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Harker's Crooked Cairn
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The Famous Crania Revolutis
As 3D printing technology advances, designers who can apply both heuristic thinking and creativity to their designs - and build them successfully - are succeeding in pushing the boundaries of the medium.
Josh Harker is one of the world's best-known artists working in the 3D printing field for this very reason, and he is one of the TCT Show's most hotly-anticipated speakers when the event hits the Birmingham NEC for its 19th edition on the 25th and 26th of September 2013.
We caught up with Harker to ask him about his work, what we can expect from him at the show this autumn, and what his presentation title The Empowered and the Liberated in the Future of the Revolution is all about.
A native of the Mississippi River region, the artist had an alternative upbringing - foundations that may well have given him his talent for thinking outside of the box. His childhood was centred around post-'60s off-grid communal living, where he was raised with "complete artistic immersion" plus the occasional evening of being babysat by the Hell's Angels. He eventually left that world to study at Kansas City Art Institute and St Ambrose University in Iowa, later pursuing anatomy and forensic arts, and working as a commercial sculptor and in product development.
He first got involved in 3D printing in the early '90s after struggling to translate his art from two dimensions to three dimensions. However, the state of the technology at the time was not up to the standards it is now and Harker admitted that it took him a further decade for 3D printers to build his designs to the standard he was looking to achieve. The artist, however has never looked back and said: "Simply having a medium that allows me to create my art as I envision it is excitement enough."
He told us that one of the reasons why he is excited about speaking at the show this September is because he relishes the chance to communicate with those who, like himself, are passionate about 3D printing and the myriad ways the technology can be used.
"Events like the TCT Show bring together a wonderful group of people with a specific interest in what's going on, so I'm excited about being part of that," he stated. He added that it is events such as these that bring 3D printing artists together. This, he noted, is a growing community as new developments draw in more and more practitioners.
This is the theme of his presentation The Empowered and the Liberated in the Future of the Revolution.
"I will be using my experiences to illustrate the changing paradigm of how artists and designers create and connect with an audience. Also, how a new world of options is opening up for the general consumer.
"We are no longer bound by economy of scale, manufacturing geometry limitations, and elite marketing and distribution channels. Consumers are afforded more product possibilities as well as options regarding who and where their products come from."
Exploring the medium
Harker believes that the accepted model of bringing a product to market and then selling it gives the consumer fewer choices, all of which come with a hefty price tag. But now, the playing field is leveling and 3D printing is helping to benefit both makers and consumers.
The practitioner knows about running an enterprise and how 3D printing can transform the economics of a business. He founded a profitable boutique design and development studio in 1998, where he served as CEO for a decade before selling his partnership.
"[The] point is that it was a functional and successful business within the current industry. It was - and still is - a small company of about 12 people, [with] approximately $70,000 (£45,083) per month overhead regardless of workload. I now run at nearly $0 overhead and make the same income," he stated.
Harker will be going into his first-hand experiences of how this burgeoning set of resources, networks and technologies enable these new business models in more detail at the TCT Show, but what is next for the professional's artistic ventures?
Creation and collaboration
Fans of his Tangled series will be pleased to hear that he is adding new pieces to this body of work, including a piece that is being adapted for fashion, which will be unveiled in Paris in November. Moreover, he has plans for public art works with an architectural bent emerging from the well-known oeuvre.
In the meantime, he is expanding some of his current series as well as working on other themes he believes will be well suited to 3D printing.
Additionally, he is working on a collaborative public art project with D-Shape, the 3D printing company that builds large-scale sandstone structures independent of human intervention. The organisation is best-known for its work on utilising moon dust as a 3D printing material, opening up the possibility of taking the technology into outer space.
Outside of the art world, Harker is involved in developing 3D printing technology. He wants to make something akin to RepRap that is simple to build and delivers high-resolution, multi-colour and even multi-material prints.
"I have a keen interest to put the power of the technology in the hands of more people and loosen the grip the bigger players have on the industry. [The] problem with non-profit, altruistic projects is funding. Maybe there's a middle ground, maybe another Kickstarter project ... we'll see," he remarked.
Whatever Harker has in store for us, the artist is going places, as his talents have been recognised by the likes of Nike's CEO and the co-Founder of Etsy, while there are some well-known actors and musicians on his growing list of clients.
To find out more about Josh Harker and his work, click to his website Joshharker.com, and to learn about and register for free entrance to the TCT Show + Personalize, please visit the show site tctshow.com