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The Art of Levitation

Art is about pushing the boundaries. Playing with new ideas, methods and technology. From Brunelleschi’s and Masaccio’s use of linear perspective during the European Renaissance, to the avalanche of new ideas that burgeoned through the early twentieth century: the most exciting art involves exploration and experimentation. And today is no different.

Take these levitating 3D sculptures, the result of a collaboration between artists and American company, Levitating Design Lab who electromagnetically suspend 3D printing sculptures on levitation plates. Have a look, they’re pretty mesmerising.

It’s always exciting for us to work with artists. Because it’s a relatively new tool and one that requires a different approach, 3D printing is helping artists think in new and very different ways. To paraphrase potter-turned-digital-artist, Michael Eden, they’re ‘getting lost in code, perhaps, as opposed to clay’. We love the category-defying nature of the artists we’ve collaborated with over the last couple of years – the way they embrace new technology, reinterpreting the world and take us in totally unexpected directions. You can hear more about the evolution of Michael’s ideas and his chat with our very own Jake Augur, on Stage One’s Behind the Design podcast.

Looking further afield, American artist Joshua Harker is considered to be something of a pioneer in 3D printed art and sculpture. His work explores complex and ‘unmakeable’ forms. He’s quoted in All3dp as saying: “art is about pushing the limits of form & dimensions to share visions… an exploration into what can be made and how to accomplish it in an effort to tell a story or create an experience.”

This feature, in All3dp, explores other ways 3D printing is feeding creativity, across numerous fine art disciplines - even music. Fascinating to see sound rendered in 3D.

Back home, our most recent art project was with London-based multimedia digital sculptor, Rayvenn Shaleigha D’Clark. We used our Stratasys Fortus 900mc to produce Rayvenn's 1730mm tall life-like sculpture for the Body + Soul exhibition at One Canada Square in Canary Wharf. This exhibition explores materials, scale and consciousness in the representation of the human form and runs until October 8th. Rayvenn describes her practice as “exploring the digital hybridity of sculpture”, using life-like forms to examine identity, in particular, black identity. In this case, a contemporary black figure was realised in white ASA, a material that not only creates prints pretty fast, pretty economically and is weather and light-damage resistant; but also - interestingly - directly references the alabaster or marble of classical figurative sculpture. It’s a really interesting exhibition and well worth a visit.

Working with artists who push the limits means we’re constantly learning: finding out how far we can push our machines, the different materials – and our knowledge! It is the artists’ willingness and drive to experiment that has enabled us to find out so much more about the capabilities of our Lab and this filters through to all our projects across the board from art to industry, motorsport components to widgets to, well, anything. In an interview on Radio 4's Today programme just this morning, Grayson Perry described the excitement of experimentation "when the paint runs, the pot cracks - when the materials fight back!" Materials - and machines - don't always behave quite as you expect, but that's the challenge. That's where the creativity, the innovation and the learning happens.

Find out more about our work with other artists including Jam Sutton, Flavie Audi, Dominic Hawgood and Matthew Plummer-Fernandez.

Back to those Levitating sculptures:

Levitating Design Lab’s Joel Paglione says: “Our hope is that the burgeoning community of tech art designers and makers will be inspired to experiment with this new form of sculpturing and create their own pieces. We’re endlessly inspired by the creativity surrounding this culture and we hope to give some of that inspiration back by making the impossible possible.”

Making the impossible possible? Happens more often than you think.

And we love it when it does.

If you have an ‘impossible’ or possible idea you’d like us to help with, please get in touch!