Nick Agid is a man who has interests bestride many fields and a couple of eras. He's an artist, a craftsman, a design professor, a facilitator, a factory rat and a connoisseur of finely-crafted things. Agid, of Agid Arts, is always working to understand the requirements of making things and the materials from which they can be made.
One of his many recent projects, taking 3D printed PLA (biodegradable plastic) objects as an element of the centuries-old lost wax casting technique, uses the modern process to make a mold which is then burned out or has hot metal poured in to melt out the plastic medium and leave a metal or glass object in its place. Deezmaker and Joan Horvath, Deezmaker's VP of Business Development, recently reached out to Agid to lend them a hand in working through the process of using the technique to cast in brass and glass.
The process itself is evocative of what Nick Agid is all about; making things using processes which are representative of a veritable timeline of artistic and industrial production methods. Agid has created material sample work for heavy hitters like BMW, Clinique, Reebok and Sun Microsystems.
"As an artist, I try to use any technology or materials I can to inform my work," Agid said. "When I was young, I began by collecting minerals, bottles and insulators."
He's currently involved in a project aimed at encouraging others to foster industrial production in the United States called SyncFab. SyncFab is a 3D Printing Accelerator aimed at leading designers, engineers, entrepreneurs, scientists and inventors to harness the power of 3D design and 3D print solution capabilities to revitalize local business and commerce.
Agid, whose uniquely organic and stunning glass pieces are shown in art galleries around the nation, has also led students on day tours of more than 100 different local manufacturers and design firms as part of his "Made in LA" project.
After attending college and earning an MFA from the University of Utah, Agid lived and worked in Pietrasanta, Italy in Tuscany in 1984 to study under the masters there who had been perfecting their craft as sculptors and stonemasons. He likened the work they do there as a precursor to CNC machining, using a spindle lathe and styli to reveal the forms within pieces of solid marble.
Agid came by his synthesis of the past and present of manufacturing and artistic creation naturally. His mother was a sculptor and his father owned and operated a camera store. That blend of the technologist and artisan was further enhanced by the fact that his neighbor as a young man, the renowned aircraft designer Edmond Doak, lent both inspiration and workspace to the young Agid.
Agid's former studio, housed in Doak's former factory building from the 1930s, provided the artist inspiration. He worked there surrounded by photos of Doak's planes and yellowing group photos of aircraft executives.
"Doak and his friends in the aviation business were always showing up to work on something," Agid said. "They were all men who knew how to make anything, and I got to spend a few years working there surrounded by all of Doak's various projects. They were people who built things."
Though his work and outlook are informed by the past, Agid and his interests are firmly entrenched in the now.
According to the artist, he was first introduced to 3D printing and additive manufacturing when a friend who worked for a missile contractor showed him parts made via stereolithography. Agid said it was, at the time, top secret stuff, but that didn't prevent his friend from handing over surplus missile parts to use in his sculptures.
"It's a tool which can be integrated into lots of industrial processes," Agid says. "Will 3D printing ever compete on a cost basis with injection molding? Probably not, but for small runs of custom products? Yes."
He sees 3D modeling and printing as a double-edged sword when it comes to aesthetic concerns.
"There's something fantastic about being able to create perfect symmetry," Agid said. "In nature, complete symmetry is fairly common in smaller structures, but comparatively rare in larger structures."
Agid says he also wonders if something is being lost aesthetically in a world where designers can simply create half an object and then flip it to complete both sides of the finished product.
"As cars are created now, would they still have the same appeal as an Alfa GTV with its handmade coachwork?" he said. "Perhaps things will need a little bit of 'imperfection' to maintain that sense of soul."
Of one thing, Agid is certain. His days of working surrounded by the past are behind him. He plans to continue to go where the action is when it comes to manufacturing and learning current industrial processes he can use in his art.
"I tend to like to go to factories and work there," Agid said. "It just wouldn't be possible replicate the machines and materials that are available there in my own studio."