The ARURA Collection

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Leuchtenburg castle at night

On a clear day in Jena, Germany, if you hike to the top of one of the limestone hills surrounding the city and look directly south, you will see a site familiar to all who live here, the Leuchtenburg Castle. Perched above the Saale valley, this medieval fortress can be seen for miles and is especially lovely at night when it earns its name, the “Castle of Lights.” Recently, the Leuchtenburg Castle underwent an extensive renovation, including an architecturally stunning modernization of the porcelain exhibit and the gift shop. As part of this renovation, the Leuchtenburg Foundation enlisted the talented artist Alim Pasht-Han to create what is now the tallest vase in the world, the ARURA. The ARURA was carefully assembled from 360 honeycomb-shaped porcelain tiles, all hand-painted by Pasht-Han. The unique shape of these tiles lends strength to the vase and allows it to rise to a height of eight meters.ARURA vase

One striking aspect of this vase for me is that many of the paintings on these tiles are clearly inspired by the art of Ernst Haeckel. After posting on my Instagram account about my joy at seeing this beautiful vase, I was contacted by the curator of the Leuchtenburg Museum to see if I would be interested in designing some jewelry pieces based on the ARURA. I happily accepted this challenge and created two pendants, a pair of earrings and a figurine based on four of the ARURA tiles.  I’m excited to announce that these pieces can be purchased at the museum shop at the Leuchtenburg, at my Shapeways shop and my Etsy shop.

Ontogenie ARURA collection

Karl Bloßfeldt and the simplicity of form

Karl Bloßfeldt photography

I recently had the opportunity to visit an amazing exhibit at the Pinakotheke der Moderne, a modern art museum in Munich, Germany. Tucked away in one small gallery of this cavernous modern building was a trove of photos by the artist and teacher, Karl Bloßfeldt (1865-1932), a turn-of-the-century contemporary of one of my other favorite artists, Ernst Haeckel. After studying at the Unterrichstanstalt des Berliner Kunstgewerbemuseums (the Museum School for Decorative Arts in Berlin), he went to Rome and apprenticed with the artist Moritz Meurer.
It was there that he started building cameras and photographing plants at higher magnification than had ever been achieved before. He was, in essence, the first macro photographer of plants. Bloßfeldt went on to teach at the Berlin Academy of Art, using his photographs to communicate the beauty of nature’s forms and textures to his art and architecture students. In 1928, he published a compendium of his photographs entitled Urformen der Kunst (Prototypes of Art), a book that most certainly had a strong influence on Art Nouveau in Berlin, as well as throughout Europe and the world.
What appeals to me most about his art is that since the photographs are in black and white, the plants are reduced to their principal shapes and forms. There is no color to distract you from the shape of the plant, and your eye is also not distracted by the complexity of the whole plant. He chose one compelling structure per organism and captured it.

Karl_Blossfeldt_1As a 3D-print designer, I use his approach on a daily basis in my modeling. What is the fundamental structure? How do I recreate it without unnecessary distraction? How do I communicate the organism without using color? I think if Bloßfeldt was alive today, he would either be one of my main competitors, or one of my most prized colleagues.