This week, we’re celebrating March 14 (3.14) – Pi Day. We wanted to take the time to appreciate the beauty of math and how designers and modelers in the 3D printing world use it to make unique, aesthetically pleasing, fascinating works of mathematical art.

Take, for instance, the futuristic creations by Ashley Zelinskie.
Heavily inspired by the future of technology, Ashley recognizes the importance of math in design because it’s the fundamental basis for computer software. Her “One and One” chair was chosen by Shapeways and Adobe as one of the best 3D prints of 2014, and her work was featured at the 2014 3D Print Show. Check out our interview with her below to see what else she has to say about the huge role math plays in her design process.

Would you consider your work to be a mix between math and art or technology and art? Or all 3?
I would have to say all three. My Reverse Abstraction series is based on creating a work of art that both a human and a computer can understand. The code that encompasses the sculpture is the code for the 3D model of the actual sculpture. Math is involved because it is the fundamental basis for computer software. The sculpture is information that is processed by mathematical algorithms. All information boils down to ones and zeros interpreted as a series of on and off switches by the hardware. Math is the language used to describe and understand not only technology, but the whole universe and that is why I chose it as my medium.

When did you start to marry the concepts?
While making my Reverse Abstraction series I did a spin off of Math Objects. In this sub series, I created sculptures that were made up of their mathematical representation instead of code. My Pi sculpture is the symbol Pi but instead of featuring the code for its 3D model it has the value of Pi (3.14159265359) wrapped around it. My golden ratio sculptures are diagrams of the golden ratio’s perfect spiral and the text reads 1.61803398875, which is the irrational number for the spiral.

Which medium did you start with?
I am by no means a computer scientist or mathematician. I was trained in fine art at RISD and used to be a glassblower of all things. I still find it funny I switched from the ancient media of glass to the futuristic media of code and 3D printing. I became interested in code and mathematical theory as a way of explaining the universe. All artists strive to create their own interpretation of the universe. I wonder about the future of art.  What art will look like to machines, aliens, and future humans who may look even more foreign to us than the machines and aliens. Space is the final frontier, technology is our battle here on earth, and humanity’s possibilities are endless. That is what my art is about and you don’t need a degree in science to get on board.

What has been your favorite part of turning code into a physical object?
I really like the idea of making artwork for an audience that I will probably never meet. How do you communicate to someone or something you know nothing about and who knows nothing about you. How do you explain visuals to something that may not have the sense of sight? How do you explain what a chair is to a machine? These are questions that I have chosen to struggle with. To create works that pass art and culture forward to unknown, unimaginable and unspecified replacements.

Why 3D print your work?
I chose to 3D print my work because I found it was the most appropriate medium available at this time. It is one of the most cutting edge technologies for creation at this time. It is amazing technology that is still only in its infancy. I am excited to see where this medium goes and how far I can take it. It is a medium that can grow alongside my work.

Was learning 3D modeling/printing a separate skill set to learn?
There was a learning curve and will always be one. But it is a happy problem to have. When making work about technology you will stop learning because there is always something new to encounter. Technology moves quickly and I will be the first one to admit that I have to rely 100% on the Google search engine to keep up. The internet allows us to become proficient in most things through online classes, tutorials, reading material, and shear force of will. I believe this is the nature of the beast and something to embrace not resolve. I am 100% self taught in everything technology related. I have never taken a 3D printing class, 3D modeling class, coding class, etc.  I rely on the internet and the communities of content makers that reside within it.

Obviously all of your work is amazing. The chair won the Adobe design award, so we wanted to highlight that most recent event! Can you tell us a bit about that process. How did you get started with the project, what challenges you found, how 3D printing helped or hurt the project, etc.
“One and One Chair” is where it all started. This is a recreation of a piece by Joseph Kosuth called “One and Three Chairs.” His piece was a physical chair, a picture of a chair, and a definition of a chair on display in a gallery setting. He was making a question on the reality of the “real” chair. My chair does this for the 21st century but with only one chair, a chair that is made of of its own computer code. After conceiving this concept I had to think of an appropriate medium. I chose 3D printing for its futuristic endeavor. Then coming from an entirely fine art background I had to figure out what 3D printing was and how to do it. I built my first 3D printer with Makerbot. I must have watched hundreds of tutorials on everything from arduino programming to soldering. I funded the creation of the printer through Kickstarter and found tutorials on 3D printing and designing on YouTube and Reddit. I learned so much in such a short amount of time and I have to say I LOVED every minute of it.

What’s most amazing to us is that where Ashely may be a “trained” artist from RISD, she is virtually 100% self taught in the mediums used for these collections. Coding, 3D modeling, 3D printing, etc. To us, she serves as an inspiration and perfect example of the possibilities of 3D printing. We love the marriage between math and art, and know that our community is well versed in this realm as well. So, this week we salute the mathematical artists and that math + technology = amazing. Add 3D printing to the equation, we don’t even have a word for how great that can be… but your ideas can be a real thing, just like Ashley’s chair. Don’t forget to show us your creations in “Feature this!“. Happy Pi Day, everyone!