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Squeeze Cuff with pollen charm.
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Flower Machine long pendant
The Oxo Tower Wharf on the Thames' South Bank is home to some of the most creative and talented designers in the capital. Housed on the second floor of the mixed-use space is a traditionally trained jeweller using far from traditional techniques to create beautiful, intricate pieces of 3D Printed jewellery.
Mark Bloomfield has been designing jewellery for years, for some of the biggest names in fashion, TV and film. His current collection is some of the most recognisable 3D printed jewellery in the marketplace. The London based designer's 'electrobloom' brand includes necklaces, bangles, pendants, rings and charms.
Mark's design skills don't stopping at jewellery either, inside the South Bank workshop Mark has been working on prototypes of 3D printed lampshades , using a MakerBot Thing-o-matic. The finished articles are now hanging pride of place alongside some of his jewellery in the world's largest 3D printing store iMakr.
Despite forays into homeware the main focus, for now, is the 3D printed jewellery. electrobloom offers an alternative to mass-produced jewellery using the additive manufacturing process. The pieces, which are inspired by flora, are 3D printed in Nylon by Digits2Widgets and finished by hand, ensuring the highest quality products designed and finished inside the M25.
“I've used different bureaus for the production of my jewellery but have discovered that the quality varies, even though it's the same item made using the same 3D printer. As the process is still relatively new when used for production this is understandable but I know that the printers are capable of much more. So I made the decision to use a local facility, Digits2Widgets (D2W) in London. Turnaround time is much faster so I'm not waiting for weeks to get a new model in my hands and this is obviously important when I'm fulfilling customer orders. The best aspect though is the close working relationship with D2W as this allows us to experiment and innovate with not only the printing process but also post processing. We have been doing lots of experimentation with production, finishing and dyeing to increase the quality while ensuring dependability and consistency.”
Just like the industry giants Links and Pandora's pieces the Mark's jewellery is customisable; one can mix and match the charms and colours to one’s heart’s content.
Not only are they made in London, 3D Printed, hand finished and fully customiseable, but there's an element of gamification to jewellery. One of the necklaces on display at the studio looks like a miniature medieval weapon, when Mark takes it off the display to show the opening mechanisms, it literally blooms into a stunning flower that one could open and close at will, perhaps to reflect a mood or just as something to fiddle with.
“I do like the jewellery to be played with as the tactile qualities reinforce the connection to the work. Using Additive manufacturing processes I've been able to produce items that consist of moving parts which come out of the printer in one go, no assembly required! It's allowed me to create complex pieces, which would be prohibitively expensive to make using traditional forms of manufacture. Also, as the collection is totally customisable, I'm inviting the customer to be part of the creative process. All the modular components work together, which becomes quite an addictive activity once you realise the possibilities. Each new part I introduce allows the collection to grow exponentially and becomes more fun to play with.”
The designs are intricate beyond belief, it is astonishing that such complex designs come off the printer as one piece but this owes to Mark’s background. Mark has been a key mover and shaker in the 3D printing field for years, using the technology beforehand to make prototypes for bigger jewellery and fashion companies he decided the time was right to take the plunge into creating a finished product using the technology.
“The jewellery industry has been using 3D printing for many years as some of the first printers used wax which fitted in nicely with the traditional lost wax casting process. New LS processes using precious metals will only continue to strengthen the industry's relationship with technology. With personalised and customised options both the fashion and jewellery industry could offer bespoke services which would be serviced at accessible price points by new technologies, including 3D printing. As manufacturing has moved overseas it could be that additive manufacturing processes encourage manufacturing to move back home, and become local to the customer in order to provide this new level of service, mass customisation is happening, the tools are being developed and different companies are experimenting with how to deliver such a service. The biggest hurdle is how to engage the customer in the process when they're used to a convenient, cheap and accessible high street, it's going to take some time for the benefits to be fully realised.”
So next time you think about buying a piece of ‘Made in China’ jewellery off a Primark or Walmart shelf think about the locally made, quality products that are available to you for incredibly reasonable prices.