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Ann Marie Shillito, Anarkik3D


I am basically a designer maker and contemporary jeweller having trained at Birmingham College of Art before completing a Masters at the Royal College of Art in London. My mum was artistic and my dad was an engineer. My practice centred around titanium and other refractive and non-precious metals. Although titanium is difficult to work I used its properties to inspire and focus my designs; properties such as hardness, lightness and the use of electrolytic anodising for colour patterns.

In 1989 with a grant from Scottish Development Agency I investigated laser cutting refractory metals as a more efficient method to create units for small batch production for jewellery to make my business more viable. This was my introduction to digital technologies. Around the same time I also came across 3D printing at its early stage when it was used mainly for prototyping in industry and was very expensive! An award for Individual Development in 1997 from the Scottish Arts Council was used to purchase a computer and solid modelling software to move from 2D to exploring 3D CAD and 3D printing as tools for limited production for applied artists.

I struggled with 3D CAD and in 1999 I became a Research Fellow at Edinburgh College of Art to understand why and investigate better ways of working in 3D. My practice-led investigation into Computer Aided Design for Rapid Prototyping (Layer Manufacture/3D printing) resulted in a collaborative Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project to investigate 3D haptics (virtual 3D touch) as a better interface for working digitally. As the Principle Investigator and based in ECA the research had a very strong focus on how designer makers and applied artists work and their requirements for working in 3D – both hand making and digital designing. With Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept funding we built a haptic demonstrator for 3D sketch modelling to take out to designer makers for them to try and to get feedback on the concept.

Anarkik3D Ltd spun out from the research in 2007 and 2 years later we started work on a 3D modelling product combining our software with a cost effective off-the-shelf haptic device. As CEO I used my knowledge as a practicing designer maker and jeweller to advance concepts in 3D haptic/digital modelling. I worked closely with my joint founder, Xiaoqing CAO, a computer scientist, and with programmers, tapping into our joint expertise and my creative passion to initiate and manage the commercial development of our 3D modelling software product, Anarkik3D Design, the development of which is specific to how designer makers and applied artists think and work.

I am an ECA Honorary Research Fellow, Fellow of the RSA, author of the book ‘Digital Crafts: Industrial Technologies for Applied Artists and Designer Makers’, founder and the CEO of Anarkik3D Ltd, and founder and one of the Directors at a new start-up, Touchable Universe Ltd.


My main focus is managing Anarkik3D Ltd, the development of the software, marketing and supporting the creative people using it and our distributors.

The most exciting thing this year was finally, earlier this Summer, releasing a version of Anarkik3D Design for AppleMacs. This is a world first as it is the only haptic 3D modelling product for Mac users. This has been a long held ambition and hard won after an intense period of development on the core of our haptic API (Application Programming Interface). We now own all of our software IP which secures our future and is a very satisfying position to be in.

I bring to the development of our 3D modelling software not just my full knowledge and experience as a practicing jeweler but also the frustrations that I and many of my contacts have working with CAD. One example is the ‘play’ aspect that happens in the studio and ‘at the bench’ when exploring and experimenting with different media, materials and processes. Playing sets up serendipitous moments that can be invaluable for sparking new ideas and this phenomenon is sadly absent from standard CAD packages, at least until a programme has been fully mastered.

I use my knowledge and skills as a designer and jeweller to thoroughly user test new updates and upgrades to the software by creating designs that are real live projects as this is a more messy and realistic process which complements using a logical matrix system for testing functionality. Live projects also means that I go the whole hog through to using 3D print technologies. This is important for understanding how best to access them, what materials are available and their specific constraints, and to update my own knowledge. It is important that I have this knowledge as I run workshops and masterclasses on designing for 3D printing.

I continue to design and make as a professional jeweller as much as I can. I am hampered quite a bit as I have arthritis in both my thumbs and using our 3D modelling software and 3D printing has certainly helped me continue. In 2017 I co-curated an exhibition of 3D printed jewellery in the lovely Galerie V&V in Vienna for which I produced 3 collections, each quite different from the others. I have just completed a brooch commission and hoping to have the recipient’s permission to show an image of the finished piece. The design certainly challenged my skills using Anarkik3D Design so it will be good to show what can be achieved with our product. I did take a risk by opting for a new full colour 3D printing process and material being trialed and then complicated the process by not adhering to the official design guidelines regarding the minimum thicknesses for a successful print – it seemed to me that the company was playing safe. Anyway, after a few amendments the design was eventually accepted for 3D printing in this new material and I am pretty pleased with the finished effect. Nowt like pushing against the barriers and learning the hard way!!!


I do have a few exciting things happening over the next few months, the first being with Laura Jones who put up a request on Creative Edinburgh‘s Facebook page about her new photography project. She is looking to photograph and capture people in their professional and personal environment, focusing mainly on the person behind the profession – an intimate glimpse that is often hidden. This is part of her ongoing storytelling project work, using digital and film photography, and will form a collection of images online. The reason that I am interested in participating is having a different perspective on the environment where I work and live, how I have adapted into it and seeing myself through Laura’s lens and the visuals she will choose to take and then select as a collection to tell a story. That’s exciting!

Handmade by Machines is an exhibition and symposium to be held in September in Dundee celebrating the use of modern digital technologies integrated with handcraft. Papers for the symposium investigate the integration of modern digital technologies within jewellery and 3D object design. I will be giving a presentation that includes the digital designs and 3D printed work of jewellers who use Anarkik3D Design. I am passionate about supporting people’s creative talent. Creativity should be fun and Anarkik3D Design is enjoyable to use. So this is very exciting for me, seeing how others are using our product, how it has enabled them to access 3D printing and seeing how they integrate these technologies into their work using their jewellery making skills to expand what is possible and add value to raw materials.

In October I run our first Masterclass to be held in London. This is a collaboration with Donna Brennan and will be held in her jewellery studio for up to 10 people. The Masterclass is on designing for 3D printing and for people who have little or no experience of digital designing. Anarkik3D Design is ideal for this 2 day class. Within a very short learning time participants are navigating in the 3 dimensional virtual space. They are actively creating from the start, deforming, slicing, scaling, mirroring, copy, pasting and subtracting objects to construct models to 3D print. Over the years I have designed and had 3D printed a collection of samples for handling, produced by different systems and in various materials. Having this resource is invaluable for getting across the potential of these technologies for enabling designer makers to expand their practice and grow their business.

Last year I ran a workshop in Vienna during Wiener Schmucktage (a festival of jewellery). Later this year, again during this annual festival I hope to be running the workshop for a second time. Just visiting Vienna again for this festival is exciting let alone the fun of meeting new people interested in getting to grips with digital technologies.


It has a good legacy for supporting creative people, especially within the crafts which is the field I know best. Edinburgh College of Art graduates are able to join more established designer makers and applied artists to set up in places like the Wasp Studios, Coburg House and others where there is great support, great buzz in affordable working spaces. This maintains, over the years, a vibrant and fresh culture. Also Edinburgh does have excellent galleries and hosts associations like Craft Scotland which promote all Scottish crafts which is good as we do have a tendency to be city centric and to not look out and beyond the City as most of what we need we have here. There are great things happening elsewhere that we should get out and about to support too.


Be passionate about whatever you do but also be realistic and flexible. Collaborate with others, contract out to others the work that they can do better and more efficiently than you could do, being sure that this work is what you do need at this point in time. Network like mad as some of the best contacts and contracts come by word of mouth. Join Creative Edinburgh.


It’s been great seeing how Creative Edinburgh has grown over the years into a valuable facility and hub with a wealth of activities to keep us all connected, informed, supported and inspired. Creative Circles on the first Tuesday of the month is my favourite meet-up as this is a constant monthly event and a way to meet other creatives. I mostly work on my own from my home office so this meet-up is important for hearing what else is going on and what others are getting up to. This helps me to keep an open mind and a healthy perspective on any venture or project I am thinking of doing. And how else would I find other creatives with the skills and knowledge I don’t have but need to grow and promote my business? Besides Creative Circles gets me out of the office!

Follow Ann Marie's Anarkik3D journey via their website here.

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