When the editorial team embarked on this idea to update on those famous faces on the front cover of July 2013’s TCT Magazine, there was one figure whose face required a gentle memory jog. This gentleman was everywhere in 2013 but piracy and circumstances forced him into unchartered waters.
Joshua Harker keynoted at TCT Show + Personalize 2013 on the back of his Crania Anatomica Filigre skull-based model becoming the most-funded sculpture project in Kickstarter history. He was the first person to create a business based on 3D printed art, and his skulls became synonymous with 3D printing in the mainstream media.
With the uptake in interest in his work and a commission from Burning Man festival in the bag, 2014 was looking bright for Josh, but, as he explained to TCT in an email, best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry:
“In the space of just a few months I had an entire collection of 3D printed art stolen from a show tour in Russia, ripoffs of my filigree skulls started showing up in department stores, I spent significant amounts of money and effort to enforce my copyright with little result. The production partner I had committed to, restructured their quoting algorithm, increasing pricing by as much as 400%; and they then also began promoting knockoffs of my work by other designers. Then there was the Burning Man project, which I invested an entire year of work and attention to that didn’t go as planned. All this contributed to the derailing of the project I was putting together at the time to develop a new 3D printer technology which I had hoped my various ventures would have helped fund.”
A family tragedy unfolded at the same time, leaving Josh’s 2014 in tatters. His world-famous skulls became so pirated that it would not be a surprise to see one on Captain Jack Sparrow’s mast. He decided to start putting some distance between himself and the 3D printing world.
“I’ve repeatedly had to wrestle with companies (large & small) trying to co-opt my work to sell their products. Some relationships with the well-known larger manufacturers began fairly but inevitably deteriorated as marketing priorities spiralled out of control. Nearly overnight the entire [3D printing] scene became more focused on investment opportunities, acquisitions, and money grabs rather than the long-term benefits versus drawbacks of the technology, not to mention endless copycat designs. I’d always tried to promote a sense of community & be an ambassador for 3D printing, but it became increasingly apparent that I needed to reassess.”
Fortunately for those of us who admire Josh’s work reassess did not mean walk the plank. Harker is back with a new studio in artsy Ann Arbor, Michigan, and his latest commission is a beautiful piece designed to celebrate for Rolls-Royce and Trans Air Portugal (TAP) partnership through the Trent 7000 turbine engine.
“I’m in a very good place today partly due to having navigated these trying circumstances and I’ve searched deeply to find passion for my work again. So… after having time to reboot and refocus I am planning a return to public eye soon with some exciting new projects. 3d printing will continue to play a major role in much of it.”
This article was first published in TCT Magazine Europe Edition Volume 27 Issue 1 as part of a wider feature titled ‘Leaders of the New School: Where are they now?‘ which documented the journeys and development of a host of the most renowned figures and companies in the industry.
You can click through to the other interview pieces that completed this series below: