I’m no Luddite. In fact, I’m a real tool junkie and part of my enjoyment in creating jewelry for my clients comes from the opportunity to work with some very cool tools, both modern and ancient. I have recently embraced the idea of integrating CAD (Computer Aided Design) into much of my personal jewelry design work. CAD-CAM is now part of my regular tool-box and I love working in this new manner. I relish the idea that I use ancient (millennia old) techniques right alongside of the cutting-edge technology of CAD-CAM and 3D Printing!!
That being said, I think that much of the CAD generated jewelry being designed and manufactured today…it is a very strong trend…is just not that personal in how it looks or “feels”. Also, much of that type of jewelry has been designed by someone with great computer skills, but no hands-on experience with jewelry. Because of this trend we see some aesthetically cool stuff that ultimately, just won’t hold up to the enormous wear and tear that occurs with jewelry as it is worn.
Handmade jewelry, furniture, kitchenware, and (for those of us who are lucky enough to have these things in our lives,) many of the very most treasured items we own, use or encounter are handmade. These objects have a wonderful and thought-provoking feel that speaks to craftsmanship in the highest degree. And they tend to hold up to use, getting more beautiful over time while not falling apart. We do not have to forego this aspect of “craftsmanship” in integrating CAD-CAM into a design or production process. One direction I’ve taken to insure this for myself is to use a fairly basic (though incredibly powerful) CAD application for my design process. It is called Rhinoceros. Without using jewelry-specific shells or plug-ins, which are readily available for this application, I am forced to design from the ground up everything I produce instead of simply pulling pre-designed components from a library that every other jewelry designer uses every day. Because of this dedication to sole-authorship, I think you will see and feel the difference in the things I make.
One of my all-time favorite quotes about craftsmanship...
The following is a brief excerpt from the piece by Susan Crowell, writer, and (likely former, at this time) Ceramics instructor at U. Michigan, Ann Arbor:
"Craftsmanship is the central, qualitative element of craft, and it is at the heart of one maker's response to the work of another... and in seeking a unified theory of craft, not a unified aesthetic, we need to focus on the act of making, not the object itself."
She discusses the writing of anthropologist Ellen Dissanayake's in her book "Homo Aestheticus", who describes "ART" as the task of “making special". Susan goes on to say......."For craftspeople, this making special emphasizes both the making and the special. Reversing the terms - special making- rings even truer when speaking of craft, for which the process of handwork is an essential component. As our perception of time becomes more precious and the time-intensive nature of craft increases its value, craft may even come to represent the preciousness of time itself, embodied in an object.”