Is 3d printing still “special”?

Its kind of a silly question. For me there has been nothing in the past 20 years that’s come as close to this interesting and rewarding creatively.

Professionally, that’s a tougher proposition.

I usually get a table at Long Beach Comic Con where I sell my comics (check me out on Comixology under Jesse Mesa Toves – blatant plug over haha). For the past few years, I have displayed some of my prints there to some very enthusiastic reactions.

But one of the constants has been how few people have actually seen something which is 3d printed. Sure, some kids have printers at their schools – it’s actually kind of encouraging given all the STEM efforts of late.

But for the vast majority of people, when I hand them a print,  it is the VERY first time they will have touched something 3d printed. It’s interesting to gauge their reactions.

So making the step to buying something 3d printed is also oddly confused. So much of the hoopla around printing reminds me of the first laser printers – everyone was amazed right up until you showed them a price tag.

To add to the confusion is the animus around plastics of any kind and the constant effort to make things more sustainable. The plastic filaments I use were developed to be biodegradable and I will never use ABS which is an option on the printer I use.

I’ll be perfectly honest. I think ive succombed to the most obvious temptation of 3d printing for artists like myself. I have spent so much time making 3d models for entertainment or commercial uses, that finally getting to see them in the real world is enormously seductive.

What’s more seductive to artists is the thought that someone will want to buy these things. But the promise of 3d printing and it’s infinite level of customizability has likely stunted the success of artists printing their works for sale. Or it could be the broader cultural change at some level to simply own less STUFF.

When I see people who profit from the ubiquitous unboxing channels, you can see this sort of thing happening. Its a vicarious consumerism where it becomes temporarily gratifying to merely watch someone obtain an object rather than actually own it.

I made a pretty consious change with my creative process on the Pencase, not meaning to sound so pretentious. I wanted to design something that satisfied some simple criteria.

One, I had to design something I actually would use.
Two, I wouldn’t finish it until a predetermined number of people wanted it as well.

After that, I am guessing I’ll need some new criteria.

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