Greg Sims

Artengine's UNHANDED

Greg Sims, a jewelry designer and digital fabrication instructor at OCAD University, shares insights into his evolution from traditional craftsmanship to embracing digital techniques. Initially skeptical of casting and mold making, he favored direct fabrication with precious metals and gemstones. However, a project involving wedding bands changed his perspective, leading him to realize that success lies in how materials are handled and presented rather than the technique alone.

Sims emphasizes the transformative impact of digital design and fabrication, which offer limitless possibilities for creativity and innovation. He discusses curated exhibitions showcasing designs that blur the lines between prototypes and final products, leveraging advanced technologies to create unique outcomes.

Highlighting examples like Eric Klarenbeek’s Mycelium Project and Nervous System’s customizable jewelry, Sims explores the intersection of digital and material worlds. He lauds Emerging Objects’ pioneering use of natural materials in 3D printing, challenging the notion that digital production disconnects us from craftsmanship.

Sims concludes by emphasizing the importance of individual creativity in leveraging technology to create meaningful objects that connect with people, inviting us to reimagine our relationship with the things around us.

This presentation was part of the symposium Unhanded. In this panel we ask about the variety of new relationships with materials that emerging with the increasing ubiquitousness of digital technologies. With the increased complexity of tools we wonder how do we learn about materials? How do we get to know them? How do we share this knowledge? We can now know the molecular structure of wood or metal without touching it. Is this a more intimate relationship than working directly with our hands? Does it matter? If the objects coming out of digital and mechanical processes are more removed from our handywork, how might they carry the mark of the machine? Should we be able to read the machine in the material?

Greg Sims is an artist, designer and educator based in Toronto, Canada. He completed his undergraduate studies at OCAD University and later pursued post-graduate studies in England at the School of Jewellery- Birmingham City University. Since completing his MA degree in 2003, Sims has taught extensively at NSCAD University in Halifax and more recently at OCAD University. He teaches studio courses from Introductory to Master’s level, as well as developing curriculum and teaching courses in digital design and fabrication.

Greg Sims’ work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. With a sense of humour, Sims’ work challenges conventions, finding new and meaningful expressions that question the role of jewellery within society. His interest in innovative methods of production and industrial techniques, combined with a vast knowledge of materials have led to many opportunities beyond jewellery. In 2013 Sims, organized and curated Making It Real, an international exhibition of digitally fabricated objects. From 2007-11, he worked as a design engineer with the @lab research facility at NSCAD and Dalhousie University, designing and manufacturing collapsible, responsive structures on an architectural scale (tents, stage sets and furniture). He continues to design and manufacture prototypes and products for various clients as well as building an active studio practice.

We often hear the adoption of digital techniques described as just another tool. That may be true early on, but to describe digital making technologies as just another tool seems rather naive. Digital design and digital fabrication have completely transformed the way objects are perceived, exist and come into being.

There is vast potential for objects to connect us, to relate, to convey our thoughts and ideas, to reflect and interact and tell stories about our lives.

From Traditional Craftsmanship to Digital Innovation

Greg Sims

It wasn’t until I came across an idea for a set of wedding bands, this one here requiring casting that I came around to the idea that it wasn’t the technique or the materials alone that defined the piece, but rather what you did with them. It was how they were handled and presented that made them successful or not. By knowing many materials and processes intricately, one could master them, combine and employ them in ways that others had not. The more you knew, the more opportunities having a full understanding allowed you to push the limits. A basic knowledge and limited hands on experience required you to work within the rules. I adopted digital ways of working, seeing the potential to become more efficient and precise. Lucky for me, the evidence of handiwork, or as I sometimes call it, busywork, was never strongly valued in jewelry. To me, evidence of how a material had been worked or processed came through in other ways in the strength of the idea and how well it was conveyed. We often hear the adoption of digital techniques described as just another tool. That may be true early on, but to describe digital making technologies as just another tool seems rather naive. Digital design and digital fabrication have completely transformed the way objects are perceived, exist and come into being. A virtual object can be reconfigured with infinite outcomes. The basic premise of building successive layers can be applied to any form, however complex, and to virtually any material.

Bridging Disciplines Through Innovation

Greg Sims

I’m always excited by work that shows a level of understanding and interaction with the digital. Exploring new Possibilities. In 2013, my colleague Jesse Jackson and I organized and curated. I am scared to use that word now, but making the name of the exhibition was making it real and we thought I would artists and designers that were working in this way and who recognized that the rapid prototyping era of digital fabrication and additive manufacturing was an old way of thinking. Objects chosen for this exhibition were no longer just models and prototypes, but had advanced sufficiently to be considered the final material object. The design process, material, makeup and methods of production offered completely new outcomes that took advantage of new technologies and distinguish themselves from what had come before. Many of the designers recognized that these materials and forms had great potential to hold and express meanings in different ways to be engineered, assembled in combination with more traditional processes. Doug Brooks’s eyelet necklace, deriving its structure from medical data relating to diabetic blood sugar readings, is an SLS nylon print whose porous surface is perfectly suited to accept colorful fabric dyes. J.C. Carrick’s headphones are assembled straight off the printer with a couple of added magnets and speaker wires. The same nylon material is engineered with varying structures throughout, allowing both rigid and flexible areas, as well as snapping mechanisms for quick assembly. Over time, I have noticed that the digital has become a common language promoting interdisciplinary interdisciplinary and collaboration. It can be a unifying thread allowing different disciplines to come together, cross over and reinterpret.