Rob Elford’s 3D Printed Designs Explore Tensions Through Jewelry


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Monolithic Smile Part 01

Monolithic Smile Part 01

My Florida neighborhood celebrates Mardi Gras this weekend, and I can hear the festive sounds of marching bands warming up as everyone prepares for the afternoon parade. So many things make Mardi Gras worth celebrating, and my favorite aspect is the “anything goes” mood of the atmosphere. I especially like the brightly colored beads that get tossed from parade floats and the bemusing masks that people adorn to mark their full compliance with all things Mardi Gras. I am reminded today that people can make powerful statements with jewelry, even cheap and abundant colored beads. And making a powerful statement is also what is behind 3D printed jewelry designer Rob Elford’s collections, including his latest one inspired by his trip to Greece and observations about how social media has changed the art world.

Internationally recognized as an award winning jewelry and accessories designer with a background in digital fashion design, Elford was a founding member and in-house designer for Mak3D, which is run by 3D Print UK; it was the world’s first walk-in 3D print design studio. He got started in fashion studying Menswear, and in 2012 he completed a Digital Fashion Master’s program. His latest collection of jewelry/accessories also looks like he’s a bit of a social critic as well, as he describes the collection “Ephemeral Delusions in a Motionless State” being inspired by a recent trip to Greece where he witnessed ancient architecture co-existing alongside remnants of failed commercial icons.

He states: “I noticed that stunning classical architecture and ancient sculpture were surrounded by the decaying, decimated icons of our post-modern world.”

Allusions to Icarus, Pegasus, Posedion, and Atlas grace Elford’s latest collection, and it is well worth taking the time to study how individual pieces interact with their “diametric opposite”:

“One celebrates excess and individuality…the other is an ironic reminder of minimalist restraint and digital design norms.”

Monolithic Smile Part 02

Monolithic Smile Part 02

For examples of diametric opposites in design, one piece, “Monolithic Smile 01,” is a permanent smile to be worn over the mouth, while “Monolithic Smile 02” is a simple and refined small nose hoop.

Elford explains on his website that, in addition to his Greece trip, his latest collection is also motivated by the ways in which social media drives the art world “instead of promoting creative individuality.” Creative individuality is all over Elford’s work. You can also see these diametric tensions in his “Suffer My Desire”– Parts 01 and 02. “Suffer My Desire Part 01” is an elaborate, decadent piece featuring an angel with pearl strands. “Suffer My Desire Part 02” is a pared down minimalist set of abstract angel wings on a single strand of pearls.

Suffer My Desire Part 01

Suffer My Desire Part 01

Previous Elford collections contain the thoughtful and original artistry he upholds in the face of the Internet’s production of artistic conformity through mandated “likes” and “tweets” to establish an artist’s success (hence his reference to the “monolithic smile”).

Elford’s elaborate necklace piece — “Mother in Chains” — combines natural floral/butterfly forms with the technological-industrial image of the chain to communicate Elford’s view that “we are incarcerating the natural world through pollution and industry” while we are ourselves chained to nature for the very things we need.

In his first collection, “Hoodoo Botanica,” he takes inspiration from the (home of Mardi Gras) New Orleans-based voodoo — which he also witnessed when visiting Miami’s Little Haiti. The pieces in this collection are evocative of voodoo imagery shaping voodoo since it has been incorporated and transformed in its US context.

Hoodoo Botanica

Hoodoo Botanica

In viewing the evolution of Elford’s collections, we see a designer with a keen sense of both form and content, the social/technological and natural, the serious and playful. Rings don’t usually jump off people’s hands, but his seem to. Necklace clasps are usually understated, but in his designs clasps can be just as much part of a bold design as any other feature.

You can check out all of the designs or shop for some pieces on his website, follow him on Twitter, and check out the Facebook page of this 3D printed jewelry designer who uses design to make powerful critical social messages about tensions between art and commercialism, decadence and austerity, humanity and nature.

What do you think of Elford’s design aesthetics? Let us know your impressions of his designs over at the Rob Elford’s 3D Printed Jewelry forum thread at

Mother in Chains

Mother in Chains

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