These Gorgeous Ceramics Are Made By Blasting Music Below A 3-D Printer

Makerbot meets music.

Ceramics are among the oldest handcrafts with the earliest vessels dating back to 24,000 B.C. From practical objects to aesthetic exercises (and not to mention steamy film props), pottery continues to endure. Designers today are still experimenting with the medium and developing new modes of production, like the Einhoven-based practitioner Olivier Van Herpt.


Instead of using a potter’s wheel or cast to make his ceramics, Van Herpt builds digitally controlled clay extruders that are essentially 21st-century takes on the traditional coil pot. The machines create intricately patterned and complex sculptural pieces that would be damn near impossible to do by hand without years and years of training.

For Solid Vibrations, Van Herpt teamed up with sound designer Ricky van Broekhoven. They rigged a speaker to sit directly beneath the 3-D printer, which emits a very low-pitched sound. (While the artists used ambient droning in their demonstration video, one can only imagine what other songs with heavy bass would look like.) As the printer gradually pipes each pot, the vibrations subtly move the vessel to create moiré patterns that look almost like textile knits in the clay.

Van Herpt noticed this effect happening on accident before–loud music deforming the results of a 3-D printer–but instead of viewing it as a mistake that needed correction, he started experimenting with how to achieve beautiful results.

Cymatics, or the study of visible sound, often leads to stunning artwork, like Sonic Water, a music visualizer made from water in a bottle cap, and the Essence of Sound, a trippy film of powder made from mold spores. (They’re based off of the work of Ernst Chladni, the German physicist who discovered that sound waves resonating through solid material—specifically metal plates covered with sand—could produce visible feedback.) Sometimes, it becomes a teaching tool for the hearing impaired. In the case of Van Herpt and van Broekhoven’s project, it turns a song into a gorgeous object you can enjoy long after the music turns off.

[via The Creators Project]

All Images: via Olivier van Herpt


About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.