The people to whom I am talking believe in their expertise, integrity and autonomy as designer makers and applied artists, people who are open to learning new skills and open to the benefits of 3D digital technology: for enhancing their practice, helping make it more sustainable in the longer term – because they are concerned about the impact that climate breakdown is having globally. Hence this post on A 3D Digital Technology Journey: supporting a designer/maker’s more environmentally responsible practice.
I am Ann Marie Shillito, a designer maker and jeweller, also co-founder and CEO of Anarkik3D Ltd. I have always been eco conscious. Covid lockdown gave me the time and space to start on a project to use 3D designing and 3D printing to creatively incorporate various found and scrap materials including fabric, and waste plastic filament from my own 3D printing process, into interesting pieces.
Image: Ann Marie Shillito wearing a jacket. crocheted from waste red/orange carpet wool and interwoven with strips of waste and scrap fabrics left over from making her own clothes. She made this jacket in 1979/80.
I started researching eco-worthiness of 3D digital technologies and the use in my own commercially 3D printed jewellery of virgin polyamide (plastic) materials. As recycled filament became available for use with desktop 3D printers, I began exploring these as an alternative.
Many of the designer makers and applied artists in my groups are also very concerned about climate breakdown and that the cause is our reckless use and disregard for our planet and its finite resources.
This sucks because the major polluters are the huge corporations, governments, institutions and leaders who are not acting responsibly and not investing in renewables and large scale solutions. It sucks because the majority of us in the developed countries either don’t care because this is not impacting us yet or, where it is already, are in denial that it is climate breakdown caused by our collective negligence!
Chris Packham’s soul-searching new documentary on Channel 4 on Wed September 20th at 9 pm , on activism, asks himself ‘ Is it time to break the law’ because “If you can’t achieve something with all of the world’s scientists constantly lobbying all the world’s governments in 30 years, then what can we do?” I totally agree with him regarding the need for disruptive protests particularly with the sort of cynicism on climate change shown by the UK’s PM.
Greta Thunberg shared her mantra with Packham. “One year with the right mindset will achieve more than 30 years with the wrong mindset.”
Seth Godin says that although ‘peaceful’ protesting is appealing, it is momentary, temporary, and urgent and the status quo is good at surviving protests. ‘…. the alternative is a project. A project begins with a protest ….., is impatiently persistent. It ….. can outlast the status quo. ….. identifies the system’ and if there is enough of us, we can bring ‘a systemic approach to changing that system. Projects can seem boring when seen with a stopwatch, but they’re powerful when measured with a calendar.’ (https://seths.blog/2023/09/a-protest-or-a-project/)
Big changes start small. In parallel with my own creative projects, I started working with people like me who are looking to make their own practice more environmentally responsible. My journey is also about pivoting Anarkik3D from direct sales to loaning out our haptic 3D modelling package (software and haptic device for virtual 3D touch). Loaning out equipment follows the sharing system model within one of the pillars of sustainability as it maximises usage and equality of access, and avoids equipment sitting idle. Think ‘tool libraries’.
Allison Macleod, a member of Applied Arts Scotland, CtL and MDC, states in a blog post that loaning Anarkik3DDesign is ‘tremendously helpful in trying out the programme at a reasonable cost. It is a huge bonus to be able to try the technology this way without all the investment and possible wastage. It frees the artist to have a go, to experiment and play with digital modelling.’
Image: Allison and two of her uniquely different 3D printed brooches created by using Anarkik3DDesign and Rhino together. Allison is also on a 3D digital technology journey: supporting a more environmentally responsible designer/maker practice.
(Haptics just has to be physically experienced to grasp the fundamental difference that the sense of touching a virtual 3D model makes for creating forms and objects in a virtual environment.)
Designer makers and applied artists already do much that is environmentally responsible and are close to having a Circular Economy business model, designing out waste and repurposing objects. Materials are a precious resource. We also generously share our information and knowledge in support of developing greater awareness and accountability in all we do. As material sustainability is an issue that cannot be ignored, we want to keep materials in use for longer. This is especially important when considering using 3D digital tech, the hardware, electronic storage, energy consumption and the polymers used in 3D printing.
Whilst at its core 3D printing is fundamentally less wasteful than traditional subtractive manufacturing methods, being an additive process, it’s wide adoption now and its use of plastic as a feedstock will exacerbate the global plastic epidemic – unless more ecological solutions are implemented fast.
My next blog post will have a list of my 12 environmentally beneficial ways we as designers, makers, applied artists, creatives and micro businesses can deploy for how we use 3D digital technology (3D printing and 3D designing).
I am working on two new things. For my continuing 3D digital technology journey I have a project to continue using 3D printing and waste plastic to create a screen. This will be used to spread awareness that plastics are precious and should not be squandered.
I am also developing new workshops for designer makers who want a supportive way to gain access to these 3D digital technologies to take advantage of the benefits for working towards a more responsible practice within a circular economy. Contact me if you are interested. These will be held in Edinburgh, Scotland.