Evelyn Leung of Latte A.L., a financial technologist, started making jewelry by carving wax but decided the best method for her would be 3D printing with Shapeways. Starting with no 3D modeling experience, Evelyn taught herself Fusion 360 and Sculptris to craft the jewelry of her dreams.
How did you get started?
My background is in financial services and financial technology, so I had no clue about 3D modeling when I first started. I used Photoshop, the free Netfabb, and Tinkercad for the first few designs that I listed on Shapeways. At the time, I just wanted to make jewelry pieces that celebrate my love for New York City and Chinese calligraphy. I didn’t know how to start. The traditional way my uncle, a stone setter, taught me was to carve wax. The process of wax carving is beautiful, but for the untrained it is really unforgiving and quite discouraging. It was totally not my thing, nor do I have the space for that in my tiny apartment.
That was why I took to Google and YouTube in search of other ways to make jewelry. There are many forums and blogs online about 3D design and printing. Shapeways also links to several easy-to-learn software applications to get started: Tinkercad, 123D Design…
What inspired you to create the Tea Leaves Ear Climber?
The foliage in Central Park and also drinking jasmine tea after dinner. I use real tea leaves, the ones compressed into tiny balls that unfurl once you pour in hot water. Smelling the jasmine and watching the leaves unfurl is sort of a meditation for me. Of course, jasmine tea leaves are quite long and would be too heavy for an ear climber, so I shortened them.
I wanted the design to have an organic look and have it wrap around the earlobe, so I have the bottom two leaves curve inward, as if they were being blown in the wind. I also wanted the earring to glimmer without the help of gemstones, so there are tiny veins on the leaves and the third leaf curves away from the ear a little to catch the light.
How do you create your earrings?
The ear climber was created completely in Fusion 360 and the Delphinium Leaf Studs were a combination of Fusion 360 and Sculptris. These were my breakout designs, so to speak, because I was trying to upgrade from Tinkercad and get a bit more serious 3D modeling software, and these were free programs that I decided to try first.
For the Delphinium Leaf Stud, I wanted to see if I could sculpt out details using Sculptris and compare those to what I can do with Fusion 360. I ended up loving the raw silver texture of the leaf and how organic the design looked. I’ve already had people asking if I made that by hand. I love telling people that I digitally sculpted it, but it was made by a machine. They are often surprised, because 3D printing in their mind means all these geometric shapes and industrial objects, not organic things.
I am trying Blender at the moment, which I like a lot.
Do you prototype your designs?
Not unless there’s a request for customization and the customer wants to review a prototype first. Prototype materials are a great way to see the designs in semi-finished form, but I prefer to have a model closer to the final product. I want to feel the weight of the piece in my hands, and I need to see how light reflects off of it. I am sure there are software add-ons that can simulate these situations, but I want to see and feel it. This is where my uncle’s way of making jewelry has its influence on me.
Evelyn Leung is based in New York City and continues to create inspired designs from her in home studio. You can find the designs you see here and her new pieces in her Shapeways shop, Latte A.L., or at Two Perfect Souls.