Hexatope enables anyone to design their own unique pieces of jewellery through an innovative web app.
Hexatope is an emergent design system based on a hexagonal grid. With a simple interface and intuitive set of rules it enables users to design beautiful, complex and unique forms without prior experience. Using touch or mouse input, users draw undulating curves which diverge and overlap one another with organic grace.
Hexatope is a facilitator of co-creation; it encourages users to discover how it works by interacting with it. In parallel to their exploration of it as a tool, they develop their own artistic style within the aesthetic framework of the grid and its ruleset.
The lines are then rendered as 3D forms, and after further personalised refinement the finished designs are 3D printed and cast in precious metals in my studio.
The genesis of Hexatope
Hexatope began as a small project in my Computational Arts MA. The assignment was to create an emergent system and I chose to use p5.js to make a hexagonal version of Conway’s Game of Life and enhance the visual output by drawing glyphs in each cell depending on their neighbours.
I was astounded by the complexity and beauty of the resultant forms from a simple set of rules, and continued to develop the programme by adding additional glyphs and states (journey documented here). I was really proud of the final piece as art, but after adding mouse interaction I discovered it made a wonderfully engaging drawing tool as well. I decided to pursue it for my masters final major project and build on it as a tool for generative design.
My background in jewellery design led me to see the aesthetics of the designs in terms of wire forms, so I explored methods of visualising the pieces in 3D with the notion of fabricating them into physical objects. I created a system for how the wires would overlap in 3D space and used three.js to render them with a metallic material.
The next challenge was fabrication; it would have been impossible to create moulds of the outputs for traditional lost wax casting because the wire forms were too delicate, but I discovered I could 3D print them with castable wax using the Formlabs Form 2 printer, and cast them into metal directly from that. I was able to export printable models directly from the browser using three.js’s STL exporter. After several iterations exploring material stability and scale I started casting the forms in precious metals with the help off Just Castings.
My final exhibition showcased the drawing programme and a series of pendants that I co-designed with the app and cast into silver.
Seeing visitors engage with the programme at the exhibition got me really excited about the potential for non-designers to use it to design their own jewellery. I love products that involve customisation or user input, and felt that lots of people would be interested in making a custom Hexatope pendant for themselves or a loved one.
I ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the equipment needed to produce the pieces and offered custom pendants as rewards. I was astounded by the breadth and creativity of the backers’ designs — by this point I felt I knew the tool back to front but there were some designs that pushed what I thought was possible.
The Kickstarter was a success and led to me launching the Hexatope online shop in April 2018, where users could design their own pendants or purchase one from my curated collection.
I wasn’t happy with the reliability of the outsourced casting so in 2019 I invested in the equipment to bring the casting in-house and refine the quality of the products.
Personal circumstances led me to pause work on Hexatope in 2020 and in 2021 I closed the shop indefinitely. I would love to come back to it some day and add earrings and rings to the collection, as well as outsource the entire production process, but for now I’m focusing on other projects.