3D Printed Shoes Challenge Boundaries Separating Fashion, Sculpture, and Architecture

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When it comes to shoes, I have always been fairly practical. I mean, I try to avoid anything that makes me look like I have troglodyte-foot, but in general, I favor comfort far more than discomfort, and so any news about customized 3D printed athletic style shoes made from foot scanning is right up my alley. But, yes, then there’s also the fashion design side of 3D printing that I am equally fascinated by. This next project may appear far from 3D designed and printed shoe comfort, but it is comforting to know designers exist willing to take risks with the always risky topic of the female shoe form.

Julija Frodina’s final Master’s project in her Industrial and Product Design program at Vilnius Academy of Arts “aims to find a contact point between new technologies and innovations and the traditional crafts.” She explains the relationship between the traditional and modern design processes in an email interview with 3DPrint.com:

“In the past professionals of design and crafts used their own tools to create and produce their works. Jewelers used tools which fitted just jewelers’ needs, graphic designers used the software which were used specifically for graphic design, shoemakers used their specific tools only in their workshops. Now we –designers and also representatives of traditional crafts – are using the same tools – new software.”

Bringing experience in handmade and commercial shoe design and production, she’s combining the traditional craft of shoe design with the new technology of 3D printing to achieve a look that is modern, sculpted, and architectural too.

“The purpose of my work is to combine traditional crafts and new technology,” Frodina told us. “This is the reason why I started working on 3D modeling, producing hand made shoes with a 3D modeling program. I made this innovation – 3D modeling program – as an auxiliary tool. As I am trying to connect different fields of design together with a craft making experience, my idea was to create a conceptual shoe which would raise a question: is it really a shoe? Or maybe it is a sculpture or a little building or just an object?”

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Although highly stylized and sculptural, Frodina’s shoes can be worn, of course, and given the fashion industry’s track record, they may even still be comfortable than so many off-the-shelf purchases women painfully endure in the name of style.

How did she come up with this unique design? What exactly inspired her to create a pair of shoes that look like an uber modern garden sculpture at a famous international museum, or, for that matter, like someone raided the office supply closet and made a pair of shoes out of some fun white clips? Or, of course, there’s always the inevitable comparison to science fiction and outer space, too.

Frodina describes how she’s inspired by surrounding space and her own experience of it:shoe3

“The main inspiration for me are surrounding spaces. I mean, not only the city where I am or people and objects around me, but also feelings, perception, awareness. I think it is very important to be curious and attentive in your daily life. My design process always starts from thinking about the concept. I like to have the clear idea of the message in my designs. I think the story is the starting and the most important point in any design process.”

Frodina constructed the shoe design using Rhino, and they were 3D printed using corn plastic. Afterwards the shoes — foot structures might be a better word for these — were pulled together “by hand using a titan metal wire and shoemakers’ and jewelers’ traditional tools.” The traditional shoe cobbler creation this is not, but Frodina still uses traditional jewelers’ tools to complete the 3D printed job.

shoe9The foot structures evoke many different feelings and impressions. For one, although partly crafted from traditional design and production methods, they are firmly modern, or postmodern, because they deconstruct the idea of the shoe and offer instead something quite new to be worn on the feet. Given this fact, they are wildly futuristic, but I wonder how the effect would change if she emblazoned them with natural iconography  and softened the edges a bit? Then they’d look more like an over-sized medieval clog: the foot structure concept doesn’t have to look futuristic, in other words.

Clearly Frodina’s project opens up many design possibilities in footwear. Women’s shoes are already so outrgageous, why not go for broke and wear something more sculptural that at least says, “Keep your distance. I’m wearing sculpture on my feet right now!”

Let us know what you think of this design in the 3D Printed Structural Shoes forum thread over at 3DPB.com.

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