Virginia Estrada is a lifelong artist and sculptor, with an extra passion for hand-carving alabaster, wood, and metal. She has designed women’s fashion and jewelry collections, interior designs and home decor products.  Her photographs have been displayed as on-air set design at CNN and in private collections.

We were thrilled to have her as one of our guests during last May’s #3DTalk Talk: 3D Printing & Design panel, in New York City.

Virginia, could you let us know about your background and what brought you into 3D printing in the first place? 

I’m an artist, design director, and product designer. I’d say my specialty is fusing old-world craftsmanship with a modern aesthetic and new technologies. As an artist and sculptor, having a passion for hand carving alabaster, wood and metal. Over the years, I branched out into everything from furniture design to product design to interior design. My career began in jewelry design and then fashion design. Created dozens of jewelry and clothing collections. The jewelry and luxury apparel sold in stores like Barneys NY, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue. Also, the clothing and accessories have been featured in publications such as The New York Times, New York Magazine, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Elle, Bazaar, the Chicago Tribune and many more. And the designs were in window displays at Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Ave.
Also, my site-specific interior design and photography has been displayed as on-air set design for CNN and in private collections. My website / has some of my work.

What brought you to 3D printing in the first place? 

It was while creating these jewelry collections that I became intrigued by the possibilities of 3D printing. I was invited to show my jewelry at the biennial juried exhibition LOOT: 2010 at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York. While there my interest evolved around the possibility of working with new materials, at scale and manufacturing for my sculptures and design work. While researching alternative solutions to produce and bring designs to the marketplace, I went to the ‘Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo’ 2012, NYC. Although I wasn’t sure how I would use a 3d printer it was by talking with Nora Toure from Sculpteo who was there as a beacon of light with so much information. Then I went back in 2014 and the keynote speakers were inspiring especially MIT Media Labs’ Neri Oxman (Printing to the Nth Dimension) Since then, 3D printing changed my trajectory as an artist and designer.

What was your very first experience with 3D Printing? 

My first hands-on was with a MakerBot printer, and it was an amazing tool to explore concepts. It made relatively small objects, no bigger than 4 x 4 by 6 inches with low resolution. Although I always work with a software and tech savvy people to make STL files. I’ve also used Nervous System and open source design apps to create a few things.

Could you explain furthermore the services you are offering as a designer? Who are your customers? 

develop concepts and designs for manufactured products. Not just as a designer but with complete design services, and will soon be including additive manufacturing product collections designing jewelry and interior decor objects in various materials. I want to partner and collaborate with companies, individual businesses, creatives in tech. I’m also launching a collaborative all-female product design studio so we can offer a broader range of products and services around 3D design ecosystem. Plus it’s taking my first steps and hopefully a great way to mutually support women in the industry. I’m inspired collaborating with people of various disciplines and industries that I admire and always thrilled at the opportunity to create.

Why did you decide to become an independent designer? 

Evolving as an artist-designer is extremely important, the journey of discovery is immeasurable. I have always been an independent designer with a nonlinear career. The opportunity of working either virtually or on-site while working on a variety of products for different clients. Excitement associated with popping into the different design spheres, traveling for inspiration. On the other hand, from my experience creating without the financial backing from large companies is challenging, as is manufacturing and distributing. My independent brand definition continues to evolve.

How do you use 3D Printing on a project? 

Typically as a pre-prototyping system, so I can create visual concepts for projects. Working with a 3d software professional who has experience in modeling, rendering and preparing for 3d printing and CNC milling. Or using professional scanning services for my design objects and jewelry before the additive manufacturing process. Materials are extremely important to me.

Have you run into any challenges from being a woman designer in 3D Printing? 

As in any industry from what I’ve experienced, but especially technology it seems dominated by men with few women in pioneering or top positions. It’s always fabulous, inspiring and encouraging when I see other women involved. Sharing our experiences and working together as women is so important. Ideally, to work hard to change the face of technology and 3D printing realm. I’m so excited to partner with women who invest in other women. It’s exciting collaborating with women at the intersection of creatives, tech, business, and manufacturing.

Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about? 

At this juncture in my career it’s the right time because there is a lot of new possibility about 3D ecosystem and that includes women’s opportunities to innovate and create and collaborate. That’s why I’m launching my design studio concept for which is an all-female product design studio, co-branding 3D printing business market for women.
It’s about working with other professionals in designing ideas for clients and turning those ideas into new products for the 3D printing marketplace.

What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far? 

I’d have to say 3D printing of biomaterials like the 3D printed artificial heart that beats for a few seconds. 

What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing? 

As of today because additive manufacturing is evolving globally within so many different industries. Thinking about 3d printing techniques, Rapid Liquid Printing, material behavior in design, or two different parts being printed simultaneously, printing 3d spaces like the cafe at the Perez Art Museum, or the use of robotics as tools, wearable tech, smart fabrics, printing glass and ceramic. I must admit that I’m obsessed with MIT / MIT Labs.

What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you:

  • As a designer?

I’m passionate about the future of design. Intrigued by limitless possibilities for creation. I personally gravitated towards the 3D printing industry because it’s this marvelous intersection of innovation, technology, sciences, engineering, architectures, mathematical designs, art, fashion, manufacturing, business, sustainability, and consciousness.

  • As a woman?  

Right now, as a woman in the design industry and a woman in the world, I’m interested in working ideally together with other women to generate a conscious experience — and equal opportunity for women. Empowering each other and celebrating our own and the successes of other women. Excited to partner with women who invest professionally in other women.

What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?      

Today 3D printing as an industry is at an amazing juncture around the world. Fabulous evolution with materials and with advanced properties is really exciting. As for 3D printed ecosystem, imagining evolution in a future where technologies allow us to orally manipulate integration with any combination simultaneously through printing.

In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?

Right now, ideally by creating more environments for women like Women in 3D Printing. Encouraging women is essential to build courage and confidence by sharing information with one another regarding the 3d ecosystem. It’s useful attending 3D Expos and Conferences.

Thank you for reading and for sharing! You can learn more about Virginia by visiting her website

We invite you to join Women in 3D Printing on LinkedIn and to like our Facebook page for further discussion.

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