Yuko Oda teaches in the Art and Design Department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell specializing in Sculpture, Expanded Media, and 3D.

Her artwork has been exhibited at SIGGRAPH Asia 2016 (Macao), Dumbo Arts Festival (NY), Calvin-Morris Gallery (NY), Beijing Today Art Museum, Maki Fine Arts (Tokyo), Annemarie Sculpture Garden and Art Center (MD), the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, among others. Oda’s animation, Take Off was a finalist in the international animation competition Artport: Cool Stories for When the Planet Gets Hot, and screened internationally at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York, DIA Center (NY), Art Supermarket (Stockholm), Art Miami Basel (FL), Bridge Art Fair (NY), Diva Art Fair (Paris) and Scope Art Fair (Basel/NY). Oda has had artist residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Chashama North Residency, Goetemann Residency, and Byrdcliffe Artist Residency.

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

I was formally trained in Fine Arts.  Since receiving my MFA in Sculpture from RISD in 2002, I  have been a visual artist and educator to college and graduate students.  When teaching digital applications, I developed a passion for 3D modeling using Autodesk Maya.  Out of all the digital software out there, Autodesk Maya was the most sculptural and versatile for me, and I fell in love with it.  Which naturally led me to 3D printing.

In 1998-2008, I created a series of installation artworks called “Alternate Nature” using found objects and biodegradable plastics in formations that mimicked nature.  Simultaneously, I was developing as a 3D modeler and animator using Autodesk Maya. I taught 3D modeling as a professor at Albright College and New York Institute of Technology for 15 years, and in 2006 I started 3D printing my models using Stratasys printers.

Invisible Hour
Dimensions: 3’ x 2’ x 2’ (plus pedestal height)
Materials: 3D Printed Resin, Charcoal, and Stone
Year: 2015

It was a natural progression for me to create installations with my 3D printed sculptures, and this hybrid is the basis of my recent body of work. I find I am still creating an “Alternate Nature” in my work, with synthetic 3d printed pieces juxtaposed with organic materials such as wood, soil, and rocks.

Currently, I am an artist and educator currently teaching in the Art & Design Department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell specializing in 3D and Expanded Media, and I teach and run workshops in 3D fabrication techniques.

What was your very first experience with 3D Printing?

I taught 3D modeling as a professor at the New York Institute of Technology for 11 years, where I first started 3D printed my models using Stratasys 3D printer in 2006.  

Where does your inspiration come from? 

Unbearable Lightness and Heaviness of Being
Dimensions: 4′ (W) x 5′ (H) x 3.5′ (D) (plus pedestal height)
Medium: 3D Printed Plastic and Soil 2010

My inspirations and research are currently in the following areas:

    • Exploring the intersection of technology with fine art, often bringing together their methodologies in one artwork, such as installing digital sculpture with organic materials such as soil. 
    • Observing nature, lifeforms, and biological systems in conjunction with their cultural symbolism, mythology, and folklore.
    • Creating a new “alternate nature” by hybridizing the synthetic with the organic.

In the digital sculpture installation, “The Unbearable Lightness and Heaviness of Being”, rapid prototyping machines were used to create three-dimensional “prints” in plastic. The forms embody opposing forces, beings in flight, but rooted, and synthetically created yet fragile. Also, the forms are emerging from soil, creating a hybrid of organic and synthetic nature.

Darkness Meets Light
Medium: Plaster and 3D printed resin
Dimensions: 4′ (W) x 5′ (H) x 3.5′ (D) (plus pedestal height) 2018

“Darkness Meets Light” is a digital sculpture installation that explores the intersection of technology with fine art, bringing together traditional and digital methodologies in one piece. The base of the sculpture, an organic form that resembles a cocoon, is carved plaster. This structure serves as the landing, birthplace, and home for the black 3D-printed butterfly wing-like forms swarming on and out of its crevice. These black forms embody a frozen moment of contrasting energies; they are both emitting out and pointing into their origin.

Why using 3D printing for your creations?

I have expertise in 3D modeling, and this medium allows me to physically realize my visions and ideas in a versatile, flexible, and efficient way.  Once I spend the time to create the models, deforming and transforming the shapes become much easier than with traditional materials such as wood or metal.  I can create duplicates and test out many alterations. I believe that 3D printing is revolutionary to object manufacturing in the 21st Century like photography was to painting.

Do you integrate other technologies as well?

Yes, I am particularly drawn to bringing together the digital and non-digital in one piece, and creating a dialog between the two.  I use a variety of digital software such as Autodesk and Adobe suite, and I also use drawing, installation art, traditional sculpture, and animations.

To date, what would you say is your greatest achievement in Additive Manufacturing?

With my creation, “Unbearable Heaviness and Lightness of Being” I was invited to exhibit in SIGGRAPH Asia in 2016.  I traveled to Macao, China, from New York City, with a suitcase full of 3D printed sculptures. This exhibition was significant both professionally and personally, as it was the first trip I took after I had given birth to twins (8 months old at that time).  My husband and mother-in-law made it possible for me to leave them for a whole week!

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

Absolutely. I have experienced attitudes towards me that are challenging, ranging from microaggressions to harassment.  I believe as women, we are accustomed to this and at the same time, it can be frustrating and hurtful. Currently, I work in an institution and community where there is a lot of respect for women and people of color and feel fortunate, but it has not always been the case.

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

Alternate Nature
Dimensions: 20” x 14” x 17”
Medium: 3D Printed Resin, Wood
Year: 2018

I will be exhibiting my 2D artworks at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston from May through August 2019, with an opening reception on May 28th. This will be the most comprehensive group my drawings shown to date, and I am very excited for the opportunity.  For more information, please follow me on Instagram @yukooda75.

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

Immersive artworks by artists such as Michael Hansmeyer, as well as organic 3D printed sculptures by Keith Brown.

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

Various output materials such as metals with companies such as Shapeways.  Ceramic resins. Pixelogic Z-brush and the ability to output millions of vertex information into a print. 3D printed 3D printers. Recycled plastic used as consumables for 3D printers. 3D printed homes.

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

As a sculptor, 3D printing allows me to explore 3D form creation in so many new ways. I think 3D printing will allow me to make artworks that I was not able to before, in form as well as in volume.  It will ultimately allow me to compete in the sculpture field and art world that is more dominated by men.

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

The 3D printing industry is very exciting right now, with many new printers and capabilities being introduced in the market.  

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

At the University of Massachusetts Lowell where I teach, I encourage all students to create 3D printed artworks from start to finish as  freshmen in 3-Dimensional Design. I want all art students to know that 3D modeling and 3D printing is not difficult, and to get their hands wet in it early on in their art career. That way, when they are in their more advanced classes, they will recall this tool and method as an option in their artistic process.

Favorite 3D tool (could be a software, machine, material…you name it)? Autodesk Maya, Pixelogic Z-Brush, Form 2 Printer, Wood Carving Tools.

Favorite moment in your day job? When I see excitement, wonder, and confidence in students’ faces.

What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years? I would like to be sponsored by a 3D printer company to create artwork or do an artist residency with an institution that provides 3D printing technology.

Another inspiring woman you’d like us to interview? I am not sure if you have her on your site already; her name is Sophie Kahn.

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