Voices of Makers #9

The impact of lockdown on her business Anarkik3D Ltd gave jeweller Ann Marie Shillito time to have fun with its 3D modelling programme and experiment with 3D printing on some often surprising fabrics.

Our Voices of Makers blog is a space to share experiences, information and ideas to support and inspire each other, and is part of our Rethinking our Rhythms programme. Please tell us your stories and thoughts – get in touch via instagramtwitter or online form.

Anarkik3DDesign 3D modelling programme with the haptic device

Lockdown has impacted badly on my company’s income streams as these are generated via workshops and masterclasses. It is through these, as well as direct hands-on demos of our product, that sales are negotiated and made. This financial issue has necessitated rethinking how we replace group workshops and masterclasss, our equipment ‘loan’ scheme and developing online services to support on a one-to-one basis those people wanting to try our haptic 3D modelling programme. It takes time to rebuild and get right!

I am also a jeweller in my own right. Lockdown has not greatly impacted this side of my work as I do my digital designing from a home office and the designs are sent out to be 3D printed. I sell some on-line and my one gallery in Europe has ordered new work and opened again.

Normally I am usually fully occupied with managing Anarkik3D which doesn’t leave time to do any of the in-depth exploring and experimenting activities that are so much a part of my practice. I see this as part of my identity. There is also my identity as a teacher, losing in lockdown the pleasure of face-to-face exchanges and helping applied artists develop their ideas and get to grips with working digitally and haptically! It seemed important then that I assert my explorer/experimenter side again to keep motivated and creative.

I decided to make time and space to explore a technique that I have been wanting to play with for at least 5 years! With no workshops or masterclasses to run and organise, I have my home office/studio to myself and the time usually spent on marketing and on preparation available for this project!

Screen capture of Anarkik3DDesign software interface showing one of the digital models used for 3D printing
Exploring different materials – Japanese paper

My fun project is 3D printing on fabric and is about exploring this process as a designer maker. It is not really about producing pieces of jewellery. I do like to work within some constraints and the technicalities have imposed some. My intention is to produce an eBook (another thing I’ve wanted to do for a while too) on the ins and outs of this project including the technical constraints encountered. The scale of jewellery is just right for the size of the desktop 3D printer I have in the office so this limitation on the dimensions of the models is comfortable.

Listening to other designer makers’ issues, such as not being able to access their workshops, I do feel very privileged having space and access to the equipment I need. I use Anarkik3DDesign to create the digital forms and 3D print them on the Ultimaker2+ 3D printer (newly upgraded to ‘+’) that is in the office. I bought a book a while ago that had a chapter on 3D printing on fabric. It mentioned the types of fabric that work well so my initial concern was about getting hold of material on which to print successfully.

I hunted pretty thoroughly and as lace seemed to fit the bill I decided I just had to sacrifice a pair of black lacy knickers to make a start. The first tests were rubbish which meant a bit of trial and more errors, upping the temperature a bit, slowing down the print speed, and eventually changing to a different type of filament that extruded at an even higher temperature.

This worked well enough and at one of the AAS Friday online coffee meet-ups I mentioned using this very personal black lace, causing great hilarity, more so the next week when I produced a 3D printed outline of a wee pair of panties, with red bow, and infilled with the black lace.

Early 3D printing trials onto black lace from knickers
Knickers made into a brooch!

I found other lace and friends and colleagues have sent me more, including a beautiful weave of silk and very fine steel. I have also received pieces of organza. It’s uplifting, to be supported with such kindness, and inspirational having a range of fabric to experiment with. It is also the double challenge of not just designing forms that justify and use the qualities of the fabric well, but also pushing the technique onwards and upwards. For this it is great having enough fabric to not worry about running out or getting too precious and not trying something that has potential but might not work.

Some of the lace and special organza (silk and fine steel wire weave) delivered by friends
Exploring ideas – clockwise from the top right: Floating red filament ovals on special organza; exploring the wirery properties of the special organza; double layer of fabrics (special organza and lace) in a partially printed gold oval; steel wires embedded while printing with blue filament with scraps of organza woven through afterwards; steel wires embedded while printing with red filament, securing floating ovals in place

Lockdown will continue here in Scotland for a while yet. Having an absorbing project is helping me remain resilient and upbeat. I love designing with our 3D modelling programme and this project is such a good opportunity to really get on and use it. Plus, I keep my hand in, knowledge refreshed and expanded, and enthusiastic about teaching others to use it too.

I have set up a series of Zoom get-togethers for us as applied artists to talk about 3D digital making using 3D modelling software and 3D printing. There is a lot of curiosity around digital making, and as a non-techie but practical designer maker who does use these technologies, I am looking forward to opening up this topic, providing answers and information, and dispelling any myths. Please email me at if you are interested in taking part and I will send you the link to join. Our first get-together is on Wednesday 28 October at 10:30 am.

Top Image: 3D printing onto white lace

Read the experiences of other makers: Voices of Makers #1: Carol Sinclair, Voices of Makers #2: Fiona Thompson, Janet Hughes & Kathryn Williamson, Voices of Makers #3: Jo Garner, Voices of Makers #4 :James Donald, Voices of Makers #5: Clare Waddle of Yellow Broom, Voices of Makers #6: Lorna Brown, Voices of Makers #7 Claire Heminsley and Voices of Makers #8 Olive Pearson.

We are inviting makers & Members to get in touch via instagramtwitter or email with tips on how they are rethinking their rhythms, whether working patterns, things people are doing, or info to share.

We have also created an online page where you can talk about your experiences and share what matters to you.  We give you the option to be anonymous or to provide your name and you can also let us know if we can share it with other makers in our new ‘Voices of Makers’ blogs.  We can’t answer specific questions but if we can offer any suggestions about something we will try and do so.


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