In celebration of the release of ‘Tantalus’, the latest single from Mantaraybryn which marks the next body of work from the Cornwall/Cardiff based singer/songwriter, it is time to share the collaborative design process of creating a custom 3D printed laurel wreath between Bryn, myself and 3D designer Mike Honey. Having watched one another grow both personally and creatively since we were teenagers, the personal conversations, image sharing and discussions of future ideas between Bryn and I continually adds to an ongoing narrative of creative support - and now we get to share something tangible.
Printed using Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), made from durable nylon plastic, spray painted in layers and complete with Kvadrat textiles partly recycled Re-Wool, placed internally for support and comfort, the Mantaraybryn wreath draws upon imagery of ancient laurel crowns and Greek mythology.
The design process.
Capturing the ongoing lyrical themes and references made throughout Mantaraybryn’s music and persona, inspiration was drawn from historical imagery of golden laurel crowns, commonly seen within Greek mythology as symbols of triumph and success. Beginning with rough notes and sketches exchanged between Cornwall and Cardiff, we began by looking at a variety of crown and wreath design examples, often made from paper or simple wire structures. Initial hand drawn examples began to take shape with ongoing conversation around the shape and size of the individual laurel leaves that would be positioned around the head. Using Bryn’s custom measurements, consideration to wear on stage meant that the design needed to be robust, comfortable and easy to position and keep in place - unlike usual crown positioning, laurel wreaths were commonly worn towards the nape of the neck as opposed to on top of the head, which steered us towards building upon a u-like shape, rather than a perfect circle.
Handing the initial prototype stage over to Mike, whose self-taught knowledge of a range of CAD and 3D sculpting programmes allowed us to create more organic shapes with realistic textures, the building of the laurel crown began with inputting Bryn’s custom measurements into Rhino3D to create a base ring that single laurel leaves were then positioned around and layered on top of. Beginning with an individual leaf, notes on width and length were taken with the addition of overlapping stems at the nape of the neck - the first prototype included a cluster of berries, which we later removed. At this point the object dimensions were very precise but also quite flat, uniform and not particularly leaf-like, so the initial mesh was brought over to Zbrush (an industry-leading creative software package) to convert the dull single leaf mesh into something far more interesting and life-like. From here, duplicates were made, shaped and sculpted to create the complete left side of the headband, modelled on a digital model which was sized and shaped to resemble that of Bryn; acting as an especially useful guide to ensure the final physical version of the headband would be correctly sized and shaped too.
Using 3D modelling software such as Rhino and Zbrush allows designers to spot any problems in design that were not apparent earlier and then model improvements and solutions to fix them before anything physical has been made - saving time, money and materials. In this example, Bryn was provided with visuals of the headband at important waypoints over video call and email which allowed him to review the design and suggest preferences which were duly incorporated. At this point the headband was still virtual and no manufacturing has taken place. An additional bonus of adopting 3D modelling as a means of manufacture is that the virtual 3D models created can be very accurately represented or visualised - we were able to see the texture and look of the crown in gold-like materials to help guide the selection of suitable materials, whilst considering how we would achieve this look without breaking budget or negatively altering the final piece. Thanks to this process, to achieve the preferred design we only had one initial prototype before hitting on the ideal shape and fit.
With the go-ahead from Bryn we selected a durable PA11 nylon plastic printed using Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) to create the first design, which we found needed subtle alterations of an extended and curved front with a slight opening on the front leaf positions, as well as consideration to cushioning on the inner band to prevent movement and discomfort when worn on stage. A few weeks later after edits to the original CAD file were made, the second prototype arrived which I was able to take to Mantaraybryn's first headline show at Hy-Brasil Music Club in September 2019. Proving to have all the correct changes and details, we went ahead with this as the final piece and reviewed ways to apply a metallic golden finish that would enhance the subtle leaf textures without looking gaudy or cheap - air brush spray painting in light layers was the way to go for this. For the internal fabric I wanted to consider a material that consciously produced - Bryn is a passionate about environmental protection and sustainable living - and stumbled across Kvadrat, a Danish textile design company specialising in design innovation. Their samples are free and allowed me to compare different coloured weaves to match the golden finish of the 3D print. Offering enough texture to help hold the crown in place and blended well with the golden finish, I used a small swatch woven from a blend of 45% recycled wool 45% new wool worsted 10% nylon with EU Ecolabel, Greenguard Gold, HPD certification, partly made by reusing scraps from Kvadrat’s yarn spinners in the UK.
With future collaborations on the horizon, it is a real honour to assist Bryn in bringing more of his ideas to life in support of his creative vision and unveiling of more stand out music. His latest track 'Tantalus' was released on 7th May 2021 and is available for listening on Spotify and Apple Music.
Thank you dad for always encouraging my artistic pursuits, teaching me all that you know about art, creativity, music, humour, the Adobe Creative Suite, creating an organised working space, the endless possibilities of additive manufacturing and how you can teach yourself anything with patience and persistence.