by Stephen Hoskins. Bloomsbury, January 2014. 144 p. ill. ISBN 9781408173794 (pbk.), $42.95.

Reviewed July 2014
Amanda L. Milbourn, Assistant Librarian, Disney Consumer Products,
With the high level of media attention that 3D printing has gained in recent years, it is easy to conceptualize this tool as a disruptive technology appearing out of the ether to change the way we interact with objects in the digital and physical world. Stephen Hoskins grounds this technology by tracing its history in the visual arts, likening 3D printing to Neolithic coil-pot making, Victorian photo-sculpture techniques and industrial computer numeric control (CNC) milling machines. Though Hoskins does an excellent job of describing the history and development of 3D printing as well as the various types of hardware and software involved in the printing process, the book primarily focuses on how contemporary visual artists are engaging with 3D printing techniques to expand their artistic practice.

Hoskins describes three distinct groups within the visual arts community: craftspeople, fine artists, and designers. Each group is profiled through a historical overview and contemporary artist case studies. Though the artists range in visual styles, artistic philosophies, and ways of employing 3D printing, they all articulate the value of the medium in realizing a visual idea that was previously impossible to produce. Despite the potential of 3D printing, Hoskins’ case studies provide insight into the current limitations, namely the inability to print in multiple materials, color ranges, or many standard material types. Hoskins contrasts the artists’ working knowledge of 3D printing with public perception of the limitless possibilities of the technology. The final chapter also briefly explores art forms with high public interface such as fashion and animation as well as maker communities. Overall, the book creates a nuanced picture of what 3D printing currently is and what it has the potential to become in the visual arts community.

Hoskins is an academic and creator in the 3D printing field, serving as the director of the Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR) at the University of West England Bristol, an institution known for its innovate work in ceramics 3D printing. His clear writing style demonstrates his expertise in the field while enabling readers with no previous knowledge of 3D printing to understand both the technical processes of creation as well as the artistic implications of this new technology. High quality illustrations are included throughout the book, providing rich examples of the variety of 3D printed artwork currently being produced. Additional features such as diagrams, endnotes, an historical timeline, a glossary, and an index make the book a valuable research tool for anyone interested in learning about 3D printing technology from a visual arts perspective. For this reason, the book is highly recommended for libraries that support contemporary art history and art practice.

© 2014 ARLIS/NA