Novedge: Tell us about yourself and what you do.
Mark Bloomfield: I'm a designer and a maker. I've always worked with jewellery as I like the scale and the idea that I can set up and make anywhere.Traditional tools are very important to me and how they are used to connect with different materials. I strive to have the same relationship with digital tools. I established electrobloom to specifically explore digital processes to both design and make on demand.
Novedge: You have created wearable accessories for film, fashion and luxury brands including, Titanic, Vivienne Westwood, and Virgin Galactic. What was it like? What did you like the most and what was most challenging?
Mark Bloomfield: I feel very fortunate to have worked with some really inspiring and talented people over the years and have enjoyed the challenge of applying what I do to very different industries, from film to fashion, luxury to hi-tech. It has always been jewellery but ranging from jewellery as costume to jewellery as technology. It's been particularly challenging working with traditional craftsmen and introducing them to digital processes. When I bought in a 3D printer at one company the entire model making team thought they were going to be out of work, it took a lot to convince them otherwise, but by drawing out the best in them so that their skills complemented the digital processes it strengthened our competitive edge.
Novedge: Your website, Electrobloom, is all about custom work. Are we heading towards a future in which consumers will want the option of customizing all their purchases?
Mark Bloomfield: I wanted to include a customisable component to the work which would engage the customer in the process, allowing them to participate and create pieces of jewellery unique to them. Many companies include a customisable element with some of their product lines. When showing my jewellery collection to customers they get very excited when I explain that all the components are interchangeable, they then start putting together different combinations making the jewellery their own. I also like the idea that the customers collection can be updated with a new charm rather than discarding and replacing, as your personal collection grows then so do the options. Once you start it does become very addictive! Customisation is also the main reason for using 3D Printing as the production process, I can make items to size and introducing new elements becomes cost and time effective. I believe we will be seeing more and more customisable options applied to the things we buy as the production processes become more able to handle it. It's worth remembering that most PCs and smartphones are already being customised, I'm sure that my devices are customised with software, apps, photos and covers that are very different to what you've chosen to install and use. Customisation already happens!
Novedge: What is a recent project that you worked on?
Mark Bloomfield: The last couple of projects have been exhibitions, the first was the Kinetica Art Fair in London which represents artists whose work moves or uses new media and encourages user interaction. I'm also exploring how to design complexity into the items of jewellery by making them move or change shape. Some of the charms have rotating elements or open up but are 3D printed in one go, no assembly required.
It was a great opportunity to talk about my work and show customers first hand how everything works, something that's difficult to get across on-line, I've started to use animation and will be making more films to get across the collections character. One of the interesting aspects of the jewellery collection is that I can reinvent it every time I show it and I can also tailor it according to which customer I'm selling to.
The other exhibition is in Canary Wharf in London and runs till the end of the April. I enjoyed thinking about the space and tailoring the collection accordingly. I've gone for very bright colours as this area of the city is the new financial district and I wanted to brighten up the suits!
Novedge: What software do you use?
Mark Bloomfield: I've used many pieces of software, 3D Studio, Maya, Rhino but settled on Blender in 1999 as I loved the interface. It was a challenge at first but I somehow knew it would be worth the effort. I feel confident that I can design anything with Blender and as it's continually being updated there's lots of new tricks to learn. Being able to link files is very useful as I'm often improving the designs as I go along and having all instances update is a real time saver. I tend to also link objects to paths and duplicate using modifiers, you can start to create complex forms that are very easy to edit.
I have also started to use the physics simulator as it's a real easy way to animate chains and get a feel for how they will work before being made. I want to continue to use animation to show not only how the jewellery works but to also come up with new designs, you can use the animation features in Blender as modelling tools. I'd also like to revisit the game engine with the intention of making the virtual models interactive and responsive, so much to do!
Novedge: What are some of the rewards and challenges of owning your own business?
Mark Bloomfield: Running your own business is very rewarding, I've always enjoyed jumping from one task to the next while attempting to use design to make the processes easier to manage. Maintaining momentum continues to be a challenge as there's always distractions which pop up daily, but in the words of Walt Disney, "Keep moving forward..."
Novedge: If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger self before entering the workforce?
Mark Bloomfield: I feel that everything you do makes you the person you are now, the experience is important as you are then better equipped to deal with new challenges.