Shapeways member interviews: Whystler

Whystler aka Shawn Johnson is one of the nicest and most helpful Shapeways members out there. Besides this he, makes his living selling virtual goods and is a dreamer, a designer, a potter, a musician, a festival organiser, a connaisseur of virtual worlds and a virtual architect and fashion designer. You can check out his work on IMVU here or check out his website, “the land of Whyst.

What software do you use to design?

I use mostly 3D Studio Max, and Flux Studio 2.0, but occasionally I
will also use Wings3D, Milkshape, and Sketchup.  Most of my designing
has been in virtual worlds, such as Activeworlds where I started,
Adobe’s now defunct Atmosphere, SecondLife, IMVU, Blink3D, and I’m just
starting to design for Vivaty, which use’s a version of Flux Studio as
a builder.

How long have you been designing?
I’ve been designing all my life.  I remember, as a child, looking
forward to vacations from school because I would have the time to make
things from books I had taken out from the library … popsicle stick
cabins, pom pom creatures, bases for my star wars figures and
micronaughts, houses for my plastic animals, puppets, go-carts,
tree-houses, you name it 🙂
In terms of virtual design, I have been doing this since about 1990
when I discovered muds (or multi-user dungeons), which were entirely
text based environments.  Using the code of various muds, I designed
rooms and places, and even scripted objects that did cool things 🙂
3D digital art came into play as a medium around 1998/89 when I found
Activeworlds and started making virtual worlds.  This was a big change
for me.  I learned how to make 3D objects through writing rwx out by
hand in notepad, specifying vertices and polygons in text.  And soon
after, I started using 3D programs to make these objects, buildings,
and places.  Soon after, Adobe launched their Atmosphere program, and I
joined a vibrant community and was eventually hired to make content. 
When Atmosphere faded and eventually lost support from Adobe, I had a
great time designing in SecondLife back in the early days and also much
later discovered IMVU, where I have focussed for a long time.
Since 1998 I have been a clay artist and potter.  Everything I make is
hand-built (meaning I don’t use a potters wheel), so even functional
items are very sculptural.

What are the advantages/limitations of the 3D software you use?

I am learning more and more about 3D Studio Max.  I actually started
using it to design in IMVU.  It takes a long time to learn everything
in this program, but the only way you can design animations and
clothing for IMVU is to use Max.  So I had to get myself a license,
which costs a lot, so I could work with it.  Over time I have learned a
lot of neat tricks.  And really I can do pretty much everything I need
to do in Max now.
My favourite program, however, is Flux Studio 2.0.  I love it because
of its easy to use extruding and lathing tools.  It is also a great
program to start and finish making 3D worlds directly in VRML or X3D
for places like Blaxxun or Vivaty.
How do you like Shapeways so far?
I love it!  It’s brand new.  It has some really nice staff (at least it
does now .. just wait until we beta testers break you down lol).  And
most of all it fills the dream of the digital 3D artist to bring
her/his designs to life.  Isn’t funny how when we start 3D design, it’s
mostly about the virtual, but eventually we always come back to wanting
to produce something “real”.

What are the things you like most/least about it?
I have to say the thing I like most about Shapeways is it’s staff. 
They are very helpful, personable, and enthusiastic about their work. 
Secondly, of course, the ability to make an affordable 3D print,
without having to wait for a big muckity muck design/printing company
to return your emails.  I find that, unless you are a big company
making prototypes for a factory, it’s very hard to get the sales people
in most 3D printing or molding facilities to take you seriously.

It’s evident that Shapeways has a small staff.  They are testing out a
concept.  As beta testers, our job is to be patient at this beginning
stage.  It’s all part of the process of growing a service.  At the
moment, there are some rough spots in the shipping process that need to
be ironed out.  One day soon, when Shapeways can dedicate a whole
department to shipping, I think we will see big changes.  Mind you,
they are pretty good about getting an item to you in 10 days, but there
is still some work to be done about making sure the customer has all
the information about their order they need to feel comfortable.
In the meantime, we get the over-and-above-the-call-of-

duty service as a beta testing team.  Staff holds our hands, and even take pictures of our babies sometimes 🙂
What kind of models do you make?

I love architectural and fantasy forms.  This is where my focus is
usually.  I think I am still stuck in the “virtual”, because I love
making objects that allow people to escape into an environment.  I made
a Treasure Box with drawers for a Shapeways contest.  I love this
little thing.  It has a maze and a tower on top.  You can actually walk
through it with your eyes and imagine what it would be like to live in
a tower hidden in a maze.  And all of this is on top of a functional
jewelry box that has it’s own special secrets.  These secrets allow you
to explore the box as you would a place.
Tell us about your models.  Why a gazebo?
Yes, the first item I created for Shapeways and printed was a tiny
Gazebo.  The gazebo represents a lot.  It’s that little bit of
classical civilization in the midst of the jungle of a garden. 
You build a gazebo anywhere and you’ve made a place for yourself, the
human, in the midst of nature, without impacting it too much.  The
walls of a gazebo are open and allow you to interact with nature.  It
lets you out, and nature in.  A gazebo is the doorway that allows us
back into Eden.
As a result, the gazebo has become, in some ways, a symbol of the Land of Whyst, which I have created in other platforms virtually.  Whyst exists in IMVU, Activeworlds, and Blink3D.  Whyst
has a certain fan base of folks who love the idea of living virtually
in open royal halls and gentle gardens, treating each other and the
world with a certain gentil respect as if all living things there are
Lords and Ladies.

What inspires you?

Fantasy creatures inspire me.  They too are our link back to nature. 
Faeries, elves, fauns, and goblins… they are all nature’s spirits. 
They are a mix of humanity and nature, and provide us with the
knowledge to know that we are not separate from the rest of the natural
World and historical architecture inspires me.  I love the beautiful
onion domes of the east, the columns of the mediteranean, the temples
of South America, the gothic beauty of medieval french cathedrals.
Tell us about Faery Fest?
Faery Fest is a little festival I run in the City where I live.  It’s
like a medieval or renaissance fair.  We have a village of merchants,
musicians constantly performing on stage, theatre, face
painting, a beer tavern, knights fighting, games … I could go on
forever.   But instead of having a historical theme, it has a fantasy
theme!  So we don’t have to stick to history.  And as a result, people
can actually meet crazy wonderful creatures in the street like mermaids
and ogres!
Initially it was a response to the fact that the local renaissance
faire decided to close about 5 years ago.  What happened when the fair
closed, was that many local craftpeople, merchants, and performers were
left without work in the summer.  Faery Fest is just a weekend, so it’s
one of the many opportunities that have arisen to fill the need.  But
Faery Fest has become much more than this.  It has become an
inspiration for faery lovers, mystics, families, and artists.  I’m
really proud to be a part of it.

Is designing a hobby for you? Your work also? Or more than both?

You said it at the end.  It’s way more than both.  But it does provide
me with a full time living.  A small part of my income is from sales of
my clay art and functional pieces.  Most of my income comes from 3D
world platforms, where I sell rooms, clothing, furniture and
experiences, but every dog has it’s day 😉  I’m always looking for new
opportunities to make money while I create what I love creating.  And
so I’m hoping that Shapeways can become an important part of that.

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