Lifestyle Products: 3D Printshow - Additive Manufacturing of wearable and sophisticated haute couture
Ceremonial mask becomes reinterpreted through innovative EOS technology
The use of objects worn over the face for protection, disguise, or entertainment have been used since ancient times. Such ritualistic, theatrical and ceremonial masks have been used across the world for social, tribal and religious reasons. They served indigenous tribes as camouflage when hunting; the clown in the circus arena, the Venetian Carnival or Mardi Gras would be unthinkable without them and certain cultures still use such disguises in customary dances. A mask protects and hides the wearer's true face, giving him or her the opportunity of posing as someone or something else. Pretty or ugly, witty or ghastly, man or animal - everything is possible.
The fashion industry also plays with this illusion. And, Chicago-based artist Joshua Harker wove together art, technology and haute couture to create “Quixotic Divinity," a headdress inspired by traditional Native American, African, Latin and Asian headdresses and masks. The artist is a long-time supporter of Additive Manufacturing and applied this innovative technology rather than conventional production methods. The headdress, manufactured using the EOSINT P 760, made its fashion-world debut with stops in London, Paris and New York City and was the crown jewel of the catwalk.
The haute-couture headgear consists of a variety of interwoven and suspended components and a detachable face mask. When uncoupled from the headpiece, the mask drops down to the model's waistline, forming a bodice shape that accentuates the female form. Harker explains: “The model comes down the catwalk as this monstrous, ceremonial thing and you can't tell who she is or what's going on. Then when the mask comes down, the experience becomes much more elegant and humanising and brings a completely different look to the headdress."
A long-time advocate of Additive Manufacturing, Harker describes himself as a digital adventurer and imagination architect and he is no stranger to designing intricate and elaborate sculptures as well as works of art. His previous projects, including his Tangle sculptures and Crania Anatomica Filigre series, all presented him with a similar obstacle: how could the images he was imagining and drawing emerge into three-dimensional structures? Having worked in several model shops and prototyping bureaus in the early 1990s, the artist was familiar with Additive Manufacturing, but it wasn't until ten years later that he began using such processes as a medium.
The process fosters design-driven manufacturing as opposed to manufacturing-driven design. A designer's CAD file is converted to a sliced file and uploaded to the system's software. The system then spreads a thin layer of the polyamide powder over a build platform. From there, a focused laser traces the contours of a cross-sectional slice taken from the 3D digital model, melting the layer of powder at high heat. Fresh powder is then reapplied and the process is repeated layer-by-layer until the full piece is “grown." Once the build is complete, the remaining loose powder is carefully brushed away until the product emerges. The headdress was manufactured in this way with the EOSINT P 760. After Harker dedicated almost 200 hours to designing Quixotic Divinity, the manufacturing process was completed in less than 26 hours.
The high-quality surface finish and consistency of the polyamide powder, in this case nylon 12—EOS PA 2201 material, enable Harker to look to Additive Manufacturing as his medium of choice and has already allowed him to build dozens of designs and produce thousands of pieces. “There's no way to work as spontaneously in any other medium—and I've tried everything: wood and stone and wax and clays. Each medium had a reason it wouldn't work," Joshua Harker says. “The CAD programs that EOS technology supports allow me to sculpt and design virtually in the same manner I would draw."
Harker feels that the more widespread accessibility and relatively low cost of Additive Manufacturing, as well as the user's ability to digitally design highly complex geometries, make it—and specifically EOS technology —a fundamental tool for designers and artists alike. “I think the fun part about this production method is that it's going in a lot of different directions," the artist says. “Many different aspects of the fashion industry are picking up on it, and people are trying new things and creating some really exciting projects."
“It's kind of profound that now I can be that much more creative and focus strictly on the act of creation rather than the chore of production," Harker enthuses. “I wouldn't be able to carve all of my projects out in the garage by hand."
Additive Manufacturing's ability to “make the unmakeable," as Joshua Harker calls it, leads him to believe that more and more fashion designers will begin to take advantage of this technology and its capabilities. While 3D-printed, formfitting chainmail-like attire has been worn by celebrities, and jewelry and other accessory designers have adopted Additive Manufacturing, Harker believes the technology is capable of going even further—eventually being able to produce 3D-printed fabrics. For now, he's pleased to see designers pushing the boundaries of Additive Manufacturing technology.
The artist predicts: "I think there is no doubt we'll be seeing additive manufactured fashion on the street. It's already starting with more affordable items like jewelry and accessories. As costs come down and processes become more efficient it will be increasingly incorporated into textiles, shoes, and larger pieces."
While Joshua Harker has no intention of adding fashion designer to his resume, he admits he is still interested in producing more wearable art. “I have a desire to see my creations move and come alive. Regardless of where 3D printing goes within the fashion industry, seeing my pieces worn by people has been a pivotal point in my artistic journey", says the artist.
Joshua Harker, Artist