An interview with Zachary Eastwood-Bloom: The artist swapping his scalpel for a computer

Zachary Eastwood- Bloom is a ceramics specialist who also co-founded the Manifold Studio in East London. Zachary brings a modern edge to traditional sculpting using techniques such as 3D printing and CC milling to cut shapes into materials like marble, wood, and clay. His technique creates an effect which successfully brings the past into the present and toes the line between technology and design.

We caught up with Zach to talk 3D printing, where he finds inspiration and what is next on the horizon for him.

How did you get into 3D printing?

When I was at University, I did a BA in ceramics at Edinburgh College of Art. One tutor suggested that I go to the furniture department to try digital modelling software. So I basically went to get some extra marks.  After learning the software, I went to the Royal College of Arts a few years later. They have all the equipment so it developed from there really. I also use CC milling which is when you start with a block and take material away.

You do a lot of work behind a computer how does that work?

The beauty of working with digital modelling is that you can send an exacting model and the machine will cut it to those exact dimensions. When you are working with natural materials like clay they have natural nuances and that’s the beauty of it. Even though each one is the same they all come out slightly differently.

Some of your work has involved 3D prints of busts for example Hyper Real and Fractured, what made you decide to prints busts?

 I used to work at the Royal College of Art in Piccadilly. We used to have staff meetings in the life drawing room which has loads of plaster casts and busts on the shelves. I would to these meetings and drift off; I was more interested in what I was looking at than what was being said. Those two pieces, Fractured and Hyper Real, were both on the shelf. I got the art handlers to get them down and I 3D scanned them digitally, manipulated them, then 3D printed them. Using the model, I used traditional plaster mould making and cast them in different materials. I don’t like the materials that people use in 3D printing, it feels a bit synthetic. It’s rare that I would show something just 3D printed. Usually I would cast them using ceramics, so Hyper Real is actually cast in gold leaf, that piece is pretty special.

Who or what inspires your work? 

At school I was a distinctly average student, actually  I was probably less than average, so I was quite bummed out about that, but I realised as I got older that I don’t learn that way, I learn through doing stuff. My main inspiration is to understand through doing stuff, it’s how I understand the world. My dad was a secondary school art teacher. He does more painting but that’s how he understands the world. There’s no one thing or person that inspires me.  With some artists I like their pieces but I might not like all their work.  I pick things from lots of different people, music and films.

What do you see for the future of 3D printing?

I don’t know, I personally don’t think there’s a massive demand for everyone to have a 3D printer in their home. The cheaper home printers don’t have that quality of print that I’m looking for yet. The bureau, Digits to Widgets, which I work with, have specialist expertise in what they do, so I trust them to do it for me. I know the pitfalls and things like that. There’s a skill to it, it’s the difference between having a 2D printer and printing off a piece of paper and printing a whole book.

You were part of founding the Manifold Studio in East London how did that come about?

So at RCA we were all studying ceramics and glass. There were 17 of us in the class we were all really tight, we used to go to the bar at the art school. So at the end of the two years we thought why stop now?  So 10 of us decided to stay together.  We got a space, got some furniture from a local school and kilns. To us it just seemed really obvious; we all had different strengths, abilities and contacts. It was seven years ago and it’s became a thing, we have shown together at the National Trust and various other places. Over time the dynamics change a bit, people become more well –known, so now we focus on individual practices. But there’s a real dialogue constantly going on, an informal critique. It’s become a really good way of being an artist or a designer because it’s bigger than you are really. I have kids now so I don’t live in London anymore, but the thing about Manifold is once you’re in you can’t get out, because although it is a studio it is also a collective of people.

 What projects are you working on at the moment?

 The next big project I’ve got is a solo show with Pangolin where I have been artist in residence for two years. The first year I was developing a body of work that I proposed to them to show in their gallery in Kings Cross, luckily enough they agreed to fund the work that will be showing in October. It’s a completely new body of work that is based on the Gods that represent the planets of the solar system, so like Venus and Mars. I’ve taken the old sculptures of the Gods and 3D printed them, then I am going to use 2D images of the actual planets to distort them. If you take a 3D model and take a two dimensional image of the actual planet, you can then distort the 3D model using the image of the 2D planet. I’m really excited about it as it’s coming together. A lot will be in bronze, Mars is going to be in iron and Venus will be in marble.

I have also been commissioned by the Woolf Institute Cambridge. I’m a making a thing to hang in their foyer and I’m just about to finish a table for Adobe’s new offices in Old Street. The table is made of acrylic. They want it to be functional, so using acrylic I have CC milled underneath the table so there is a landscape beneath but it is completely functional on top.

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