Gesa Pickbrenner is an award-winning goldsmith and digital 3D artist based in Germany producing custom works, often using 3D printing technology.
Nora Toure: Gesa, could you let us know about your background and your journey to Additive Manufacturing?
Gesa Pickbrenner: My background lies in the traditional craft of goldsmithing, where I finished my degree with an award for best graduation piece. Even though I enjoyed working with the traditional methods, I always felt that manipulating gold and silver in the usual way was not “fluid” enough for me.
The possibility of shaping and reshaping the ideas like magic until settling on a specific design via 3D-modeling fascinated me immensely. This is what brought me to trying to learn everything I could about the technology.
Nora Toure: Can you tell us what a “digital goldsmith” is and the kind of services you’re offering to your customers?
Gesa Pickbrenner: First, maybe I should explain a bit about what a traditional goldsmith does, as this question also seems to come up quite often. A goldsmith works with all kinds of precious metals and uses ancient and modern techniques to shape the metal into rings, bracelets, pendants, and so on.
Techniques used include milling, burring, filing, soldering, casting, setting gemstones, and many more. I have started to coin the term “digital goldsmith”, because I still work with precious metals and the casting technique. But all the designing and creating of shapes is done via 3D-modeling software. The resulting models get usually printed in wax or resin, and are then cast in metal. Directly printing in metal with laser or glued powder is also possible today.
This workflow enables me to work with a wider range of materials, like plastics and steel or aluminium, and also gives me a broader range of design choices to choose from.
In short, I offer similar services as a traditional goldsmith in terms of that I create jewelry and also small sculptures. But I am not limited to the traditional tools nor to the traditional shapes. Especially with naturalistic sculpting, there are so many possibilities. I also offer 3D-models which do not necessarily need to be printed, for photorealistic rendering.
Nora Toure: To date, what would you say is your greatest achievement in Additive Manufacturing?
Gesa Pickbrenner: Creating a complete model of a real renaissance castle, which was then printed and cast in silver and gold. Another goldsmith attached hinges to it, and it became a (very luxurious) piggy bank. I had to personally travel to the location and my husband helped me with photographing the whole building from all angles.
We could have made a reconstruction with the pictures like with a 3D-scan. But the customer wanted to have the model re-designed in a way that the proportions would work with the extremely small details of the windows or the doorway, and this was only possible with reconstructing it from the ground up.
I think this was a very important milestone, because not only was the workload much bigger than with other projects, it also completely pushed me out of my comfort zone (and made me pull my hair a few times, as well :). The result was all worth it, though.
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