Candidacy Review



After workshopping my progress at the science fair, I realized that the science fiction spin on this collection felt kind of incongruous with the rest of my work, which tends to be less earnest. I’m really interested in millennial behavior and pop culture, and my peers and professors helped me realize that I can easily apply that lens to this project.

So, I’ve tweaked my concept yet again: In an internet-driven world where you can basically be whoever you want to be, I’m billing myself as a cyber mystic capable of fabricating talismans on the magical build bed of my own Makerbot Replicator 2.

The concept of the line is that magnetic ferrofluid serves as an analog virtual pet that helps alleviate technology-induced isolation and loneliness– but as planned, only one piece in the collection will have the ferrofluid in it. The rest will be multi colored resin crystals (featuring representational 3d printed ferrofluid) that are associated with their own contemporary crystal magic meaning, inspired by and subverting traditional metaphysical crystal properties.

This embodiment of the project feels most aligned to who I am as a creative and critical thinker.

I also prepared a prototype of one of the ring designs for the candidacy review; below is a picture of Ava Burke sporting all of the existing STONEDALONE pieces at once:


In all, the “jury” was supportive of my candidacy and my end of year plans for displaying and presenting my project. Interestingly, they suggested that I participate in Demo Day instead of the Symposium, and set up a booth for private consultations as a cyber mystic. This could result in custom orders for modern talismans, or just generally help with PR as I plan to launch an e-commerce site.

Science Fair

After settling into my second semester working on this project, I realized that I wanted to reduce my reliance on ferrofluid (and the glass vessels it necessitates) by creating a more speculative line that attempts to recall the ferrofluid (both its aesthetic and the conceptual elements I like) in a more derivative way. I decided to sketch a contemporary line of jewelry where only one piece, the crown jewel/couture piece, uses ferrofluid, and the rest feature resin crystal with ferrofluid-inspired 3d printed embedments.

Although this feels like a departure from where I ended the first semester, I realized that it is relatively full circle to where this sustained inquiry began– my interest in creating mesmerizing suspended animations within resin, and my lifelong fascination with crystal formations. Additionally, the nostalgic aesthetic will transcend from last semester to this semester in a way that unifies my thought process.

For the science fair I prepared a prototype of the the dangly ear cuff and brought along some other material tests to create the nostalgic sugary gradient on the crystal settings. I also prepared the above mockups to indicate the scope of my project. Inspired by my Speculative Science Fiction academic elective class, I crafted the following script to present along side my WIPs.


My project is a collection of future talismans called STONEDALONE, which try to reconcile the sometimes conflicting relationship between technology and precious analog objects. It will ultimately take the form of a jewelry line targeted at wearers in this day and age.

It’s apparent to me that technology in our life time alone has defined how we value things— we throw out the old in favor of keeping up with the new, emphasis is on progress, and we tend to settle for nothing less. Technology makes analog objects seem less precious. Maybe in this day and age we’re able to maintain a relationship with a necklace that our grandmother passed down to us—something that we’ve always cared about— but it’s certainly hard to ascribe meaning to a brand new object that lacks that familiar history.

The design challenge of my project is to use digital fabrication methods to create a line of jewelry that approximates that which is hand-made, naturally occurring, and spiritually charged, to explore the emerging role of technology  in the creation of contemporary talismans. Even though the talismans of yesteryear were passed down by family members or shamans—if our obsession with technology is any indication—it’s possible that future talismans could be born on a Makerbot bed. I’m exploring modern fabrication of talismans through mixed media and derivative 3d printing techniques.

The visual concept of STONEDALONE is inspired by an imagined dystopian world where spirituality and talismans are paramount to human existence. In this dystopian future, anthropogenic activity has ruined both natural resources and human health—the only uncontaminated resource is magnetic iron ore fossilized within bionic crystals, and the people, after a life of chronic illness, die young. They live out their days seeking relief through self-medication (elixirs, detoxifying magnets, recreational drugs), and reconciling their imminent death by attempting to contact the recently departed. They wear vessels of ferrofluid for magnetic stimulation as a form of detoxifying therapy and a means of conjuring the spirits of their loved ones.

The speculative nature of this collection is intended to make peace with the facets of technology that concern me, and apply them directly to the sense of sentimentality and spiritualism I fear we’re losing. 


A New Trajectory

The wake of my final first semester thesis presentation led me to some revelations about my project. Due to material constraints I had to move away from what felt like an important ligament of my project: magnetic ferrofluid (it unfortunately does not get along well with my hand-cast resin forms). A major goal of this final stretch is to reintroduce the ferrofluid to my final forms. As I understand the material (which has little written about it for novel purposes like mine), it behaves the best when stationed in a glass vessel. This is exciting to me for aesthetic reasons but also presents me with somewhat of a hurdle– I have no experience with glass blowing, so I would have to commission the vessels to be blown based off of Rhino models and subsequent 3d prints.

I visited Brooklyn Glass this morning in Gowanus to discuss my options, and I learned that one commission could set me back between $400 and $600 for something about 5 or 6 inches tall. These figures only moderately go down if I were to scale the piece to about 3-4 inches. I also learned that turn around time for each piece is about 4 weeks.

All of this has helped cement the fact that my next course of action should be finalizing the concept and narrative of my project before proceeding with any major design decisions– there is very evidently little margin for error or experimentation in light of glass blowing costs.


Final Prototypes of Semester I

experimental 3d printed “future talismans” that intend to poetically reconcile the sometimes conflicting interplay between the technofetishism and technoshamanism characteristic of our new human condition in a way that speaks to the values of both.

technofetishism noun 1. Obsession with or veneration of technology, especially fashionable consumer gadgets

technoshamanism noun 1. The practice of integrating futuristic technologies with ancient shamanistic pathways 2. A technology practice characterized by nostalgia for the “good old days” when we could whole-heartedly believe in magic and mysticism




Preparation: Proof of Concept

For my proof of concept critique, my plan was to start executing on some of the decisions I alluded to in my last post: create 3d models and components for my pieces that reflected the seapunk/nautical aesthetic, but I also began to iron out some of my material concerns. When I discovered the ferrofluid it became quite clear that I would need to find appropriate “vessels” for the fluid in each of my pieces. After checking out The Container Store and Michael’s crafts I realized that I can’t stand to be constrained to vessels that I can buy– therefore I need to fabricate them myself.

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The first material I employed was resin– I had initially planned to use resin for other elements in my jewelry (like embedding charms and creating “suspended animations”), but realized it could suit my needs for creating custom dome vessels for ferrofluid, water, and other magnetic materials. My first few attempts were essentially a flop, but around the third and fourth tries I figured out how to achieve what I wanted:

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I also concurrently did my user testing writing module. This was very useful to me as it confirmed that my materials of choice– particularly the ferrofluid– were as mesmerizing to my audience as I predicted:


Material + Trajectory Updates


Around the time of my midterm presentation I began to feel overwhelmed by the broad scope of my concept and couldn’t imagine possibly whittling my jewelry concepts down into a cohesive line of accessories. This was also around the time that I discovered ferrofluid (via some article on Facebook about mesmerizing desk amusements. I promptly bought some). I was more inspired by the ferrofluid than I’d predicted– it gave me ideas for the both the physical mechanics and configurations of my pieces, but also, started to push me in a visual direction.

The various forms assumed by the ferrofluid reminded me of all things aquatic: anemones, plankton, jellyfish, seaweed, and I realized that this was largely the basis of its appeal. I’ve always been extremely drawn to aquatic forms, and more recently, the “Seapunk” net art movement:

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Going forward, my plan is to use visual elements inspired by contemporary Seapunk net culture and more traditional depictions of under the sea relics: hidden treasure, pirate’s booty, or even The Little Mermaid (although hopefully an elevated version…) to tie my pieces together visually. This is because these elements appeal to me personally, but also because there’s a certain nostalgia to these visuals. A major development in my concept has been the notion of connecting the wearer to digitally fabricated accessories to the same or greater extent that they feel connected to personal talismans or family heirlooms. It’s my belief that digitally fabricated items have less sentimentality to them because they lack the sentimentality and personal history that something like your grandmother’s cross necklace has.

Conceptually, my pieces will be tied together by the common feature of magnetic materials like ferrofluid, iron filings, and so forth. This will be the mechanism that drives the “mesmerization” and what makes the line feel unique or attention-grabbing.

In addition, I met with Aneta Genova to seek some guidance as to what “constitutes a line” of jewelry versus a series of semi-related pieces of jewelry. This is essential to figure out if I plan to produce an elevated fashion line. Some things I learned from my meeting with her include:

  • a line should be 5-6 pieces at a minimum
  • the pieces should feature repeating elements within the visual theme
    • these repeating elements can change scale and orientation across the pieces but should ultimately be otherwise the same
  • a well-merchandised line covers the whole breadth of jewelry: necklace, bracelet, earrings, rings, etc. (as opposed to 3 necklaces and 2 bracelets)
  • even small details like fasteners and closures should be uniform across the pieces
  • I should avoid being literal in my designs in order to avoid seeming kitsch
  • designs should be simplified and elegant
  • color choice should show some restraint
  • I should consider taking inspiration from the forms of ferrofluid and applying them in different way (even creating patterns or prints to apply to my pieces)
  • is a good resource for trend reports and forecasts as well as valuable information on color palettes

Midterm Critique

My prototypes at this stage are revolving around the idea of creating mesmerizing kinetic jewelry that “does something”. I explored concepts like automata and precedents like the 3d/stereoscopic “ViewMaster” for inspiration and hints as to how I can transpose these elements onto jewelry.

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Visual references for both jewelry that interests me and concepts that interest me with respect to my thesis:

jewelry referencesConceptual references