Shige and The Devil Fish – Synthesizing Nature, Science & Art
Scuba diver, 3D artist, maker and lecturer – Shigeto Maeda is that rare breed of artist who synthesizes nature, science and art to create works of strange and exotic beauty. Many of his 3D printed works recall organic marine life forms, plants and the less-appreciated insect life forms. His Generative Modelling Projects have created great interest in the design community since 2010 and he has been described as “a true Blender legend, the artist most of us looked up to, back when Blender was in its infancy”. Shige-san shares some of his life and outlook with Ginkgo3D in the following interview:
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself, Shige-san.
I’m living in Zushi-City, Kanagawa –Prefecture south of Tokyo and Yokohama. My jobs cover graphic design and 3D design and I am a part-time lecturer for some universities such as the Tokyo Kasei University, Nihon University Faculty of Arts and Tsuda College. Sometimes I scuba dive; I love meeting the many kinds of life under the water.
Q: What is your background as an artist and how did you get into 3D printing?
I studied ‘constructive art’ at University in a Graduate School Master’s Program Design Course, but I think I have loved to make something, even from the days of my childhood. Well, I didn’t study 3D printing in school. I was first introduced to 3D printing in 2010 while attending a graphics lecture at the University.
Q: How does marine life inspire you as a designer?
I’m a scuba diver. So, sometimes, I go to sea at Ishigaki Island in Okinawa and watch life under the sea. It is very far away from my house, but the sea is so beautiful! Sea life is very diverse and stimulates my creativity. Just like the Manta Ray that I encountered in one of my diving trips (photo above). Corals are a pleasure to the eyes, but it is also the habitat of many organisms. So, in one of my Generative Modelling Projects, I attempted to generate a coral structure.
Q: What were your first 3D printing projects like?
When I had a chance to print something, I made an easy model like a sea cucumber with Blender in 10 minutes and asked someone to print it out for me. I was surprised the result, and it was then that I realised the potential of 3D printing.
Q: What made you focus on designing jewellery?
I think of jewellery as a kind of very small sculpture. It’s art being used as a wearable sculpture. I didn’t know about the loss-wax casting technique of jewellery making, so I use the 3D print (and 3D printing services) to make up for its shortcomings. (Shige’s Octopus ring can be seen at here)
Q: So you prefer to use direct metal printing for your jewellery pieces?
Presently, I mostly use casting for my works in silver or brass, but I’d like to use titanium or gold with direct metal printing someday.
Q: Do you outsource your prints or do them yourself?
I have a 3D printer ‘B9creator’ in my house, sometimes I make something small for testing the shape, (prototyping) but for the final product, I use some print services. Because the print services have high-end machines and techniques for best result, so they usually satisfy me. Depending on the case, I use ‘DMM.com’, ‘Rinkak’, ‘Shapeways’, and ‘Interculture’. Each of the service has its own characteristics, low price, special materials, speed, and user friendliness.
Q: Do you use a favourite hardware-software combination when designing your projects?
I’m using an iMac for main work. And I have also been using Blender for 3D work for more than ten years.
Q: What were the biggest challenges you faced as a new 3D designer for printing?
3D printing is often used for making prototype models in the industrial design. But I feel its great potential for making the final, functional product. Recently, I’ve been making stereo speakers with 3D printing. The shape is simple but it’s difficult to make with traditional method.
Q: Do you have a favourite piece that you created and what was your most satisfying moment in 3D printing?
So many strange figures I have. And they are all so cute. My most satisfying 3D printing moment is when I look at the very complex printed model in the palm of my hand. Because it’s original and it’s something no one has ever seen before.
Q: Are your designs only based on nature? What inspires you?
My jewellery series are the motif of the things in nature, but the other works are made with my original programme automatically. My inspiration comes from life! Not only life in the sea, but plants, insects and all life.
Q: You are well-known in the Blender community. Do you teach that?
Yes, I teach Blender As a part-time lecturer in two universities, I conduct classes in basic design, 3D design, web design and flash animation.
Q: Do you have an artist or designer who inspires you?
Hiroshi Yoshii, one of Japan’s most famous digital and character artists. (Yoshii is a digital design pioneer, creating quirky characters and sculptures for major TV programmes, commercials and corporate websites.) His designs are so cute that it makes me – and of course everyone else – feel so happy! The other one is Dutch designer Macouno (Dolf Veenvliet) who is famous for his Entoforms. Macouno is my first Blender-Python teacher and without his help, my project ‘GMP-Generative Modelling Project’ would not have started. I still meet him often at the Blender network.
Q: What new design of yours would you like to share with our readers?
Recently, I just completed the ‘Mimi-ika’ (it means a squid with ears), which is a small and cute pair of speakers. I wish I could sell these, but the 3D print cost is so high that the price would be very expensive.
Q: What kind of design challenges would you like to face the most in the future?
I’ll make some things that I myself want to have. I hope you’ll like them.
Q: Do you think 3D printing designers will become more common in future?
The ‘3D printing’ will be a very common technology in future, so the designers will be inevitably necessary.
Article by Ginkgo3D Editors Hazel Han and Andrew YC Loh