Modelling Seashells, Part 2: An Exercise in Abstraction.

This week I describe an artistic exploration I went on after modeling as realistic looking of a seashell as I could using Rhino and Grasshopper (described here). That model was a surface defined by two different curves that were replicated, at increasingly smaller scales, around a logarithmic spiral.

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Once I had done this, I decided to experiment. I wanted to create new forms by making this model more and more abstract. The first thing I did was to extract the curves that defined the model, and turn them into wires. Here’s the 3D printed result:


One of the two curves that define this shell form is bumpier than the other. The next step in abstraction was to create a similar wireframe structure, without the bumps. The resulting model is quite mesmerizing when it is spun!

I liked this design very much, so I played with it a bit. Shrinking it down to a smaller size turned out to make a nice pendant. Fabricated even smaller still, and paired with its mirror image, made a lovely pair of earrings.


Finally, I decided to try to triangulate it. This proved to be the most difficult task. Each triangle is flat, which is in conflict with the fact that the curvature of the model gets more and more extreme as you move toward its apex. The result is that somewhere along the line some compromises had to be made, and those compromises resulted in a form that is no longer clearly recognizable as a seashell. In some sense this was the ultimate goal: to create a truly new and unique form.


In a week or two I’ll write about my experiences fabricating a version of this triangulated model that was over 5 feet tall!! In the meantime, you can order any of the above models from Shapeways here.

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