Recent innovations like open source 3D software and 3D printing now enable anyone (who is willing to learn and invest their time) to make their ideas come to life, without the need for formal training or large budgets. My designs are demonstrations of this freedom of creativity. Maaike van der Horn
In recent years, the way in which we live and work has undergone a revolution thanks to digital technology and the internet. 3-D printing technologies, e-commerce outlets and social media-based sites are currently having a significant impact on how jewellery is made and marketed. The opportunity to design, manufacture and sell jewellery within a global marketplace is now literally at our fingertips.
Amsterdam-based Maaike van der Horn has embraced these opportunities to create the striking geometric Constructionist Bracelet we feature in our MARKER® investment newsletter this month.
We touched upon how 3-D printing technologies are being used by design professionals in our Chocolate and Foam article. But as the technology becomes ever more accessible, we are now seeing a new wave of ‘self-made’ digital designers emerging. Although some may let artistry take a back seat to technology and science, what makes Maaike van der Horn’s design work stand out is its visual strength and originality. The fact that Maaike van der Horn is a completely self-taught digital jewellery designer is also very inspiring.
It all began when Van der Horn read about 3-D digital technology in a local newspaper and recognised the potential for designing and making her own jewellery. She downloaded free ‘Open-source’ 3-D design software and taught herself how to use it by following step-by-step tutorials on YouTube. Van der Horn then turned to Shapeways, a site offering affordable 3-D printing services as well as tools and advice for those who are new to using the technology. This online resource enabled her to bring her jewellery designs to life under her own MCODE brand name. Having tested the water with 2-dimensional designs, such as her Origami Bird and Butterfly Pendant, she progressed to more complex 3-D designs as her skills and confidence grew.
At the time, van der Horn was working in her day job as a market researcher and also training part-time at a goldsmithing school in the Netherlands. Design ideas were flowing, but it soon became clear that it would take many years to master goldsmithing, and even then her jewellery designs might not be achievable using traditional methods. Digital design would provide Maaike van der Horn with what she describes as an ‘essential freedom’.
And it is proving to be a match made in heaven, as the clean lines and complex structure of her Constructionist jewellery collection would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to achieve by using conventional jewellery-making techniques such as soldering or casting. The collection was inspired by architecture and van der Horn’s lifelong fascination with geometric shapes and pattern. By reflecting the wire frame aesthetic of digital 3-D software, it also sits harmoniously with the Modernist ethos of ‘form follows function’.
With the help of Shapeways online sales facility, Maaike van der Horn was able to set up her own MCODE shop to start selling jewellery direct to customers. This has enabled her to tap into an existing international marketplace. Material choices currently range from colourful nylon, through to gold-plated brass and sterling silver – so the jewellery can literally be made to suit every style and budget.
By using such an ‘on demand’ ecommerce service, no financing is wasted on creating and holding stock – customers simply order the jewellery in the material of their choice and it is printed to order. This effectively removes what can often be a major stumbling block for jewellery designers trying to sell through high-street stockists.
Van der Horn also uses the 3-D technology to print plastic jewellery masters which can then be cast in solid gold or silver, effectively bringing together traditional and digital jewellery-making processes. Other digitally-designed jewellery includes laser-cut cuffs and bangles.
Maaike van der Horn uses the internet to her best advantage by selling her jewellery online through international e-commerce resources such as Shapeways and Etsy. This enables her to tap into a global marketplace to sell her jewellery throughout Europe, and further afield to countries such as the US and Japan. Facebook also provides the perfect platform for keeping customers and business contacts informed about her latest jewellery designs and relevant 3-D printing developments. Consequently, her work continues to go from strength-to-strength, and she is expanding her jewellery collections all the time.
Although 3D printing is still in its earliest stages of development, Maaike van der Horn believes that this is just the start of what can be achieved. For van der Horn, and many others, the new digital technologies and ‘on demand’ production services put ordinary people like us at the heart of the ‘new Industrial Revolution’. This is certainly an exciting prospect.
About Maaike van der Horn
Maaike van der Horn lives and works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and currently works as a market researcher for a European airline. She studied part-time at the Zadkine School for Goldsmithing (The Netherlands), and her 3D software and 3D printing skills were completely self-taught in her spare time.
Van der Horn designs and markets her MCODE digital jewellery from home on her laptop. She also shares a traditional workshop with several other jewellery designers. She sells her MCODE jewellery online through various e-commerce outlets, and also through local markets in Amsterdam.
- Explore Maaike van der Horn’s jewellery collections at her ETSY online shop >
- Explore MCODE digital design collections on the Shapeways website >
- For the latest updates on MCODE jewellery and 3D technology, visit the MCODE Facebook page >
Photo credits: Jewellery images by Maaike van der Horn and Shapeways. Portrait photo by Monique Roodenburg.
Maaike van der Horn’s Constructionist Bracelet from the MCODE digital jewellery collection features in the Rhine Capital Partners monthly investment reporting for September as part of our Small Wonders jewellery design theme.
- On 30th September 2013