Veronika Schmid is an architect and partner in Gill Schmid Design. She’s also the unseen hand behind many prominent works of contemporary art. Working with everyone from abstract sculptor Frank Stella to milliner Stephen Jones, she’s carved out a niche as a go-to 3D designer for high-profile works.
Veronika’s models come through the 3D printers at Shapeways every day, so we were curious to learn more about the person behind the work. Veronika was kind enough to share her perspective on 3D printing in the art world.
How did you get involved in 3D modeling artwork?
It was coincidental. I met Frank Stella whilst I was working at Francis Design, a yacht design company in London, more than 15 years ago. We worked on a series of sculptures for Frank.
Then, after leaving Francis Design and moving on to work with Cecil Balmond at Arup Advanced Geometry Unit, I got involved with designing exhibitions and site-specific installations, and working also with other artists.
Part of my interest also came from teaching at the Architectural Association in London, working in a more artistic environment and organizing and designing exhibitions there throughout the years.
“I don’t take projects in which I would purely operate as a CAD artist or draftsperson. I’m a designer and need to be involved in the design.” – Veronika Schmid
What leads someone like Frank Stella to turn to 3D printing?
Initially it was my expertise in 3D modeling and then as a consequence trying to find a means of fabrication. We started 3D printing in 2000, small-scale models in nylon. Soon it became clear that Frank liked the speed of production and also the level of complexity achievable.
How often are contemporary artists turning to people like you to realize their ideas?
To my knowledge it’s not very common, which is why I’m one of the few people able to support artists in this capacity. The projects I get involved in usually require an architectural, structural, and engineering background as well as an in-depth knowledge of the art world.
Is Frank Stella unusual in being public about your collaboration? Do you have any clients who you’re not allowed to talk about?
Yes. I believe it is because Frank and I have been working together for so long, and I am involved in many aspects of his work, from sculpture and architecture to exhibition design. Other artists I am working with I am not (yet) able to speak about.
How developed are artworks when you first become involved in them?
Normally not developed at all. That’s where I come in as a designer and architect. Usually it’s ideas that get developed during the process.
What was it like to model one of Stephen Jones’ hats?
Fun. Stephen is such a creative and kind person. All the artists I work with are. This is really important for me. I don’t take projects in which I would purely operate as a CAD artist or draftsperson. I’m a designer and need to be involved in the design. So open projects like the hat I did with Stephen are perfect. All the elements came together.
We have since both worked on an exhibition at the Warhol Museum. Stephen did a series of busts and I did a series of wigs.
Thinking back on all the works you’ve helped bring into the world, what’s the most inspiring piece you’ve had a hand in creating?
In terms of 3D printing, I believe still the large prints I did for Frank: in 2005-2006 doing a three-meter-cube-sized print was pretty special. We believe were the first to attempt this in stereolithography. A couple of years later, we started combining different materials at that scale using opaque, transparent, and metalized 3D printed components within the same objects.
Outside of 3D printing: the art pavilion I designed for the Venet Foundation, in the south of France, facilitating a series of shipbuilding techniques within architecture; some of the architectural projects I did for Richard Meier and Cecil Balmond; whilst working with Martin Francis, some large-scale fabricated metal sculptures for Frank that were at the Royal Academy, the Whitney, and the Met; a lot of student projects during my years of teaching at the AA, Columbia, RISD, and Harvard; and most recently and currently most exciting to me, our newest yacht designs and architectural work.
We are currently working on a new 75-meter Explorer for a younger tech client as well as a superyacht range for an international brokerage house. On the architecture front, we’re working on a luxury condo building in Europe, where we are both architects and developers.
Does the yacht side of your business ever get you into 3D printing?
Not as much as I would like. I feel there is tremendous potential, but things are moving a little bit slower in the yacht industry. Given that a lot of components on yachts are one-offs and need to be lightweight, it seems like such an obvious match. I will keep trying to push this and hopefully succeed soon.
What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in working in 3D design for artists?
Listen to the artist foremost, then familiarize yourself with their work, approach and thought process. You can’t just model and ignore the rest that surrounds the creative process.