One of my favorite thing about Shapeways designers is that their work is sometimes very “meta.” A perfect example is the work of Lizz Hill, the Brooklyn-based designer behind Toolry. Combining complex artistry with the expanded design possibilities of digital manufacturing, she creates products that take a lighthearted look at the tools behind the design process. It makes sense, considering how immersed in the design process she is: By day, she’s a hardware and jewelry 3D modeler for a major NYC fashion accessories company, and her spare time is filled with embroidery, soapmaking, origami, painting, and of course, Toolry.
In your shop description, you say, “These statement pieces are meant to engage you and poke fun at their counterparts.” Which pieces in particular capture this spirit?
The first personal pieces I had made for myself were based on tools, hence “Toolry“! I loved the idea of taking something that has a specific use, like a wrench or a caliper, taking away its function and purpose, and wearing it as jewelry. The Calipers Pendant was the first tool that I modeled for myself. I use digital calipers for work, modeling hardware and jewelry, so I’ve always been very intrigued by the original, fully manual calipers that preceded their modern, digital counterpart. I love to find the beauty in utility.
What was the inspiration behind the Troubled Waters trio?
I’ve recently taken up embroidery as a hobby, and one of my more ambitious projects was embroidering a pair of Converse sneakers. I’ve always been very intrigued by old sailor tattoos and iconography and had chosen this theme for my sneakers. As I was designing my embroidery layout I realized that the theme would lend itself very well to some small icon rings. I had also been seeing more and more midi rings worn by the women of NYC so decided to model a trio that would mirror the imagery of my Troubled Waters Converse.
Your tooth cufflinks and ring were modeled based on real human teeth. How did that come about?
I’ve always been quite fascinated by the morbid things that make most people cringe. I have a collection of bones, antlers, teeth and animal horns that show up in various ways in my apartment: on the wall, on necklaces and as succulent planters! My husband recently found his wisdom teeth which he had kept after their removal, and gave them to me as a gift. I joked with him that in place of my sapphire engagement ring, that I would instead set his tooth into a ring setting and wear that instead. That imagery stuck in my head for awhile, and I finally gave in and modeled one of the teeth and set it into a ring for myself and a pair of cufflinks for him.
Tell me about the teddy bear ring and pendant.
Ha! These are my favorite! The Teddy Bear Pendant was another one that followed an embroidery piece. Like my jewelry, my embroidery is all about taking themes and icons and turning them upside down. The teddy bear embroidery was about taking something sweet and traditional and adding a disturbing twist. I have the piece framed on my bathroom wall but loved the bear so much that I wanted to create a piece that I could wear. The Teddy Bear with Turnkey Ring was the second piece I created using my bear and I have at least one more version of the bear that I’ll be posting soon.
Can you share a little more about your inspirations or design process?
My entire career thus far has been about taking hardware designs and ensuring they are functional, affordable, and mass-producible, aside from just being aesthetically pleasing. I’ve seen so many ideas quieted or cast aside because they couldn’t be made within those parameters. Now, thanks to Shapeways and other emerging vertical manufacturers utilizing 3D printing as part of their manufacturing process, the range of product that is available to the end consumer has begun to expand rapidly. As a designer and a product developer, I have fewer limitations on what I can make and offer to my customers because minimums, manufacturing limitations, and capital investment are no longer major hurdles for me. I have so much more creative freedom, and that drives me to act on the ideas that may have been riskier or impossible in the past.
What are you waiting for? Go check out Lizz’s brilliant designs at Toolry!