Author: Angela Linneman
We’re huge fans of the delicately lovely (and totally unique) jewelry in Kate Szabone and her daughter Lexi’s Shapeways shop, Duet Designs. Now, Kate is launching a way for her customers to design their own shiny bands, just in time for all those Valentine’s Day engagements.
We recently asked Kate about the how and the why behind her new customized ring business. What she told us was both enlightening and inspiring. Read on for the full story.
Kate and Lexi’s Medieval Lace Ring
Your work is so beautiful, and a great example of blending design and customization. What drove you to create a way for your customers to craft their own pieces?
I began selling on Shapeways a few years ago, with my daughter Lexi, through our shop, Duet Designs. We were both learning parametric design with Rhino/Grasshopper. Lexi had been designing Mandala Snowflake Ornaments which we adapted into a line of jewelry. Through parametric design, we could easily adjust the mandala patterns and layers, creating hundreds of designs with a few curves and sliders.
We soon had the opportunity to visit Shapeways in New York at Maker Faire, where our jewelry was displayed at their booth. It was during this trip that I was inspired by the possibility of bringing this concept to my customers’ fingertips.
Daughter, Lexi at the Shapeways booth with Duet Designs jewelry
I’ve been designing and selling bridal jewelry online for 10 years through my Etsy shop and website. Whether developing a new design for a customer or adapting an existing design, my goal is to always create a great customer experience. When the customer connects with a particular design, they often want to make small tweaks to personalize it. With many rings, the changes were just a matter of adjusting the width of the shank, the size or shape, or adding patterns to wedding bands.
While this is a natural extension of my design process, I wanted to allow customers to have more of an interactive experience where they could take charge and have some fun designing their own unique piece of jewelry. This led me to develop a new line of “Ebb and Flow” wedding bands, “Wreath” and “Vine” Rings through my sister site, KS Jewellery. Here, customers can customize and make their own ring, beginning with our design application and ending with a finished ring from our Kate Szabone Jewellery shop on Shapeways.
Wreath and Vine Rings in Premium Silver
“…I wanted to allow customers to have more of an interactive experience where they could take charge and have some fun designing their own unique piece of jewelry.”
What does integration with Shapeways do for your business?
The integration ofKate Szabone Jewellery with Shapeways allows me to reach a wider range of individuals who are eager to be a part of the design process.
I currently work in precious metals, but through this integration, I can offer a wider range of designs in a variety of other materials. This allows me to bring to life more designs that may have previously been limited due to the cost of material and labor. Production times are also cut down and costs are reduced, allowing me to pass on savings to my customers. Shipping is also integrated with Shapeways. I am in Canada and most of my clients are in the USA. Shapeways shipping means I no longer have to deal with customs and import duties.
One of the key benefits of Shapeways integration is the high standard of quality control. I know my customers will always be happy with their purchases.
Kate working on an algorithm in Grasshopper/Rhino
How did you incorporate Shapeways into the design workflow on your site? Did you find the process easy?
Making a parametric design algorithm work effectively, to produce a final file that Shapeways can print, is very hard and time-consuming. It takes hours and trial and error to get it right. Not everything will print easily and there are many factors to take into account. A design that looks great on the computer will not necessarily print or even end up looking like the rendering. Many new CAD designers fail to take into account the tolerances needed to bring the final design to life.
“One of the key benefits of Shapeways integration is the high standard of quality control. I know my customers will always be happy with their purchases.”
I start my design process by understanding what I want my piece to look like in the client’s hands. Designing in Rhino/Grasshopper is just the first step in making the parametric design. This requires working with my team (IJewelCad.ca) on the algorithm that incorporates these many fine elements. Printing and casting the 3D print is one more step. The final and most important step is in the hands of the jeweler that polishes and finishes the rough castings to bring designs to life. I am excited to see Shapeways working with local jewelers to finish and produce amazing pieces.
Easy? No. Complex? Yes. But that’s what makes my designs work. We try to test every element to make sure customers love their final Shapeways piece. That’s hard work, and costly, but in the end, it’s worth it when clients share the many stories and reasons why they enjoy working with us.
Ebb and Flow Ring Maker on ksjewellery.ca
“Using cutting-edge technology reduces costs and production times. It allows my customer to experience the development of the design, make changes and see what the finished piece will look like when cast. This is a critical part of the customer-jeweler relationship that I love.”
What inspired the Ebb and Flow, Vine, and Wreath ring makers?
I’ve had a series of band designs, inspired by nature, for some time now. However, I knew that these designs had much more potential. The idea of adding more buds, or leaves, and patterns, was always a concept. Not until the development of the Ebb and Flow, Wreath, and Vine makers could I look at producing an endless array of designs at an affordable cost, while saving time. This gave me the option of making a design that the customer could then play with and develop into their own unique version.
Ebb and Flow Wedding Bands
Do you use 3D printing with the jewelry you create for your Etsy store?
Yes. Most of my complex jewelry is designed in Rhino and printed on a 3D printer. Using cutting-edge technology reduces costs and production times. It allows my customer to experience the development of the design, make changes and see what the finished piece will look like when cast. This is a critical part of the customer-jeweler relationship that I love.
What advice would you give to other designers looking to use 3D printing in a customer-friendly way?
When a customer contacts you it’s because they like your designs and the positive feedback you’ve had. Your response to them will determine your future working relationship and success. You want to make the experience engaging and exciting. After all, they are working with you on a personal level. For many, this is their first experience and the idea that they can tweak small things, add and change their original concepts, and have their designer explain the steps in the process means a lot to them. Listening to my clients’ needs and constantly adapting ideas to improve their interaction is very important. Customization through parametric design and Shapeways production will hopefully enhance my clients’ experience in 3D printing long-term.
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