History: Felt itself is one of the oldest forms of fiber art, dating back thousands of years. In ancient times, humans would use animal fibers and agitate them to create felt: one of the most prominent forms of felting is still in use today in Mongolia.
With the industrialization of the modern age, felt-making was transformed: felt-makers no longer relied on agitating the wool with sticks and bare hands, but instead created felting machines using thousands of barbed needles to make large sheets of felt.
In the 1980's, artists and artisans took the industrial needles from the felt making process and used them to create charming sculptures, dolls, and even jewelry.
As such a young art-form, needle felting presents a unique challenge to any artist: the forgiving and pliable nature of the wool allows artists to create anything in their imagination. This is one of the many reasons needle felting is so appealing to me and many other artists - because we can create whatever comes to mind using nothing more than wool, needles, a little ingenuity, and a lot of poking.
Process: The actual process of needle felting can vary greatly from artist-to-artist, but the basic process remains the same - an artist will take wool (usually from sheep, but sometime fibers from other animals can be used) and poke it with a specialized needle. This needle has barbs on the end, as well as a specialized shape, that lock the fibers together allowing the artist to form shapes. Different types of wool, along with different shapes and sizes of needle, can effect the outcome greatly and some types of wool are preferred over others.
When I needle felt, I general start by building a basic form (called an armature) out of wire, foam, and other materials: the armature allows me to create shapes that are more stable than pure wool and in some cases even allows me to pose my creations. After building the armature, it's a long process of poking millions of times until the form is covered in wool and looks the way I want it to.
Smaller projects (like lil' buddies) may not require an armature, in which case I start by making basic forms of wool and building them together piece-by-piece. These smaller needle felt creations usually only take me between 2 - 10 hours, are light-weight, and easy to display and transport.
In the case of my larger creations with poseable armatures I usually take considerably more time, with many pieces taking me anywhere between 20- 50 hours.
My personal history: While I had heard very little about needle felting, in 2012 I stumbled upon a needle felting artist online my interest was picked. After a quick search on Google I found a few tutorial and how-to videos, and went to the art supply store that afternoon to get started. One evening of poking later (and quite a few stabbed fingers) I had created my first tiny figure and couldn't stop. That year for my graduating show at college, I premiered my first large doll (just around 12 inches tall) and even got a slightly smaller-doll featured in a gallery in my city.
Ever since then, I have continued to imagine more needle felting creations bringing my imagination to life.
History: 3D printing is also a very young art-form, with the first patents for the process being filed in the 1980's. For the first few decades of the technology's growth, 3D printing was used almost exclusively for creating high-end prototypes for other technologies.
While many proponents of the early 3D printing technologies hoped to one day see their machines accessible to a wide market, it took decades of research by many companies to fulfill that goal.
It wasn't until the early 2000's that 3D printing technology reached a point where it could become available to a wider commercial audience, with kit-based models becoming available for a meager price of only $10,000. By 2012, a few companies (with the help of Kickstarter backing) were able to create commercially-available 3D printers with an even more affordable price, making the technology affordable for home-use.
Process: All 3D prints start as a digital model; using a digital sculpting program an artist can build up a form on a computer. Creating models for 3D printing varies greatly from creating models to use in video games or movies: factors such as the size the model will be printed, the quality of the print, the type of plastic that will be used, even to the shape of the model itself have to be taken into consideration while creating the model.
Once a digital model is created, the artist can choose different types of plastic (known as filament) to create their 3D print. Some forms of plastic are more resilient than others, while others can be used to print more detailed models. Many printers can only print a specific type of plastic, so this also has to be taken into consideration.
The artist can then upload their digital model to their printer, and start the process of printing. Printing times vary based on size, complexity, and quality of the model with some models taking anywhere from 1 - 5 days to print.
My personal history: Growing up, some of my favorite programming on television were science and educational shows; I loved watching nature documentaries, history documentaries, and especially loved the shows about astronomy, science, and astrophysics. Around 1999 - 2001, I was watching a show about "future technology" - with so much happening in the advancement of computing and technology, it was awesome to see scientists speculate about what would come just a decade or so in the future. As luck would have it, one show featured a spot about Rapid Prototyping (RP) technology and how some day, this "3D printing" could be available to anyone.
Of course as a young artist, when I heard that I knew that this future technology could provide me an outlet for my boundless imagination. I spent time learning how to make digital sculptures, starting with now-ancient ray-tracing software and eventually moving on to 3D Max and Sculptris.
In 2017 I took on a job working for a special venue that had a host of 3D printers for public use; within a couple short months I had fallen in love with the art form, process, and technology and acquired my own printer. Using digital sculpting skills I had been practicing for years with no real goal in mind, I am now able to pint whatever I can imagine.