Making Meaning Matter

The Evergreen State College

Author: doncon26

Connor’s Bonus CST Post

“Material culture is language or text.” (Malafouris, 91)

Making with the 3D printer was a truly unique experience. For years, the 3D printer has been a device shrouded in mystery; almost like it’s out of a science-fiction novel. Now, however, they are the tools for a growing movement: the maker movement. By using the 3D printer, whether it was a conscious decision or not, we are all a part of the maker movement. Because of this, we are forever tied to this movement, whether any of us go forward with it or not in our lives. It will always be a part of our lived experience.

Connor’s CST Week 10

“I’m not saying you need to do this to the exclusion of everything else, or forever, but you two would be insane not to try it.” (Doctorow, 410)

With our Blue Rabbit projects finally wrapped up, I feel like it challenged me in a lot of ways. Although this class was not what I expected it to be, I still got a lot out of it. It forced me to think and apply myself in ways I haven’t before, and that is nothing but a positive. I’m happy with my final project, as I’m sure many others are.

Connor Donovan's Portfolio 2014-12-01 11:58:49

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Connor’s CST Week 9

“Just for completeness’s sake, she went on some of the rides.” (Doctorow, 345)

Going on break almost threw me off a little bit regarding my project. Being unable to print my many bead designs put it at a standstill of sorts. This quote relates to my feelings about my project because at this point – and I’m sure I’m not alone in this – I just want my project to be done. I’m excited to see how these beads will print out, and I’m really looking forward to the process of crafting the necklaces I have planned.

CST Week 8

People have started to make the jump to fully printing their ideas. I’ve noticed a bit of a lull in motivation regarding our projects lately, although I feel like that can be chalked up to the short week and the break in sight. By now, the novelty of the modeling software we have learned has long since faded, but the vision everyone has of their finished product is still strong in our minds. I’m excited to see how the work in lab time goes this week and during Week 9.

CST Week 7

“Kettlewell had done amazing work for him this morning, just out of the goodness of his own heart, and Perry had repaid him by being a stiff-necked dickwad.” (Doctorow, 218)

I feel like people are starting to get more invested into their projects, although I can tell that some are becoming disillusioned with the structure of the class. I’ve heard multiple complaints about how the class has almost stifled students’ creativity. However, this is something I do not agree with; I feel like the ability to choose whatever you want to make and print is incredibly liberating, which is why I chose this quote in particular.

Blue Rabbit #2 Text

I am proposing to create and 3D print several beads, and then string them together to form jewelry. This idea came to me during the Cornet Bay retreat, during our bead workshop. More than almost anything else we did on that retreat, making beads was meditative for me. Being able to zone out and entirely devote my attention to one task was very calming, and it’s what inspired me to devote my Blue Rabbit project to beads. Jewelry holds monetary, spiritual, and sentimental value across the globe, and nearly every culture has some form of personal adornment.

The concept of digitally created art is, while very new to the history of art-making, not a new concept for the digital world. In the article Theoretical Statement Concerning Computer/Robotic Paintings, Joseph Nechteval writes, “Electronic overload has smashed the narrow limits of assigned meaning. A doorway has opened. We have the power to shape our own meaning. We have the tools and the weapons for our own personal, magical transformation. With deconstruction, re-contextualization, non-conformity, and destruction we take symbolic control over given hierarchical systems.” (Nechteval, 120) This piece is part of a series of articles in Leonardo. Supplemental Issue, Vol. 1, a book that was published in 1988. Right from the onset of home computers and 3D printing, people were thinking about how they could challenge the system, how they could make art from this new medium that seemed right out of a science fiction universe.

Jewelry falls under the category of art, but many cultures wear and craft it for reasons other than pure adornment. In Ethiopia, certain adornments were used for spiritual or healing purposes. Roger McKay writes, “Amber has a special importance to the tribes of the eastern provinces. It has always been regarded as a specific against ill health and ill fortune. Aurignacian remains from the Old Stone Age show amber used as ornaments and as cures for asthma, rheumatism, and internal disorders. The Romans wore it as a protection against witchcraft, and gladiators against the possibility of sudden death.” Even across two very different geographical and cultural landscapes, this material was used for purposes other than aesthetic ones. Both of these cultures assigned a beneficial meaning to amber; the Ethiopian tribes used it for healing and ornamental purposes, while the Romans and their gladiators wore it because they believed it had innate protective abilities. This proves that all cultures and people are capable of taking the same object or material and interpreting its use and meaning in different ways.

In his article “On Jewelry Made in the Contemporary Southwestern (U.S.A.) Style” from Leonardo, Vol. 12, David E. Dear writes, “Jewelry making was a family pursuit, and some families continue the tradition today. Artifacts brought by the Spanish from Europe (some of which bore Moorish characteristics) had initially a strong influence on the Indian metalwork. They copied buttons, belts, iron bits for horses, knives, etc. … With the installation of railroad lines, the demands of tourists for jewelry of Indian tribes began to be felt.” (Dear, 303) I feel like this passage is a good microcosm of how the American Indian population was exploited; they copied the metalworking designs of European colonists, and then eventually were demanded to sell their work to tourists. This is an example of imperialism and yet another way of using the indigenous populations to turn a profit.

In more contemporary times, people are looking to 3D printing as a way of crafting jewelry and other trinkets, and making these designs publicly available. An article from, a website devoted to 3D printing news, reads, “Back in April this year, JewelDistrict, a Seoul, Korea based startup launched its 3D printing servicespecializing in printing precious metal jewelry. To work with JewelDistrict, you first upload your 3D model and select your desired material and finishes. JewelDistrict will then review your 3D model to make sure it can be 3D printed. Your 3D model is then printed using wax for lost-wax casting. The 3D printed wax model is turned into a rough casting in silver or brass. JewelDistrict offers also different options in terms of surface finishes, plating, and stone setting. According to the company’s CEO, Sungdo Lee, 3D printing technology has the greatest potential to dramatically change the jewelry industry. This is because while most 3D printed products are limited to decorative purposes only, 3D printed jewelry is readily wearable. Jewelry designers can create geometrically complex designs that can only be achieved by 3D printing.” I feel like this passage does a good job of explaining the process that is 3D printing jewelry, and how it has massive potential to alter the jewelry industry. If people can fully harness what 3D printing is capable of and use it on these adornments, the jewelry industry can easily shift from a monopoly on gold and diamonds to an entirely maker-driven movement and trade.

Current jewelry companies can also use 3D printing to revitalize their businesses. An article from IBTimes explains, “‘We can now create a virtual inventory of products and create pieces that are a lot more precise,’ American Pearl CEO Eddie Bakhash said in an interview. Bakhash’s father founded the company more than 60 years ago. The company began experimenting with 3D technology several years ago, but didn’t fully apply it until 2013. Though it competes with the famous likes of Cartier and Tiffany & Co., American Pearl is one of a growing number of retailers looking to 3D technology for custom jewelry, including Shapeways and even” With 3D printing undeniably being the future, it would make sense that companies and businesses would start to incorporate it into their plans. Bakhash also adds, “The power the consumer has is clearly all there. American has more product than Tiffany’s now, because of this technology,”

The concept of jewelry – for personal adornment, for spiritual reasons, and for healing powers – has been around for thousands of years. However, it has always been seen as a skilled trade. With the advent of 3D printing, the skill of jewelry making can be readily learned by anybody, which has absolutely vast potential to completely change the face of the jewelry industry.

CST Week 5

“We don’t care about what you did yesterday—we care about what you’re going to do tomorrow.” (Doctorow)

One thing I noticed and realized this week is that nobody came into this class with a clear idea of what they wanted to do. Eventually, however, their ideas took form, both in the abstract and in modeling. I also noticed that a lot of people, myself included, usually spend a fair amount of time constantly tweaking their designs, whether it’s for aesthetic or practical purposes. No two designs, ideas, or rationales are the same, however.

Blue Rabbit Project: Jewelry – Tchotchke, or Something Deeper?

How is jewelry – something that could arguably be considered a “tchotchke” – important to create in a world that’s already full of it?

The central question of this program is, “In a world already full of so much stuff, what is truly worth creating?” For a while, I was stuck on this question. I couldn’t think of a single viable thing to make via the 3D printer. One day, however, I was playing around with Tinkercad and eventually made a bead of sorts that I thought looked really cool, using solely the thin torus shape.



With this bead in mind, it suddenly occurred to me that I could make many different beads and print them out, and eventually string them together to create jewelry such as necklaces and bracelets. This bead is just one of many possible designs – although I ended up being so satisfied with this one that it may be the most printed and used bead. The possibilities really are nearly endless, considering how accessible Tinkercad is. Although it’s not the most powerful software, it will be more than effective for this project.

Some, including whoever had the audacity to slap a “NO TCHOTCHKES” sign near the 3D printer, would argue that these beads – and the jewelry that they would turn into – are the very definition of tchotchkes. I would argue the opposite. Jewelry certainly can be considered useless trinkets – however, many other cultures, including our own, consider jewelry to have incredible value, both monetary and sentimental. I would argue that for a lot of people, jewelry is bought and kept for its sentimental value – things such as wedding and engagement rings, and other  Many family heirlooms are pieces of jewelry that have been passed on from generation to generation – for example, in my extended family, there’s a ring that has been passed from daughter to daughter for generations.

Jewelry has had a profound effect on many, many cultures. In the words of Lois Sherr Dubin, for many Native American tribes, “[i]n the absence of written languages, adornment became an important element of Indian communication, conveying many levels of information.” After European imperialists arrived to the “New World,” jewelry and other  “…signaled resistance to assimilation. It remains a major statement of tribal and individual identity.”

Native Americans all over the country proudly adorned themselves with jewelry, made from a wide variety of materials. The Northeastern Native Americans used wampum shells – both white from the channeled whelk and purple from the quahog clam. In the Northwest, walrus ivory was used for the carving of bracelets and other items for many years until the 1820s, when a massive quarry of argillite was discovered on Haida Gwaii, an archipelago off the coast of British Columbia. These stones proved easier to carve and had the benefit of coming in multiple colors.



Copper was also a commonly used material, even before European contact. Tribes near the aptly named Coppermine River would trade it down the Northwestern coast, and it was worked into many different kinds of jewelry, although bracelets, which were given away at potlatches, were by far the most common. Silver and gold became popular materials later.

Although some people – definitely whoever put up that horrible sign – would feel that these beads and the subsequent jewelry are useless tchotchkes, I feel that the value of jewelry is entirely subjective, regardless of the actual cost. A relatively cheap engagement ring can mean the entire world to one person, while exorbitant, lavish necklaces and bracelets could mean absolutely nothing to another. We as individuals assign value to these trinkets and baubles. While monetary value is something that is definitely accounted for among all people, and is arguably the closest one can get to assigning objective value, sentimental and emotional value carries far more weight.

I hope to create at least one full piece of jewelry – whether it’s a necklace, ring, or bracelet. I will probably need to create several different bead models, although I already have one design that I’m very pleased with. I would also want to work in a few of the beads I made during our retreat to Deception Pass. I feel like this would made an interesting juxtaposition – the handcrafted beads paired with the mechanically made, although still originally designed beads. Whatever I create, however, will mean more to me than a simple, replaceable “tchotchke.” I feel like there is a lot of inherent sentimental value towards something that one created themselves, and I hope to get that same feeling out of making 3D printed jewelry.


Shearar, Cheryl. Understanding Northwest Coast Art: A Guide to Crests, Beings, and Symbols. Vancouver, B.C.: Douglas & McIntyre, 2000. 30-3-. Print.

Dubin, Lois Sherr., Togashi, and Paul Jones. North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment: From Prehistory to the Present. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999. 170-71. Print.

Dubin, Lois Sherr., Togashi, and Paul Jones. North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment: From Prehistory to the Present. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999. 169, 174. Print.

CST Week 3

The question I asked myself this week was, “Where does the mind start?” Does it start from original ideas, or memory, or from somewhere else? I noticed several people copying directly from the Tinkercad book last week, and I thought to myself, Is that still creating? I feel like it is, but because it’s a copy, it’s not an original thought or idea.

I feel like while the mind starts from one’s first memory, it’s such an abstract concept that it doesn’t truly have a beginning or end.

Week Two Makers Quote

“… my problem isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity” 

This directly flies in the face of the fight that the music industry is fighting. Many artists, if they aren’t completely motivated by turning a profit, would like nothing more than to just have people listen to their music, rather than fading into obscurity. To them, piracy is free exposure, more people listening to what they have to create, people sharing their music with others. Some argue that piracy is a crime. I, and Doctorow seems to agree, that it is the opposite.