhere. I also find inspiration in the fantastic and visionary writings of Cory Doctorow, among many others.
Who in the Shapeways community has served as an inspiration to you?
There are so many incredible things being created on a daily basis in the amazing Shapeways community, but I covet a special affinity for the creations of Stijn van deer Linden (Virtox) and Bathsheba Grossman; they embody the inspirational harmony of art and math that I aspire to. And there are particularly beautiful pieces crafted by Nervous System, Unellenu, and Museum of Small Things. I could easily go on.
If you weren't limited by current technologies, what would you want to make using 3D printing?
I will eagerly explore and embrace each new emerging technology and material as much as I can, although I do not feel constrained by the current options. My only real constraint is my imagination. Of course, I would love to have an inexpensive, autonomous 3D printing suite that could scan and reproduce nanoscale widgets, complex electronics, cybernetic organisms (using biomaterials and bioelectronics), and it should also be able to self-repair and self-replicate.
By the way, how did the name Vertigo Polka come about?
The name first came to me after watching my younger brother dance at my wedding many years ago. He was gyrating rather wildly, dancing some kind of intricate, alien polka while seemingly experiencing an overwhelming case of vertigo. It was an amazing balance of pushing the boundaries of creativity, freedom (and balance) while constrained within a tight set of parameters. I've been using the alias Vertigo Polka ever since.
Rob Drummond is a fantastic artist, mentor and friend. The creations he makes not only look beautiful on his site, but also in person. Having seen many of his creations I assure you that each and every one is more fascinating than the picture shows. Many thanks to Rob for his great work and I look forward to seeing more.