Many moons ago, Felicia Day was approached by 3D printing artist Melissa Ng, who asked her to model a full regalia of armor. This elaborate construct would be fully sponsored and printed by Shapeways, and fashioned after the intricate designs of Ng’s Dreamer Masks & Jewelry series. Melissa reached out to Felicia not only because she had represented high fantasy concepts many times over, but because she was no stranger to ground-breaking concepts and ambitious projects.
The project was challenging not just because of its blending of fantastical concepts and high-tech methods, it also aimed to act as a manifestation of both Melissa and Felicia’s creative philosophies. Melissa’s company, Lumecluster, is a place of creativity and as they put it, “where dreamers find courage.” The core of what these two powerful and innovative women do delivers the message to forge ahead with your inspiration and passion in the face of discouragement and disbelief, even if or especially when you are your own worst enemy.
3D printing is not exactly what makes this project so innovative and forward-thinking. It is using this method to imagine complex and meaningful convictions into a work of art. Designing, building, and bearing armor to protect oneself against the cynics of the hardened 21st century takes a new world order of strength. One that preserves its vulnerability and sensitivity while also remaining a warrior.
You can read all about Ng’s technical and creative thought process on her blog. She is thorough, transparent, encouraging, and humanistic. Because I’ve had the opportunity to grow an unexpected friendship with Melissa over the past few months, I asked the shy and humble artist a series of questions to find out exactly why she is so freaking awesome. I had to know:
“Were you born in New York?” Melissa laughs, acknowledging she had, in fact, been raised in the stereotypically hardened city. “You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but I’m trying to keep the upbeat spirit I was born with. I refuse for people to say that everyone here is rude. I want people to be surprised and find out that they’re wrong.”
What do you say when people ask you what you “do”?
I had to experiment a few times. Now I say ‘I am a 3D Printing Mask Maker who creates breathtaking designs’. My goal is to always take people’s breath away.
What motivates you to create? Who inspires you?
Growing up, I remember admiring my cousin Stephanie Law, who created Shadowscapes. I constantly asked myself, ‘How did someone create this simply from their head?’
You’ve worked in many mediums, from drawing to digital art and onward to 3D printing. How does that experience influence your work today?
Dabbling in acrylics, watercolors, and laser cutting; I knew enough to say I’ve had a taste of that, that tastes okay, let me try something else. Even though you leave some things behind, you never lose them. You try something new, you still have that library of other experiences and you start, as we grow older, we start connecting more and more dots. But how can you connect the dots if you didn’t put the dots there in the first place?
All those experiences beforehand aren’t going to waste anymore. A lot of people don’t go forward because they think ‘if I try this and I don’t want to do it anymore, it was a waste of my time’, and I don’t think that’s true, although it might feel that way at that time. But if you grew in some way, can you really say it was a waste of your time? I think everything we learn always feeds into itself whether or not we realize it until later on in the future.
You mentioned that your background is in marketing, not in art. Do you feel like this was an advantage or disadvantage to your creative freedom?
Part of not receiving a formal education is great, because you have no guidance. But it’s also bad, because you have no guidance (laughs). I was able to pick and choose mediums that seemed interesting to me. If I can look at a medium and keep getting more and more ideas, then it’s the medium for me. If I look at something and can’t stand thinking of coming back to it, and start feeling like it’s a waste of time, then it’s time to look at something else.
What program do you use to create your 3D designs? Was it hard to learn without formal training?
I use Blender, and I love it! It’s a free program. There is a high learning curve, but once you get it you can do things like produce a whole movie within the program. And it’s entirely community-backed. It’s supported by add-ons and memberships.
In your blog, you often talk about your tendency towards self-deprecation and imposter syndrome. What do you think causes that? Do you find people sometimes react negatively to your art?
It’s not so much my art. I think since I’m in the world between new but not-so-new medium, there are people that feel they have the right to say a lot about what I use and how to use it because I don’t come from an arts background. I come from a background of communication, public relations. I had a lot of people that ignored me in art arenas. There’s this expectation of an unspoken script, an assumption that [creators] should have some sort of known story that’s typical of artists. This is why I admire Felicia so much, her story of her acting career is not conventional in many ways.
I think as an artist or a creator of any kind it’s important to be aware of what it is you react to. A lot of people don’t take a moment to look back on themselves. We’re so busy hustling all the time, it’s easy to forget to stop for a moment and think about what you’re doing, what purpose it’s serving, and how it’s feeding back into who you are. If we don’t look inward, how can we grow outward?
If you feel so much doubt and fear about pursuing your passion, what pushes you forward? How do you overcome yourself?
I guess the reality of what makes me feel better is realizing that all of us have the same feeling of feeling like shit. And when I realized that, then what difference does it make if I [create]? If we’re all feeling this same awful thing- and I think writing it, responses to those articles confirmed it. Which made creating even less hard, because people would e-mail me and say they still felt the negative things I would say to myself. I would wake up every day still thinking I am garbage. Even though outwardly people think I’m so peppy. And I am, it’s not a face I put on. I believe I am mostly cheerful. But when I’m alone, I just think everything I do is a joke, and I think that’s why I really loved Felicia’s memoir, when she would have those moments. But she would maintain her morals, and her sense of community, and in the end stay true to what made her happy.
All gallery photo credit goes to the inimitable Eric Anderson, whose fantasy photography must be seen to be believed.
Hair/Makeup Credit: Sabrina Cruz Castro.
Special thanks to Cokreeate for their state-of-the-art 3D body scanning.
Special thanks to Shapeways for their state-of-the-art printing facilities and pioneering spirit.