Posted 06 September 2022
Interview by Ashley Tan

3D jewellery designer Cara Lowe on battling software woes and hustle culture

Artist-In-Residence at the Silversmithing and Jewellery Department at The Glasgow School of Art, Cara has experienced a fair share of difficulties in her creative journey – from frustration with 3D modelling software, to the pain of rejection after graduating. All alongside honing her Y2K-inspired jewellery practice, the Glasgow-based maker has grappled with “hustle culture” and its limits – having eventually reached a place of solace in her work life by implementing designated down-time. Here, Cara discusses the nature of her 3D printing practice, the impracticality of dwelling on rejection and the benefits of taking on supplementary work as a creative.

Cara Lowe

Job Title

Artist-In-Residence, The Glasgow School of Art



Previous Employment


Place of Study

BA Silversmithing and Jewellery Design, The Glasgow School of Art (2017-2021)


Social Media


What I do

How would you describe what you do as a 3D-printed jewellery maker?
I’d describe my day-to-day work as a 3D printed jewellery maker as a colourful hybrid – both analogue and digital skills are equally involved!

First and foremost I hand-sketch ideas, then use 3D modelling software to construct a design prototype. From there I’ll do a test print and refine the design according to scale and thickness. After printing, I hand-clean and finish all wearable pieces with silver. A lot of people assume that 3D printing is simply a case of pressing a button and letting the machine do all the work for you – but there would be a lot more people doing it if it was that straightforward!

“People assume that 3D printing is simply a case of pressing a button and letting the machine do all the work for you – there’d be lots more people doing it if so!”

Outside of the making process, I work with a variety of people – suppliers, stockists, and customers – so it’s important to have good communication skills. As a small business owner, I‘m responsible for all aspects of my brand, which requires multitasking and spinning a lot of plates at once.

I’m currently based in the Silversmithing & Jewellery department at the Glasgow School of Art, as part of my graduate Artist-In-Residence position. The studio here has a great environment for exchanging ideas and feedback between students and staff.

What’s your favourite thing on your desk right now?
My favourite thing on my desk right now is a mini 3D printed model of a Jigglypuff (from Pokémon) that I worked on as a commission for a client.

One of my favourite parts about making custom jewellery pieces is how imaginative clients’ ideas are. Often they come up with designs or colourways that hadn’t even occurred to me before! I love working with them to make the vision in their head into a wearable piece. I always keep prototypes of models as they serve as memories of commissions and jobs I’m proud of.

One of Cara’s commissioned pieces, a 3D printed model of a Pokémon Jigglypuff

What are the main influences and inspirations behind your work?
My inspiration comes from the digital world and on-screen things we can’t touch – that’s why I love 3D printing, as it allows anything you imagine to be made into a physical object. Also, the process of 3D printing itself – materialising pixels onscreen into a 3D form – is something that still endlessly fascinates me.

Growing up in the early digital age, my generation associates childhood memories of play with old video game consoles like Nintendo 64, GameBoy and PlayStation. As a result, I have nostalgia for forgotten, even extinct video games and technology. The vivid colours, blocky forms and happy memories from that era are precious and I aim to recreate this childhood wonder and playful curiosity in my work. I'm also a big fan of Retro-futurism and Space Age architecture.


Cara’s GSA Degree Show Collection, Cyberplay


Can you tell us about some of your favourite projects to date?
One of my most recent projects I completed was exhibiting and organising Glasgow School of Art’s annual Artists-In-Residence 2022 exhibition, displaying the new work that we produced during our year’s residency. I loved collaborating with my fellow AIRs [Artists-in-Residence] to create a show that reflected the variety of our practices and techniques. After graduating online in 2021, it felt really special to be able to have a physical exhibition to commemorate the year and exhibit in The Alchemy Experiment, a creative hub in Glasgow’s West End.

Another of my favourite projects to date was my 2021 GSA Degree Show Collection entitled Cyberplay (above), an interchangeable collection of wearable objects and sculpture, designed to engage the viewer in an interactive experience. Separate elements can be combined and constructed to form wearable pieces, keeping the activity of ‘play’ an integral part of the collection. It investigates the relationship between the digital and physical, and aims to replicate the handheld connection with childhood toys and nostalgia. Pieces are kept within keyboard boxes, taking influence from the computer key itself and imitating the childhood wonder of opening a toy-box to reveal colourful objects inside.

I miss being able to take an entire year to develop a project like this one! Since graduating, it’s more difficult to find the same amount of time to devote to projects, so I look back on it fondly.


Cara’s GSA Degree Show Collection, Cyberplay


How I got here

Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
For 3D printing, yes – there is a base level of specific training and understanding of the software needed to build models or ideas. But I do believe that with the right approach and practice, anyone can start learning; it’s just a matter of patience, fine-tuning and not being intimidated by the software, which I think can scare a lot of people off at first.

In terms of skills, perseverance and flexibility are the most essential. 3D printers and models have a tendency to act up, and troubleshooting is necessary to fix an issue with a print, or finding another way around the problem to build an object.

What was your journey like when you were first starting out? Did you find your feet quickly? Definitely not. As with starting anything from scratch for the first time, it was difficult to adjust to a new way of making. I found 3D modelling software so frustrating at first, and almost abandoned my attempts with it altogether. Then I realised the way the software is taught to you affects your perception of it. Once I approached it from a different angle and began to have fun with making designs, it didn’t feel as impossible anymore. Simply letting go and playing with the software was a much better tactic for me, and increased my drive to continue with it.

“Simply letting go and playing with the software has been a much better tactic for me, and increased my drive to continue with it.”

How did you go about landing your first jewellery-making commissions?
My first commissions were from friends. I’m very lucky to have friends that not only support what I do, but have similar taste to me! The good thing about jewellery is that once one person wears your earrings, they’re walking billboards for your work, and good conversation starters! From there I was able to build an audience from recommendations, which is a continual process.

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
The majority of my inspiration is online – I have a few Instagram accounts that I always go to when I'm feeling uninspired:

I am obsessed with Y2K Aesthetic on Instagram. They constantly post archived interiors, buildings and magazine spreads from the 2000s Space Age era, I always go to them if I’m stuck! Interiors, spaces and architecture really help me situate the environment I can see my jewellery existing in, and the type of person I design my work for.

Following from the environmental theme, Blake Kathryn is a 3D artist who creates beautiful dreamworld landscapes that I would love to live in.

I also love Tomoya Nakagawa’s work. They make ethereal hand-adornment and nail art that I feel could be from another planet.

All these accounts are not specifically jewellery related. I find that looking at inspiration in a different discipline or practice from what you’d expect can help you understand your taste and aesthetics more, both as a brand and individual.

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
Consistency and allowing time for rest. Having to retrain my brain into understanding that the “hustle culture” that’s often normalised within our current society isn’t healthy or sustainable. I think Covid made us reconsider our relationships with work and rest, and I’ve had to become strict with myself about designating time to rest – especially after just graduating, when you feel you need to apply to every opportunity you see!

The reality is if you don’t rest, this will have a knock-on effect to your work, and its quality will suffer, giving you even more to deal with. It took me a very long time to accept that rest days are an equally important part of the making process, or any job in general really. To create a consistent work-rest regime, I find that timetabling my days and even telling a friend or family member what I’m going to achieve this week helps me stay motivated and accountable.

“I had to retrain my brain into understanding that the “hustle culture” often normalised within our current society isn’t healthy, or sustainable.”

How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work? Do you have any advice or learnings to share?
Social media is an integral element for my work – customers have found me via Instagram to purchase pieces from my website.

However, with changing algorithms and new trends and topics to constantly keep up with, it can get hard to not be overwhelmed by it all. It’s so important to remember that likes and numbers don’t measure the value of your work. Again timetabling works well for me here – I try to be mindful of the time I’m designating to social media research and activity, and have a cap on it so you don’t end up spiralling!

Self promotion can be difficult. As makers and creatives, we’re not always naturally salespeople! Although representing yourself and selling your work in real life is daunting, you owe it to yourself to take pride in what you create, and this will help draw people to you. Besides social media, if possible, it’s beneficial to put yourself in a physical exhibiting or selling space. Social media can become very isolating, so I’d recommend a physical setting like a market to get real-life interactions with customers and feedback about your products.


Cara’s pixel heart earring designs



What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
I think a lot of creatives need to take on supplementary jobs to support their practice, especially in this economy! For me, taking on supplementary work gives me a break from my business and allows me to come back with new or different ideas. Most recently I’ve been working at Edinburgh Art Festival as an Information Assistant, invigilating different exhibition sites across the festival and welcoming visitors.

Roles like these are great for building your social skills and interacting with the public, which is important to know how to do when running your own creative business. It also allows you to meet other creative people and make connections outside of your established social circle or specialism.

In the past I have struggled with pricing my work, as I want it to be as accessible as possible for everyone. However I’ve learnt that underpricing your work not only doesn’t do yourself justice regarding the time your work takes to create, but it also can cause the customer to think that the cheap price reflects a lack of quality. Therefore, it can affect the way they perceive your designs and how much effort actually went into making them. It’s definitely important to keep this in mind when pricing.


Cara’s air exhibition





My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
“What’s meant for you won’t pass you by.”

When applying to opportunities as a graduate, rejection is never a nice thing to receive; but I honestly believe as long as you’ve given it your best shot, that’s all you can do, and you should try not to give yourself a hard time over it. It’s actually quite freeing knowing that you can only control your own actions and not the decisions of others. Being able to say you gave it your all and it didn’t happen is much better than lying awake at night with the “what-if” in your head!

You can’t force something to happen or dwell on it. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but it’s a sentence that’s helped me deal with it before. Reflect, learn from the experience, get feedback and move on! Continue to have perseverance and you will get a yes from the right individual.

“Rejection is never nice to receive, but it’s freeing to know that you can only control your own actions, and not the decisions of others.”

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar career?
If access to 3D modelling software training isn’t possible, then online! YouTube is still my best friend and one of the most accessible ways of learning for free. Something I've realised is that there are so many creators and professionals out there who are completely self taught, and have built their knowledge through free content and tutorials.

Look for online communities that share a similar interest – there are loads of 3D printing communities online who are always sharing solutions, trouble-shooting, exchanging tips and advice. That’s where I learnt, too.

Interview by Ashley Tan
Mention Ashley Tan