Recently, I was invited to the open house and holiday sale of Bre. & Co., the newest venture by the former CEO and co-founder of MakerBot, Bre Pettis. The newly-launched company’s mission is to explore the frontiers of craftspersonship, advanced manufacturing, and iterative design to create unique heirloom-quality watches, pens, jewelry and ceramics. Originally conceived as a small-scale manufacturing process to create gifts for others, Bre Pettis set out to make something that was different enough that people would say, “what is that? And, where did you get it?”
Pettis’ new design space is located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which is a bit of labyrinth, but I found the studio easily enough. It was pouring outside, but the party was cozy and freshly baked cookies were beckoning the intrepid souls who dared defy mother nature. Though the rain kept away some attendees, I recognized a number of familiar faces in the New York 3D printing community amongst the crowd, including the designer Francis Bitonti. Everyone was eager to see what Bre Pettis was cooking up next.
I asked Pettis about how Bre & Co. came into existence and why he was embarking on this new endeavor. According to Pettis…
“It started out as a project. I wanted to make some gifts for people who were excellent friends. I wanted to make basically gold feathers of friendship,” says Pettis. “I just started asking people what they have that’s meaningful. Trying to find out what is worth making, because making things is hard on any sort of scale.”
Pettis conducted an informal survey of his friends to find out what kind of products they cherished the most. The results of his inquiry turned up some unexpected results.
“Pretty much everyone I talked to said that the things that were meaningful to them, connected them to the people in their lives. And it didn’t have to be expensive stuff. That awareness that the most important stuff is our relationships, it just blew my mind. I kept trying to find the things, and it turned out that it wasn’t the things, that are meaningful to us,” Pettis explains. “So, I’m like okay, I like to make things, how do I do this? Making things in service to deeper relationships seemed like a natural way to go.”
Armed with this insight, Pettis created Bre & Co. to create unique products such as watches, pens, 3D printed ceramic teapots and sake sets, jewelry, and other bespoke items. There were a range of prices, something for every shopper. On the low end were Bre & Co. t-shirts for $20 and $25 for the Origami Ornaments. For the more well-heeled there was the Healing Amulet and the Origami Watch for $3,900 and $5,800, respectively. There were also a couple of knife designs, which were pleasingly displayed in partially 3D printed cases.
The Bre & Co. Origami Watch is made with a one-half-ounce American eagle liberty gold coin embedded its back. The stainless steel watch is quite hefty at 6.9 ounces. In a pinch it could make a handy weapon. The carbon fiber version of the same watch was considerably lighter, but will set you back a bit more at $8,400. The Origami Pen was designed with ergonomics in mind and looks striking in stainless steel. The design was inspired by the folded paper shapes of super cars of the 1980s, Japanese folded paper, and the triangles that make up modern digital model designs.
I also was afforded a tour of the large workshop that’s just a stone’s throw from the studio space. Aside from the iconic DeLorean parked inside by the entry and a Baxter robot, there was a ceramic 3D printer quietly producing a bowl for slip casting. And there was plenty of room for Prettis to expand production.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience to see the latest stage in the career of a pioneer of desktop 3D printing. I’m eager to see what new designs come of the fledgling studio.
[All photos/video: Michael A. Parker for 3DPrint.com]