Puppy wheelchairs, prosthetics, and pizza in space. What do these things have in common? They’ve all been 3D printed. Once the stuff of science fiction (think the replicators of Star Trek’s Enterprise), 3D printing is rapidly becoming familiar technology for artists, inventors, and industrial designers. Although 3D printing is associated with creating a wide variety of things, it’s not necessarily associated with making beautiful things. One artist who’s working on changing that is Andrea Panico, maker of our Common Edge 3D Printed Initial Necklace.
“I think when 3D printing technology started gaining momentum, we all looked at it like ‘What can I do with this that I couldn’t do via traditional methods?’,” says Andrea, reflecting on makers’ embrace of the cutting edge potential. But instead of embarking on flights of 3D-printed fancy, her approach was relatively pragmatic: “I’ve always been more interested in how I could use 3D printing to help me do what I was already doing—as opposed to creating something aesthetically different, just because I could. I’m a lover of tools, whether they’re manual or technological in nature, and started looking at 3D printing as just another tool in my kit.”
The Common Edge necklace design is an extension of Andrea’s architectural approach to jewelry design. “I’m always looking at systems and modularity and always thinking about how to minimize production time and maximize beauty and uniqueness,” she says. Part of Andrea’s challenge as a jewelry designer was to reconcile the digital, automatic nature of 3D printing with the cachet of custom, handmade jewelry. Prototyping potential is part of the key to striking such a balance.
“The work I do is precise by nature and I spend quite a bit of time planning and designing so that I can maintain that precision in production,” she explains. “It’s similar to me using a mold to cast a piece for production. I need that tool to help me ensure the design is accurate and true to my intent, time after time.”
Further making the connection between traditional casting techniques and 3D printing, she adds, “I still spend quite a bit of time finishing the piece by hand. With 3D printing, the time and effort are spent up front, doing the work to plan and execute in the 3D software. So while I’m not hand finishing the design per se, it still involves quite a bit of decision-making and design intent.”
Technology and tools aside, concepts of universality inspire her design. “I wanted to underscore the theme that we all share this common human denominator; that we’re all different in so many ways, but there’s a foundation of basic needs that brings people together,” she asserts. “I started looking at the alphabet and realized that almost all the letters could be created by building simple gestures on top of either a common straight line or a common curved line. This piece reminds us we are unique, but also that we are not alone.” For Andrea, the geometric framework of the alphabet provided a ready metaphor for the ties of human experience.
Andrea’s inspiration also stems from existing traditions of I.D. jewelry—specifically, a bit of bling from her own collection: “I have an I.D. necklace I got in the ‘80s that had this delicate and elaborate ‘Andrea’ with a tiny diamond in it,” she reflects. “Those are back in style as an ironic statement now, but I wanted to make a piece for the woman who likes pieces that are a little stronger and less precious. This is why the necklace includes the two pieces—the common edge piece and a more gestural overlay that together creates her initial.”
A creative continuation of the I.D. jewelry tradition, the Common Edge necklace can be worn every day to work, at home (it’s strong enough to withstand curious kids’ hands), or out and about. Plus, its 3D printed forms will help you feel connected to a fascinating piece of the future.