I'm an artist exploring the region between art and mathematics. My work is about life in three dimensions: working with symmetry and balance, getting from the origin to infinity, and always finding beauty in geometry.
That's to say, I like to think about shapes, and occasionally I think of a new one, and usually they come out very symmetrical. I'm like any artist in that it's difficult to explain how and why this happens.
So I'll write about my odd points. Apparently I've studied more math than most artists. I don't use it very directly – I wouldn't call myself a mathematician, and most of my designs are drawn rather than computed – but it's plain that my creative engine is interested in this.
I like technology. 3D printing in metal is my main medium now, and I also work with subsurface laser damage in glass. This isn't because I love gadgets, it's much more trouble to do this than to use the mature tech that most sculptors enjoy. I do it because the shapes I have in mind aren't moldable, and I want to make a lot of them. Those two constraints, taken together, turn out to be remarkably constraining: most traditional sculpture technology simply doesn't operate on un-moldable objects.
I have a grass-roots business model. I don't limit editions, I price as low as costs permit, and most of my selling is direct to you, by way of this site. My plan is to make these designs available, rather than restrict the supply. It's more like publishing than like gallery-based art marketing: we don't feel that a book has lost anything because many people have read it. In fact it becomes more valuable as it gains readership and currency. With the advent of 3D printing, this is the first moment in art history when sculpture can be, in this sense, published. I think it's the wave of the future.
That said, most people's next question is "So, is this your real job?" At present I'm happy to say that it is. It took me about ten years from art school to make a dollar, during which I worked as a programmer, teacher, tech writer, typist, web designer, etc., while making sculpture by hand. In the last years of the 20th century 3D printing developed to a level that could do my work, and then, quite suddenly, I began to be an artist.
That was satisfying of course, but it brings new challenges as I keep learning about CAD, make expensive high-tech mistakes, and keep trying to make the money work. There's always so much to do! I've tried to include on this site everything that you need to understand what I do, and to take up the subject yourself if you feel inclined. There's plenty of room.
But none of this is important to the work: naturally I'm affectionate toward it, but once a piece is done it makes its own way. I hope you'll enjoy my designs. They're visions of order in the universe, my peaceful places. I feel calm and hopeful in making them, and I hope they will bring some of that satisfaction into your life.
— Bathsheba Grossman
What's the impact of all this? More than one might expect. My work has appeared in the New York Times, the London Times and Der Spiegel, as well as Wired, Discover and Make magazines. One of my lamps was in TIME Magazine's 100 most influential designs of 2007. My sculptures have appeared in two hit TV shows, Second Life, and a Japanese videogame commercial. John Conway and Douglas Hofstadter used pictures of them in recent books. They've been shown in Italy, Korea, New York and Cleveland. An irony-free Wikipedia entry for me was started in 2004. And this site moves enough art to keep me out of the workforce, which isn't bad considering I wrote the whole thing by hand, with web skills that are pure 1996.
On the supply side, I've been influential in popularizing direct-metal printing as an art medium. My work has inspired many artists, both mathematical and the other kind, to experiment with the technology, and some are prolific in it. The commercial viability of this work has encouraged 3D printing suppliers and developers to consider art and design applications as a strong market that is worth developing.
The upshot is that I've become known in geek culture and in the 3D printing industry. I haven't made much inroad into the traditional art world, but then showing in galleries is not a focus for me. I made a conscious decision many years ago to work directly for the viewer – you – rather than try to get the attention of cultural gatekeepers. The logical outcome of this decision was that only a small group of mathematicians and enthusiasts would ever take an interest. It's been a huge surprise, and a testament to the love of math and geometry that's out there, that it didn't turn out that way.
Thank you for letting me have this job.