Primary Tools & Materials:

Additional Tools & Materials: Adobe Photoshop, inkjet printer, paper, tracing paper, scissors, camera

Today I was tasked with matching writing tools with fabrication. I found a tool that would do both - a 3D pen. My sister in law graciously let me spend a few hours learning to work her 3Doodler Pen, which melts plastic in much the same way as the 3D printer I used earlier this week. The difference is that this pen allows you to "write" in plastic freehand, rather than uploading a complete design. I wasn't sure what kind of letter I would get out of this study, because I had never used a 3D pen before, and I didn't know its capabilities. So I spent a good amount of time just testing various colors and techniques.

Once I was comfortable writing with the pen, I began "tracing" the outline of today's assigned letter - K - onto a sheet of tracing paper. My first instinct was to draw the skeleton of the letter, leaving the 3D planes empty to suggest the shape of the letter (see image 3). The only problem, for me at least, was the irregularity of the line quality. It was near impossible for me to get a long, straight, smooth line from the pen. After spending a bit more time testing techniques, I realized that the way the plastic came out of the pen felt very similar to using a confectionary bag to ice a cake. So I thought I'd use that technique - mimicking the icing pattern I've been able to ice onto cakes and cupcakes in the past. The resulting texture resembled lace or filigree. I used this method to make a front and a back, then used the pen to draw (midair!) connectors between the two pieces. This was the most difficult part, keeping the distance between the two pieces equal, and in such a way that the letter would stand up on its own two legs. This letter is very delicate and brittle - I'm afraid to hang it up on my studio wall or transport it in a box. 

The final form is three dimensional, but in a way that can still appear very flat (see image 1). The "back" of the letter can disappear at the right angle, and the sides are nearly invisible. As you rotate the letter the double-sided nature becomes more apparent, and when it's on its back (image 5), it seems to almost "float" above a duplicate letter. The complex pattern on the front and back also gives this letter a unique shadow; speckled and porous. 

Strong characteristics of this study are the material's dual strength and delicacy. Despite the letter being made of hard plastic, the joints are very prone to breakage, and yet the letter overall still has a great deal of flexibility. Continuing this study would require the creation of a typeface that demonstrates strength, flexibility, and delicacy all at once, through structure, line contrast, or weight.