Lola Lely's Convivial Spoons
Lola Lely's spoons featured on the television show Four Rooms
Four Rooms, the show in which artists and collectors take pieces of art along to some of Britain’s most renowned art dealers and try to haggle a sale, served up a slice of 3D printing with some additive manufactured spoons.
Vietnamese born, Royal College of Art trained designer Lola Lely took on the Four Rooms challenge with her Convivial Spoons, designed to create a sharing spirit.
Lola valued her 3D printed spoons at £8,000 ($12,000 €9,300), though the dealers seemed intrigued by the unusual design nobody quite matched Lola’s valuation. The closest was former It Girl Tamara Beckwith who was nudged up to £2,400 ($3,700, €2,800) but the deal couldn't be sealed. The final dealer Lola visited, Antique’s expert Raj Bisram, told her to take her items to a specialist auction house.
We caught up with Lola to find out how she came up with the idea of the spoons in the first place:
Can you briefly explain what is meant by the spoons' title 'Convivial Spoons'?
Whilst studying at the Royal College of Art, I created a pop-up community restaurant called ‘POTLUCK Restaurant’. It was a place where people could visit for a communal meal with strangers. The serving spoons, tableware and even the furniture I created were all designed for sharing. My aim was to bring back a sense a community spirit to Londoners. The ‘convivial’ spoons became the ‘talking’ pieces: the unusual spoons with their the long handles encourages diners to reach out and connect with others across the dining space.
Was it the intricacy of your designs that led you to 3D printing or was it the other way round; did you discover 3D printing and decide to make as intricate designs as possible?
It was difficult to find a traditional manufacturer to prototype my set of 6 unusual spoons. The designs are quite complex but a couple of them can be produced in the traditional method. It was just not worthwhile for the manufacturer to take on. That’s when I turned to 3D printing. With 3D printing technology, I became my own manufacturer and was not held back by minimum quantities or expensive tooling parts.
What made you choose 3D printing over traditional methods of manufacture?
I am very much a traditionalist when it comes to product design. My process begins with sketching and research. Next, to ‘prove’ a design or to test for good ergonomics I make 1:1 models from cheap material such as wood, clay or paper. 3D printing comes right at the very end if I want to make a realistic looking model to show to a client or manufacturer.
In the case of my convivial spoons, I did not initially intend to produce them using 3D printing technology. In fact, I spoke to a few cutlery manufacturers in Sheffield (the home of British steel), and they were not interested in fabricating the spoons. Later, when the manufacturer heard about my spoons, they were interested in the product. That’s the great thing about having a real object to hand. It can open doors and make people take your ideas seriously.
Can you talk us through the process, who printed them, on what machine etc.?
3D printing in metal is an additive layer manufacturing process using fine powders to directly build metal components. Layers of fine metal powder are built up vertically, fusing together by heat from a laser built in the machine. The final result is a solid metal product.
The spoons were printed by CRDM, (Ed. Who, incidentally were taken over 3D Systems last week) a company based in just outside of London. They usually print parts in stainless steel for the aerospace industry. The machine they use is the EOSINT M 270 and the EOSINT M 250 Xtended DMLS machines. The quality is superior to other metal printed examples I have seen from other companies.
Did you feel that the Four Rooms dealers already knew how the technology worked?
The dealers had heard of 3D printing but none of them were that familiar with the technology and had no idea how expensive it is! They were excited when I told them that 3D printing is potentially capable of returning production to the cottage industries in this country.
Do you feel that the technology allows for there to be a whole new set of artists with new rules?
Absolutely. Part of my project might not have been possible without the help of 3D technology. The hindrance at the moment, which makes this process prohibitive to many, is still the high cost and having a good working knowledge of 3D software, although most of my generation and the younger generation are pretty computer savvy nowadays.
The downside to this technological advancement is that it has made some young designers quite lazy. They no longer want to hand sketch or conceptualise, and will easily resort CAD and 3D printing at the first given chance. Designs realised this way have little or no relation to human skill or thinking. So as much as, I am pro 3D technology, I’d consider other solutions as well.