Personal Factory Projects for Mother’s Day

Plus Make Your Own Mom Presents with FREE design files!

Mother’s Day is only a couple of weeks away, so we have some creative inspiration and gift ideas to get you on the path to becoming your mother’s favourite child. Few admonitions are as cutting as “I am disappointed in you” coming from your mom. Make sure you make her something wonderful this year, or at least buy her something unique that doesn’t come from a mall.

Personal ornamentation is often a popular option. Gilded Butterflies are a range of one off fluttering pendants that are as individually unique as each butterfly’s wing pattern. The pendants are laser cut out of bamboo plywood and laminated with real butterfly wings. Feisty Elle offers an impressive variety of intricately cut bamboo and 100% wool felt jewellery, with the dahlias being so well recognised that they are now being plagiarised around the world. Plagiarism is not cool. Colleen Jordan’s 3D printed miniature wearable planters are infinitely customisable by whatever is planted inside, and they are also available in different shapes and colours.

Jewelry needs somewhere to be stored. Harbinger Co don’t just make jewellery, but also create beautiful boxes for all that loot. You may be already the apple of your mother’s eye, but chances are that there are some other family members that your mom is fond of. Such as the dog or the goldfish. Familial pride and joy is best displayed photographically, in a picture frame, such as the flower one by BEDA Design Inc. You know you’re not doing your mom proud if the goldfish gets the middle flower. On the topic of furry and scaly friends, Pepper Sprout Designs make animal themed trivets amongst many other home gifts. These are laser cut from 100% wool felt.

Your mom will hopefully be happy to see your smiling face, and should that grimace require additional illumination, a lamp could be very useful. Alienology create different types of lighting, including the Bloom Table Lamp that is laser cut from Eurolite plywood. Jenny Keate’s fluffy Luminant lamp is made from a combination of wool and laser cut plywood. It has the softness of a sheep without any of the annoying bleeting. Another home frienly idea of mum is a Decoy Lab clock made from Earth friendly bamboo and adorned with a forest-full of cute animals.

The best gift is the one made by you, and we’re here to help facilitate the opportunity by providing FREE design files that you can download, customise and make with Ponoko. The Tulip Vase is designed to be flat packed and easily assembled with minimal components. All you need is a glass test tube to put water and flowers in and to give the vase structure, so no glue is required. If made from plywood or MDF, the parts can be painted, waxed or varnished, and there are a few finishing options for both US and NZ materials. The Ball of Stars by Dizingoff is designed as a 3D printed art object that can be made into a light with an addition of an LED. Mother’s Day is usually accompanied by a greeting card, so this is no exception. The Lace Card is designed specifically for cardstock, which is the Ponoko promotional material until the end of April – design something to be laser cut from cardstock and you could win a neat piece of technology. We even have a tutorial on how to use laser cutting to make greeting cards.

Designing for San Francisco

SF Bay Area – a Design Inspiration for little and big thingsWe’re used to seeing locations and landmarks serving as inspiration for design and art around us. Think how much influence the Eiffel Tower, for example, or anything NY has had on so much of the styling we are exposed to. As a designer you may be particularly influenced by design styles of places you’ve travelled to or your own city that you commute through every day. One US designer has chosen his place of residence – San Francisco as a catalyst for his creative endeavours.

David Nichols of Dotmatrix Design takes major inspiration from various infrastructure and industry around the Bay Area. Conveniently located in same area, Ponoko has helped shape his creative process. David’s first project was a human scale model of SF Sutro Tower, “a local landmark TV tower that pokes through the fog of the city most days of the year”. He had the tower CNC routed out of plywood, and it will be making its way to Maker Faire next month as part of the Ponoko display.

David likes the challenge of using interlocking to produce 3D objects out of 2D shapes, so laser cutting and CNC routing are his ideal precision fabrication methods. He’d made a tiny model of the container cranes in the Port of Oakland and also laser cut maps of the Bay Area. Most of the objects he created are fabricated out of wood, either in plywood or composite form. Hardboard and MDF are some of David’s favourite materials to work with. The material choices allow for minimal finishing and easy assembly that doesn’t require adhesives.A few words from the designer after the jump:


Portrait sculpture, an artistic tradition carried on with 3D printing

Sculpture created with 3D technologies by artist Sophie Kahn

The world of Chicago based digital artist Sophie Kahn is firmly embedded in 3D. Originally from Australia, Sophie trained as a photographer and came to perceive 3D scanning and 3D printing as post-photographic processes. Much of her work over the last eight years has revolved around these digital processes.

Initially Sophie used wax stereolithography for lost wax casting in bronze. More recently, she has been experimenting with full color 3D printing for which the digital model was generated using a laser scan and a photograph of a model. The final 3D print then requires sandblasting and sanding to create “the appearance of an unearthed ancient artifact.” The option of on-demand online fabrication has allowed the artist to experiment and test ideas quickly without much capital, whereas earlier work involved using large service bureaus that were often prohibitively expensive.

Sophie’s fabrication process is an involved one that expands beyond the computer screen and various scanning and printing technologies. 3D printing is often only an intermediate phase in creating the final art piece. The artist uses 3D prints for molds as part of wax casting or ceramic clip casting. She’s hoping to be able to 3D print in ceramic once it is possible to print larger objects. The goal is “to move away from plastic and towards more natural materials with longer histories”.

Sophie’s most recent project was a miniature printed in stainless steel. In this case the print was intended as the artefact.A few words from the artist after the jump:


Small Business Stories: interview with accessories designer John Patterson

Retail Ready with Sniffle Co entrepreneurJohn Patterson is a musician and a designer. His musical passion is expressed through The Grates, while his graphic creativity lies behind the Brisbane based company Sniffle Co which he runs alongside his friend Melissa Perry. Most of John’s designing is done on the road, and the shot of his work space (above) is an apt illustration of his working lifestyle. John designs whimsical jewelry that is laser cut from poplar plywood before being hand painted and lacquered.

Read the interview after the jump:


Veneer MDF – April Material of the Month

Stability of MDF with beauty of natural timber grainMDF is possibly one of my least favourite materials.  It has no soul, although it’s certainly very practical.  There is also something unsavory about the word “veneer”.  The connotation of falseness is ever present and is at odds with my like of material honesty.  But you cannot argue with practicalities of using a wood material that won’t warp or shrink or crack.  Besides, the veneer is a real timber – thinly peeled off a rotating tree trunk and laminated onto the MDF sub straight.   The different grains do look authentic and beautiful, and their surface can also be treated with various waxes and varnishes to both seal the surface and enhance the grain.  Check out the surface treatment options for the US and NZ wood materials.

The practical and aesthetic properties of veneer MDF make is an ideal material choice for display design and furniture.  Colin Francis uses Rimu to make engraved wineracks and similarly planar flat-pack Test Tubed vases.  The Hands shelf is by Studio Wun and is available in various finishes.

Wall art is another common application for this month’s material.  We’ve interviewed MODULA.R.T’s Donald Rattner in the past – MODULA.R.T have designed a whole customisable system of wall ornamentation using a combination of veneer MDF and colour acrylic or felt.  Otto Gunther’s approach to wall art is entirely different – combining digital fabrication with painstaking finishing by hand to produce one off pieces.

Veneer MDF engraves beautifully, and both raster and vector engraving can produce outstanding detail, like in Peppersprouts coasters cut from Cherry.  Blimp Cat Studio create custom cake toppers from Walnut veneer, and Kai Howells offers customised Rimu veneer trophies.

Even little objects like jewelry can be successfully cut from veneer MDF.  Australian designers Little Miso and Nevertheless are big fans of the American Cherry, and Bonnie Poplar uses also uses this material for her brooches, along with the Rimu.

On the topic of jewelry, this month’s free design files are for jewelry trees.  The small Swirl stand is designed for US veneers, while the large tree is designed for the NZ stock.  Of course, the base slots can be adjusted in thickness to accommodate materials from either hub.Ponoko US offers Cherry, Walnut, White Oak

Ponoko NZ offers Rimu, American Cherry, Maple, Tasmanian Ash, White Oak

Get your material samples of US: Cherry, Walnut, White Oak; NZ: Rimu, American Cherry, Maple, Tasmanian Ash, White Oak

Jewelry Detail

Double-take for double-sidedWhen Auckland jeweller Kirsten Turnbull discovered that she had a creative streak, she started looking for ways of making her products look professional.  School craft fair aesthetics have their place in the world, but the goal was to move beyond that.  After some extensive searching, Kirsten came across Ponoko and two years later she is still using the service to laser cut the bases for all her Cheek Pinchy jewelry.

Now instead of hand cutting balsa wood and then sanding and staining it, Kirsten opts for laser cut beech and bamboo which produce a cleaner finish and are generally much more durable and solid materials than the lightweight balsa.  The shift to digifabbing has allowed the artist to extend her range to include necklaces, earrings, rings, cufflinks as well as the initial selection of brooches.At first glance, the jewelry pieces are a window into what could be termed as contemporary vintage elegance.  The simple geometric shapes are adorned with nostalgic images taken from vintage books, often children’s (apparently no children are harmed in this exercise).  These visually rich publications are what inspires Kirsten’s range, and she is always on the lookout for more.

The assembly process, as with most jewelry, requires patience.  Kirsten adheres the selected images to the plywood bases and applies several glaze coats before attaching the findings.

One of the elements that differentiates Cheek Pinchy designs from many others, is the laser engraved design detail on the back of each piece.  The patterns are intended to add another level of interest when the jewellery swings around.

Ponoko projects for gardeners: Make your own garden markers & bug forceps!

a showcase of garden projects + free downloadable files

Sooner than you know it, summer will be on your door step.  That is unless you’re in the Southern hemisphere, in which case you just had your summer (or some semblance thereof), so it’s time to have other people have their fun. 

Hopefully the upcoming summer will yield something delicious or ornamental from your garden of veggie patch.  But as the saying goes, you reap what you sow, and sowing time is getting near.

In this final week of March, we bring you some garden-friendly designs to inspire green fingers.

Make it yourself with free design files:

For active gardeners, download these elegant Bugceps designed by Ponoko’s own Rich Borrett.  This 3D printed tool is perfect for removing bugs from plants without getting stung, or relocating a valuable insect without accidentally dismembering it. 

Unlike the bugs which seem to know exactly what plants are growing where, some of us would benefit from handy herb markers. Download these customizable garden markers designed by Shopping Zen. 

Ponoko-made projects for inspiration:

Keep annoying bugs in check by enticing some birds into your garden.  Bird houses are quite handy for this.  Jee Bundy provides an elegant solution with her laser-cut barrel bamboo house, and Wood Marvels has a couple of bird feeder designs available for plywood.

Hanging planters are a fantastic addition to indoor and outdoor gardening where space is at a premium.  Pollen’s plywood Endoplasm and acrylic Ectoplasm planters are as decorative as they are functional.  Colleen Jordan’s wearable planters 3D printed from Durable Plastic are possibly the ultimate in miniature gardening.  You can be living in a shoe box and still make some space for one.  How about a wearable nursery with some alpha sprouts?Apparently some people grow stuff not meant for eating – such as flowers.  Some people also like picking this decorative vegetation and displaying it inside their home.  Evidently vases are considered to be more appropriate flower receptacles than say, buckets or jars. Check out Colin Francis’ Boiled Over vase, Dizingof’s 3D printed Gyroid vase and Flatpackables Fin vase.

Wearable Geometry in 3D

Exploring form and space in 3D printed jewelryTexan designer Melissa Borrell has an interest in sculptural geometry, and the aesthetic is evident in much of her work.  We’ve already featured some of her work on the blog.  She’s certainly not new to digital making and has worked with fabricators on material experiments for various projects.  Her work has been recognized by Enterpreneur magazine, where her company Melissa Borrell Design was named as one of the “100 Brilliant Companies to Watch” in 2010.

Currently Melissa uses Personal Factory as part of the fabrication process for her jewelry.  Initially she experimented with laser cutting, producing a lace neckpiece out of felt.  Most recently, her focus has been on creating 3D printed pieces that reflect a strong formalist approach.  The jewelry is printed in Durable Plastic, then the pieces are dyed with fabric dye and finished with findings and sometime silver and gold elements.  Melissa’s choice of the material is very deliberate:

I love it because I can create things that are too delicate to cast in traditional jewelry making techniques or make things that are linked or have moving parts that are made all in one piece.  I think this is very exciting and has so much potential!

A few words from the designer after the jump:


The Crafting of Preserves

Ponoko getting its fingers into something sweet againFollowing the sugar-crazed stampede that was the success of the 2011 JamOff, the 2012 addition, organised by Ponoko’s Catherine FD, attracted even more participants.  This time around the public queued patiently to sample the long line of jams, and the icecream stick shanking was mostly avoided.  The range of jams and the resulting spectrum of colours was impressive: from the crowd favourite deep bordeaux plum& manuka to one of the delicate yellow lime marmalade.  The overall selection represented a delicious variety of berries and fruit.  Although apparently, bacon falls into nether category.  Yes, there was a bacon jam, much to the vocal horror of one unsuspecting vegetarian, and it was also one of the judges’ finalists.In Wellington, wherever the MIY outlook is celebrated, Ponoko is seldom far away.  For JamOff, Personal Factory unleashed itself mostly in form of prizes.  Once again the signature jam splatter red acrylic badges made an appearance, and the MC proudly announced that his and the judges’ were bigger than the participants’.

More after the jump:


Small Business Stories: interview with jewelry designer Janice Law

Retail Ready with Little MisoPerth jeweller Janice Law branched out from graphic design and illustration when she came across Ponoko and realised the potential of making with Personal Factory.  Step by step, the new hobby turned into a small business – Little Miso.  The acrylics and cherry veneer are turned into spirited words, quirky characters and little tokens of happiness that are designed to make people smile.

Getting Started

What made you decide to start your own business? I never intended to start my own business, but I’ve always been interested in making, designing and creating things. It just happened as a natural progression – from wanting to make a piece of jewellery for myself, to launching collections and seeing people wear them.

How did you decide on jewellery? At the time when laser cut jewellery was just starting to grow, I stumbled upon Ponoko.  I had a few ideas on my mind that I was searching for myself, so I thought why not just make it?  Jewellery has come to be a really versatile medium. It can be made from so many different materials, shapes, sizes and colours, and suit someone that’s 5 years old or 55 years old.

What skills did you already have when you started your business and what did you have to learn? I studied advertising and graphic design, so already knew how to use vector programs, use photoshop and basic photography. My passion for illustration and design also helped with branding, packaging and marketing the products.  Getting into the real business / admin side of things was the hardest – I still struggle every time tax time rolls around.More from Janice on running her business after the jump: