Making Meaning

Making Meaning

Making Meaning 640 480 mathgrrl

See the original post at Shapeways Magazine

Okay, it’s 2018 and time to start all over again. But sometimes the process of getting started is… hard to get started. How do you even start planning out a project? Today on Tutorial Tuesday we’ll talk about new beginnings and some projects we’re starting this year, including the sometimes messy process of even figuring out what to make.


When you start out with an idea, how do you know what to make? How does it become meaningful? It’s easy to design and print things (here are lots of tutorials), but it can be hard to design that thing that is just right,somehow. The elegant thing; the beautiful thing; the thing that means something. The right thing that somehow is the answer to the question you didn’t even know how to ask.

For me, it usually happens by accident; basically I flail around in the dark for a long time until something just seems right. For example, my partner and I have our 20th wedding anniverary this year, so for some time I’ve been thinking about redesigning our wedding rings. One idea that I really liked was a riff on Courtney, etc.’s elegant Arrow Ring, which you may have seen a million times headlining the Platinum materials page on Shapeways:

arrow 3d printed ring hipster minimalist jewelry

In particular, I was interested in how the two bands float apart from each other. My idea was to turn this ring around so that it was a floating pair of rings in the front, but connected in the back. After twenty years as a couple, it seemed to me that we had learned how to to be our own people while still always having that solid connection behind everything. We talked it over and he agreed it sounded cool and that I should try some prototypes to see how the idea looked in real life.


Late in 2017 I designed some prototypes in Fusion 360 and sent them out to see what looked good, finally settling on a design that looks a lot like two copies of our current wedding rings, with a secret connection in the back. I’ve been wearing around an HP nylon prototype of the ring for a few weeks and I really love it. Here’s what the prototypes look like, and most recent design in silver.

There’s still some work to do; in particular the ring is a little soft in silver and the two bands can bend towards each other if pushed. I might make the connection thicker so the ring will be stronger, or maybe try a harder material. But, I’m not sure anymore that it’s the best wedding ring. Especially because this idea collided pretty awkwardly with another project I’m working on for Valentine’s Day…

Naming and meaning

Specifically, I’ve been working on some jewelry for the sadness of Valentine’s Day. I mean, yeah, Valentine’s Day is great and everything, with all the hearts and candy and Twitter/Instagram photos of how everyone is in love and doing Really Great All The Time. But we aren’t all doing really great all the time. Especially on Valentine’s Day, those who are fighting just to keep it together can feel invisible. I really liked the idea of having some pendants for the hard times. Pendants that make you feel stronger and give you something to hold on to when you’re facing big challenges.

But meaning is what you make it, and also to a large extent what you name it; my goal was to create simple, strong pieces that evoked difficult feelings, and give them evocative names to help reinforce that meaning. Here’s the one I like best so far; it’s called LOSS, and it represents what happens when things break and the center falls out. It’s nice to hold on to and feel the gap, maybe try to close it up with your finger, or put your finger through the arc:

Rediscovery and redesign…

So here’s the awkward part: While thinking about other designs for the Valentine’s Day series I realized that I was already sitting on a perfect design. A ring that looks like a wedding ring, but broken in two pieces — and, even worse, with a perfect name: SEPARATED. So yeah, our new wedding ring is now part of my bleak Valentine’s Day series. Ouch! Thanks, design process! My loving husband very sensibly has already told me that we should to find another design for our 20th wedding anniversary, and yes, ok, he is right. Back to the drawing board!

Happy New Year everyone, and have fun finding your new projects for the year.  :)



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