Nine Amulets

1831 Solano Avenue, PO BOX 7580, Berkeley California 94707-9991, United States

Using Computers to Design Jewelry

01 March, 2023


It is nearly impossible to ignore the role of computers since they are present in everything we do. For example, I use computers to sell my jewelry and show others my work. But I have to think deeper about designing jewelry using computers. There are a few things to consider.

Computer-aided design (CAD) is popular and has been used since the 1940s, but much has changed. Once only used by engineers to produce specific parts, today, CAD has evolved to just about every area of the art design.

Computer designs once were stiff and lifeless, but now organic shapes can be created that are virtually impossible to distinguish from real objects. The artificial look was replaced by a hyper-realistic feel that seduces the eye and intrigues the soul.

Silver ring

Computer design has become so sophisticated it offers an infinite range of possibilities. The technical barriers have been removed, allowing artists to create forms once practically very difficult or impossible to conceive.

However, the downside of this burst of power is that we risk becoming repetitive, pedestrian, and vulgar because computers have an innate talent to repeat the same results every single time, denying the unique expression and signature of the artist.

If the artist becomes too enamored with the tool rather than the objective or the intention of his creation, there is a risk of losing oneself to the glitz of technology for the sake of technology. The artist stops searching for originality and repeats what everybody else is doing because he is fooled into thinking that it is art. And there are other challenges.

The artist must be a master of this new electronic tool, which has a steep learning curve, but yet remain true to his vision and uniqueness - a true challenge but doable with training but at the cost of time and effort.

Luckily new software available now is remarkable and allows the artist much freedom and creativity. The big change occurred when 3D software, once the domain of engineers and tech gurus, was written for artists. Not only the designing tools but having the artist in mind.

One such software is ZBrush, which uses a technology called Pixol. If you have seen James Cameron's movie Avatar, you know what that is. The hyper-realistic and fantastic world that was created does not initially remind us of computers but something else.

ZBrush can create organic shapes using an equation derived from the mathematics of nature. Bezier curves and fractals. Bezier curves have been somewhat used in traditional 3D software, but ZBrush took this to a new level. They applied bezier curves in an organic and tridimensional way and in real-time. Allowing anyone to paint with brushes that simulate how nature constructs its forms. This was an astonishing discovery, and it changed the game.

Anything you draw in Zbrush looks real, but because it is. You see, traditional technology in 3D design tends to be stiff because they are mathematically perfect and exact. But no such thing exists in the real world. If you look at anything in our world very closely, you'll see that they are not perfect, and these imperfections are what make them real. And every form in the universe has its origins in a fractal environment. 

I still think making jewelry using computers can be a stimulating experience as long as it is only one of the tools employed. After I create something with software, there is plenty of filling, polishing, and soldering. I use a variety of tools and different software. Sometimes for simple primitive shapes, I use Rhino 3D, which is easy to use yet very powerful and complex.

Some people will be led to believe that creating jewelry with computers somehow makes it easy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. One must be reminded that it should be only a tool in the creation process.

Creating jewelry by hand using the old traditional ways will have unique results. Computers will take us in a different direction that can be creative and unique, but it leads to different challenges. The objective is to create inspirational art, and the challenge is to keep the artist focused on their creation and not the process.

Double Dragon Ring

Photo by luiisrtz

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