3D-Printed Ceramics and What it Means to Shape Organic Materials. Studio Visit with Babette Wiezorek.
As we spoke, my eyes kept wandering to the ceramic creations in Babette’s Pankow workshop. The illusory textures aren’t quite like anything I’d seen before and I couldn’t help thinking they looked like soft fabrics blowing in the wind—even though I knew they were all created through algorithms and 3D printing.
Not only does Babette Wiezorek hold degrees in both Artistry and Science of Communication, but the Berlin-based product designer and art historian has produced a wealth of fascinating research that brings together mathematical concepts, coding and porcelain.
“I started as a little child in a ceramics workshop and now I’m giving courses at that same ceramic workshop… So this material really has accompanied me since I was a child.”
Whilst working as a product designer, Babette always wondered why they were using digital fabrication tools like 3D printing only for prototyping and never for the final thing.
She had a love for porcelain and an affinity for technology, but at the time, she couldn’t find a 3D printer that could work with ceramic materials. “So I just built one myself”, she told me. “That was the starting point.”
So around five years ago she began experimenting with these ceramic creations through her homemade 3D printer. And she learned fast.
“At a certain point I started to write the code myself and it worked much better for me. It’s a bit advanced, but it gives you great freedom.”
To create these fractal patterns by hand would be exceptionally hard, but by connecting these coding tools and mathematical concepts with traditional materials, Babette is able to work on a much broader plane of experimentation which meditates on the boundary between the organic and the digital.
She went on to explain the research for her Master thesis.
“The main idea was that there’s a connection between additive procedures and natural growth.”
She expressed her interest in the feedback loops that allow living organisms to stabilise their biology and physicality in relation to their environment (temperature, balance, etc), so she sought to emulate this concept in her printing process.
“You have this base plate, and when the printer starts, the base plate is balanced, but when it gets out of balance at a certain point, a sensor brings back that information to the computer where I’ve programmed a script that tries to rebalance the plate by making the printing loops bigger... If the loops are bigger, there’s more material and the distribution of the material is different [so it rebalances the base plate]... It’s real time coding as the machine programmes itself—so it’s connected to this idea of organic growth.”
“It’s a conceptual investigation about what the nature of 3D printing is and how form is actually emerging and how shapes are becoming alive—in a technological context but also an organic context.”
“I’m interested in this thinking... It’s something that drives me; how shapes become alive. I always see a connection to these natural processes, like how we are growing, how organisms are growing, how forms in nature are becoming and what it means to shape a material as a product designer... Why a leaf looks like a certain leaf, why the structure of a branch is the way it is. It’s highly organised and highly complex, because if you look closer, there are so many fine differences... It’s so natural that we don’t really think about it, but for me, it’s really magic and mystery somehow.”
Thank you to Babette for letting us learn about your exciting research. You can find more of her work below.
Words by Ewan Waddell.