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2013 Year of the Grasshopper and Making Brooches

January 01, 2013

Happy New Year! 2013 will be the year of the Grasshopper for me. No, I did not invent a new animal sign for a Chinese Year. It's just my motto for this year. Grasshopper is a plugin for a 3D modelling software Rhinoceros and one I want to learn. So this year my resolution is to play with it as much as I can. To help me stay on track I use the same motivator I used 2 years ago to learn Rhino 3D: I joined a flickr group to create a Brooch a Bay (BAD) or Brooch a Week (BAW). Anyone can join and submit designs. It's a personal challenge and open to interpretation as long as it is some sort of brooch, pin or badge.

In 2011 I did the Ring a Week challenge by designing and modelling 1 ring design per week in Rhino. I only went up to 32 weeks and got sidetracked with ... well live.  But it was still successful and I eventually learned the software. It is now a part of my everyday work and allows me to create a few of my selling ring designs. Posting the learning results to flickr and blogging about it was a great way to see the progress and change in complexity during the year. Plus it serves as a form of journal. What worked once, could work again.

rosette-definition
Grasshopper definition for first brooch project


Grasshopper is a free software plugin for Rhino 3D geared towards parametric form generation. It allows exploring shapes and designs through algorithms. It's often used in complex architectural designs but also in lot's of other design applications. I have seen it in action in my former day job as an architect used by those nerdy computer kids. But I haven't actually used it myself. It's a great tool to explore options and variations of designs, shapes and patterns. It allows making instant changes without having to remodel everything. It should be a awesome tool for jewelry applications and especially brooches that allow more flexibility than rings.

Brooches can really be anything that can get attached to clothing. As long as it has a pin of some sort - it's a brooch. I have never made a brooch and probably have never even worn one, ok maybe some pins or badges long time ago. I am excited to get out of my ring making comfort zone and explore another medium a bit. Brooches will allow me to play with patterns, reliefs, shapes and forms that would not be suitable for other jewelry applications.

BAD2013-001 & BAD2013-002 rosette-ellipse1-elev
Variations of a Rosette design, Rendering



I am not sure yet if I will follow through with the daily BAD challenge but I will try. Since Grasshopper allows creation of design variations I can use those spin offs as each days submission. I am hoping to create a mini series each week and post the best brooch design in the weekly challenge.  It will start out with renderings first. I will also send out files to Shapeways to be 3D printed in stainless steel or plastic/ resins or if appropriate mill them on my CNC mill and cast in silver. With any of these production methods there is a lag time of 2 to 3 weeks between the design and having the milled/cast or printed object in my hand. Once there is a physical object I can attach pin findings to it to make it a brooch or pin.

Modelling in Rhino and Grasshopper


I really see this challenge as a learning experience and to some extent as an art project. I have no intent to sell these brooches (through if something amazing comes along I might eventually add them in my shop).  I am just looking forward to some playful explorations and extending my design repertoire. It will be inevitable that I get stuck with the software, sidetracked with life and too busy with my business. But I hope I can always return and play some more. You can follow along on Flickrand I will try to blog off and on.

One of the first things I need to do is buying a new computer. I crashed the program multiple times this week while just playing with some simple definitions. So far I used Rhino4 via Paralles on my MAC book pro. It worked ok for some simpler ring designs but I already started to have problems with modelling bracelets as the files got bigger and bigger.  It's time to to upgrade to a dedicated PC and the newer software. I was hoping they would develop the MAC version of Rhino a bit faster but I don't really see that happen anytime soon (Rhino is available for MAC but no plugins like T-splines or Grasshopper yet). So I am out PC computer shopping. It's not my favorite thing to do, Mac shopping would be a lot more fun. 



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