Catena is one of three necklaces forthcoming in designer Jenny Wu's collection of 3D printed and cast jewelry. It measures 7.6 inches wide and long.
Jenny Wu Catena is one of three necklaces forthcoming in designer Jenny Wu's collection of 3D printed and cast jewelry. It measures 7.6 inches wide and long.

A personal project quickly turned into a business venture when Jenny Wu, co-founder of the Los Angeles–based Oyler Wu Collaborative, wore a few pieces of jewelry she designed and 3D printed to the Art Basel show in Miami last year. “People kept coming over to ask me about it to the point where I was like, OK, maybe I have something unique that a design-oriented crowd would really appreciate,” she says.

Her collection, Lace, goes on sale today and includes two rings and two sets of earrings. Three necklaces will be offered beginning on Oct. 15. Each piece’s curvilinear, multi-dimensional, and twisting forms are inspired by her firm’s architectural work—which includes the innovative 3D installations Cube and Live Wire—but with softer lines and an organic composition that considers the body as a site in and of itself, Wu says.

“I always wanted to do something bold and avant-garde but still wearable and I think it’s a very fine line,” she says. “To see that vision on someone else other than me is pretty exciting.”

Wu's Mobius rings can be paired (left) and are each offered in dimensions of 1.4 inches long and wide and 1.7 inches long and wide. The Papilio ring (right) measures 1.8 inches wide and 1.7 inches long.
Jenny Wu Wu's Mobius rings can be paired (left) and are each offered in dimensions of 1.4 inches long and wide and 1.7 inches long and wide. The Papilio ring (right) measures 1.8 inches wide and 1.7 inches long.

The rings and one of the earring sets will be available in selective-laser-sintered (SLS) polished nylon in black and white as well as in silver, which is cast from a 3D-printed wax model; the other earring set is offered in white and black SLS nylon. The necklaces will be offered in white-colored flexible nylon, but Wu is also experimenting with resin, ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and ASA (acrylonitrile styrene acrylate) plastic, and silver and gold metals, the latter two of which are cast from a wax model. Early this summer, Wu partnered with Stratasys subsidiary Solidscapeweaetxdyvaydzcwq to print the jewelry.

Determining the right material in which to print or cast each piece was a challenge due to the jewelry’s delicate composition, she says. The process of 3D printing an item with openings between components—such as with her chain-like necklaces—requires filling that space with a structural support, often either in the form of a powder that can be washed off post-printing or by including a physical structure that must be cut away; the latter can be tedious to remove and can result in an uneven surface that complicates finishing.

“I’m learning to tune the design to the technology,” she says. “You have to really research and understand the technology in order to innovate … so you’re not just coming up with one design … but really trying to evolve the design so that you can push that specific technology.”

The Orbis earrings (shown) can be printed in polished nylon in white and black colors as well as cast in sterling silver.
Jenny Wu The Orbis earrings (shown) can be printed in polished nylon in white and black colors as well as cast in sterling silver.

Wu used the prototyping process to eliminate materials not only on the basis of aesthetics but also for their durability and flexibility. She digitally models her pieces in Autodesk Maya software and sends the prototypes out to be 3D printed, making multiple iterations of full components and smaller sections in order to understand how the various materials will behave in application. For example, she says, the necklaces’ 3D printed clasp and hook could be modeled smaller when made from materials with elastic qualities but would need to be bigger if the material had less flexibility in order to ensure the two stay connected during use.

Still, where jewelry and architecture diverge is in the testing process, says Wu, who is currently teaching a wearable design seminar at SCI-Arc. “You can do mockups, but [until the building is done], you don’t get to physically experience it,” she says. “I can constantly mock up the jewelry myself and fine-tune [it], which in some ways is a little bit different of a process … but there’s an instant gratification.”

The pieces can be ordered on Lace’s website with an estimated three to four weeks for delivery. Prices start at $40 for a single Mobius ring in polished nylon.