Designer Spotlight: Steven Gray

This weeks Designer Spotlight focuses on Steven Gray, an origami loving 3D designer from Scotland. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? Where are you located?
I’m a Glasgow, Scotland, born sci-fi geek dad with a background in IT and an interest in technology and gadgets that goes right back to the late 1970′s when all I coveted was my best friend’s Merlin hand held game. I hesitate to call myself a designer. I could say my hobby is 3D design but I’ve been making things as long as I can remember, out of cardboard, paper, glue. I love origami; the process of turning a single sheet of paper into something is fascinating. Give me a few squares of paper and I’ll make you an origami box!

What’s the story behind your designs? What inspires you?
My designs begin as things mostly for myself, but always with an eye on how useful the design might be to others. I’ve had a couple of crazy ideas printed that are not public! A lot of my inspiration comes from popular culture but often I look at how we use stuff and how others address problems with their designs. If there’s a gap, something maybe that’s not been done before, I’ll use that as a source of ideas. All I need then is pencil and paper to sketch out my thoughts. I also look at stuff around me. Is it well designed? Why doesn’t it work as well as it should? There are no screws visible, how is it held together? I’ve always had a fascination for how stuff works, from car engines to jets to computers and often the more interesting aspect of a product is how it’s put together, how it looks on the inside. Shapeways allows me to explore that process for myself which is part of the fun.

What brought you to 3D printing with Shapeways?
I like to follow trends in technology in general, and with the growing interest in 3D printing I found the Shapeways website. What grabbed me initially were the fantastic mathematical models for sale. When I realised Shapeways could print things I could design in Sketchup, well, I was hooked. I could make stuff I’d otherwise need a dedicated workshop for. And also a 3D printer!

How did you learn how to design in 3D?
I’ve been messing around with 3D software in various forms since the early 80s, but more recently with Sketchup and Blender, which I’m still learning. I’m self taught if you allow for YouTube tutorials, but I’m very much a novice wrangling the applications to do what I want.

How do you promote your work?
I will be honest I don’t do that much promotion over what a great job the team at Shapeways does. I was lucky enough to help out at the Shapeways booth at the 2013 UK MakerFaire in Newcastle and that was a great experience and a fantastic opportunity not only to show off some of my stuff but also to engage with and educate members of the public about 3D printing and what is possible. My most popular design is Eggbot and I’m delighted that people love the idea. The design has been blogged by others and of course I tweet about him from time to time.

Who are your favorite designers or artists? Who in the Shapeways community has served as an inspiration to you?
There are so many great designers on Shapeways so that’s a hard question to answer! I love Ryan Kittleson’s work. I’m deeply envious of his sculpting skills! I’ve got a poseable Modibot figure from Kidmechano. I love the ability to pick and choose from a vast range of figures and accessories. Finally, I admire the multi tools designed by Tofty, partly because I just love tools but mostly because I wish I had come up with the idea!

If you weren’t limited by current technologies, what would you want to make using 3D printing?
Definitely the ability to mix material, or machines in metal that come out of the machine fully assembled and working much the same way WSF does today. That would be amazing.

Anything else you want to share?

I’d just add that 3D printing is open to anyone. The software tools to get started are free. There is an almost unlimited teaching resource on the internet and on YouTube. 3D print services like Shapeways allows you to make real things. All you need is a computer and some time. It’s great!

Check out all of the inventive products by Steven in his Shapeways Shop or his blog. Show your support on Twitter, as well! If you’d like to be featured, feel free to email aimee@shapeways.com. 

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