Say Hello to 3D-Printed, Unisex Jewelry

Dec 10, 2016 at 12:44 pm by -gToon

As a longtime art director at the London branch of Territory Studio, Nik Hill led teams of talented artists creating motion graphics and VFX for films like The Martian, Zoolander 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as, broad- cast, games and many other projects.

Recently, he left Territory to pursue a project of his own, Twenty Third C, a unisex jewelry (or "jewellery" as the British spell it) that fuses motion graphics and 3D printing to push jewelry into "to the fourth dimension." Using Cinema 4D, ZBrush and 3D printing Hill collaborates with his girlfriend, Katie Stevenson, a rising opera star, to create jewelry inspired by geometry and animals that can be worn by anyone, regardless of gender.

The flagship piece in Twenty Third C's forthcoming collection, the stag is
a mythological sign signaling a profound change or beginning of a spiritual quest.

To celebrate the launch of the company's online store, Hill teamed up with VFX artist Raphael Rau and Zelig Sound to create an experiential video in which the camera flies through digital models of the 3D printed jewelry. I asked Hill to ex- plain the unique creative process behind his new jewelry brand, and here is what he had to say.

The launch video features both Tetra and Polyberg pieces. Tetra, a necklace, was
inspired by a hallucination that sparked Nik Hill's interest in geometry. Polyberg,
a duality piece made from two materials or parts, was inspired by icebergs.

Meleah Maynard: Talk a little bit about your background and how you got started in design and motion graphics?

Nik Hill: I studied motion graphics at London Metropolitan University. There were only eight of us in the course so we mixed with the graphic design students a lot. I didn't realize it at the time, but that was really beneficial because the graphic design modules were more geared towards how to think like a designer. I had never used Cinema 4D before and I spent most of my first year watching Greyscale Gorilla tutorials and reading books on 3D animation principles.

After graduation I freelanced for a year and then joined Territory as a senior mo- tion designer. After a while I was given more lead roles on projects and was more in- volved in overall design. Eventually I became an art director, which for me came out of a desire to have more of a hand in the overall look, feel and direction of projects.

As a person with so much experience as a motion designer, 3D artist and illustrator, how did you decide to get into 3D-printed jewelry?

Nik Hill: Twenty Third C started out as a project called 'Kingdom Rock', my intention was al- ways to mix animals and geometry to make jewelry using 3D printing. It came about because my partner, Katie, and I always used to wear each other's rings and necklaces, so we thought why not make jewelry ourselves. I also love the idea of making some- thing physical, something tangible that exists outside of a computer screen and jewelry feels like such a strong statement about who you are.

Twenty Third C's animal line features a stag and
a falcon and will eventually include more animals.

What inspires your design and how do you and Katie work together?

Nik Hill: Katie's involvement is huge and multi-faceted. She's a muse, and her dress style is a big inspiration. Her increasing success as an opera singer fills me with motivation. She's really a creative director, acting as a much needed sound board and offering a healthy dose of reality if my ideas are heading off kilter. We co-designed her Valen- tine's Day gift one year, and that's now part of the line we recently launched. She's also our resident model and photographer.

In one of the video's transition scenes, the camera flies through Hedron's cage, a protective
frame that guards a precious core, and into Bambi's lock, a modern take on a traditional locket

Nik Hill: I get my inspiration from various places, architecture and sacred geometry, but also rethinking existing jewelry concepts. At the core of all of my work is a simple idea and some basic geometric frame work or platonic solid. For example, with Hedron's Cage, a protective frame inspired by an octahedron and icosahedron, I wanted to build a piece based around the concept of a strong exterior and precious interior. From there, I used an octahedron as a base and cut into it until I constructed a cage I was happy with.

Relying primarily on C4D, Nik Hill creates simple, striking designs for Twenty Third C

Nik Hill: My approach to designing for Twenty Third C is very different from what I usually do. With clients there isn't much time to conceptualize what you want to create, but with Twenty Third C I have a dedicated handmade sketchbook that is filled from seam to seam with little notes, ideas, sketches and concepts for jewelry.

Talk a bit about your process

Nik Hill: For the animal sculptures I start by sketching out a rough idea, then drawing a base shape in Illustrator. I bring that into Cinema 4D and extrude it to form a 3D object. Next, I move the vertices around until I have a base I'm happy with. Then I bring that into ZBrush, sculpt the details and decimate some of the geometry before bringing it back into C4D to create the more geometric forms. Once I'm happy with those, I import them back into ZBrush to merge the sculpted and geometric assets together.

Originally created as a Valentine's Day gift for Katie, Bambi's lock
was inspired by the traditional locket while also signifying that
something precious is inside of a capsule.

Nik Hill: Basically, I make all of my geometric forms in Cinema 4D and my more organic forms in ZBrush, but always begin and finish the jewelry design process in Cinema4D. I find it super easy to check the scale of the model and its various components in C4D before sending it off to print.

And how does the 3D printing process work?

Nik Hill: All of the jewelry is created using 3D printing at some point in the production process. With precious metals like silver and gold, a wax version of the model is 3D printed and then casted using a traditional lost wax casting method to create a solid finished piece. The black steel frames, like those that are part of Hedron's cage are 3D printed using a powdered alloy, built up layer by layer from a powder bed.

A printer moves across the print bed binding the powder together layer by lay- er. The model is then heated and any excess powder is removed. Then the model is infused with bronze to create a structurally strong product. PLA plastic models are cre- ated using laser sintering, which essentially builds up the plastic layer by layer.

Where do you see the Twenty Third C brand going in the future?

Nik Hill: Making jewelry that isn't gender specific ties into a bigger vision for Twenty Third C. Ultimately we'd like to build a fashion/lifestyle brand that makes products that are not only non-gendered, but also tailor-made for customers. We believe there is a lot of crossover in the tastes of men and women and that in many ways, female and masculine and stereotypes are manufactured.

Twenty Third C's Voronoi ring was design in Cinema 4D
and inspired by the Voronoi noise pattern

Nik Hill: Our view is that the main difference between your average male and average fe- male is their size, but we all sit somewhere along the same spectrum and we want to create styles for whomever likes them. All people have to do is pick the size they want. Emerging technologies, like 3D printing, will make this process easier as we move into an era of retail that is more tailored to consumers. The next step is to create a pop-up shop world tour and cruise the globe selling jewelry, prints and artwork while collaborating with other artists along the way.

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Meleah Maynard is a freelance writer and editor in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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