NVM Design is melding traditional craftsmanship with 3D printing to redefine what’s possible, and the results are beautiful. Founded by Allegra Crespi and Martin Griswold (of Shapeways shop Quantitative Design), NVM creates jewelry using printers and 3D scanners to create forms that would have been impossible to create with traditional methods. Every piece is 3D printed, then hand finished by local artisans in New York City.
For their first collection, Allegra and Martin used lichen, a dry moss which grows on trees and stone, as their core inspiration. Allegra explained, “We gathered the actual lichen from Cold Spring, NY and adapted it to many of our pieces after scanning it and then digitally manipulating it to meet our vision. Our second element is a ‘crystal’ texture we generate with a computer algorithm that replicates, adjusts, and places individual cubes to create a cohesive look.” The textures are incredibly distinct, and achieved without using gems or stones.
We sat down with Allegra and Martin to learn more about their process and inspiration.
Can you describe the process you used to make the products, in particular the technology you used?
Our first collection uses a lot of texture, and we used new technology to help us explore that in a way that would have been hard to do otherwise. 3D scanning and algorithmic 3D modeling helped us generate and modify complicated textures, and 3D printing enabled us to produce it once we had the digital model.
We produced the lichen on our pieces by 3D scanning an actual piece of lichen that we took from the forest in upstate NY, which we then digitally modified and incorporated into the pieces. We made the crystal texture with the help of python scripting in Rhino, programming thousands of operations that ran automatically based on a set of rules that we controlled. This let us explore a lot of different versions of the crystal texture until we got it just right, without having to manually compose each one.
How do you balance artisanal and digital methods?
Both of us came to jewelry with very limited knowledge of how it’s made or how to make it, so we did our best to fill in the gaps by learning a lot from jewelers.
At the same time our lack of institutional knowledge proved to be so liberating. We began looking at 3D printing and other technology as the solution to most of the jewelry-related obstacles we’d encounter. We ended up taking the best of what we learned from jewelers and using new tech to rebuild it, adapt it, or simply suit it to our needs. Some of it worked, some didn’t, but we came to relish the learning process and the balance we struck between the two.
What materials did you 3D print in?
We produce our pieces by 3D printing in wax, and then casting those wax patterns into 14k yellow or rose gold and silver. We’ve also gotten a lot of use out of 3D printing through Shapeways in White, Strong & Flexible for early prototypes.
How did 3D printing fit into your creative process? Did it help you iterate more quickly?
Our company is based on the premise of exploration and collaboration, which extends to both the conceptual and practical elements of our work. As we developed on our creative themes, we settled on our technical outlets. Our use of 3D printing extends past the final product- we use it throughout our process: to make prototypes early on, to communicate ideas with our suppliers, and to make customized tools that help with assembly.