They may have veered into the realm of kitsch a while ago, but cuckoo clocks are wonderfully evocative of a time, a place and a craft tradition. Those factors, then, would seem to make them a prime target for re-imagining in the 21st century. That’s exactly what recently happened in a happening spanning continents and time zones.
Devised by Stilnest.com, a German outfit with a focus on digital art and 3D printing, the Cuckoo Project brought together artists from Europe (Utrecht, Ghent, London and Berlin) and North America (Mexico City). Some had already collaborated with Stilnest, and some were new additions to the group. All were chosen because of their facility with 3D printed design.
“We think of Stilnest.com as a spreading design collective of carefully selected international artists,” notes co-founder Tim Bibow. “And the cuckoo clock is a symbol for this attitude towards design and 3D printing. Our vision is to build a whole new ecosystem around design, to hack the world of design with the help of all these great artists from around the world, united by the beauty of contemporary manufacturing.”
The entire process took about five weeks, from its initial design to the final printing, with all of the designers tackling different parts of the clock—from the movement to the cuckoo itself. “It was very difficult to merge all the designs to get the clock printed in one piece,” says Bibow. “As every designer used a different kind of CAD software, the digital integration of every piece of design was a stressful process for our 3D printing expert Florian Krebs.” Nevertheless, the efforts paid off, and the clock they created is a stunning riff on its inspiration from the Black Forest.
For the group, the most surprising part of the project was the end result—the clock actually worked. Says Bibow, “We did such an exacting piece of work for the first project, it was a kind of experiment and at some stages of the process, we had to question, if all the 3D printed mechanics were going to work. And, as the print was expensive and time was running, we had only one chance to make it happen. All of us were so happy to see the cuckoo popping out of the door, finally!”