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Melissa Ng

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May 14, 2015

How to love the challenge + making masks for JiHAE’s music video starring Norman Reedus

May 14, 2015 | By | 13 Comments

“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

Let’s be honest here. When you were faced with something you were really interested in but found challenging, have you ever said stuff like:

“I need to learn more first. I could never do that. I’m not as good as X. It’s too difficult for someone like me. I’m not the type of person for that.”

“I’m just not good enough yet. It’s impossible for me.”

Chances are you’ve said some of the above at least once, right? Maybe even hundreds of times? Maybe you’ve even thought of this as being humble and maybe it is.

But what’s the underlying message when you think something you really want is “impossible” to achieve? What are you really saying?

Unless you’ve actually tried everything there is to try and have evidence that something is indeed 100% impossible for you to overcome, what you’re more likely saying is:

“This is a lot more difficult than I anticipated. I thought this would be easier. Do I really want to move forward with this? I’m not so sure… ” followed by a lot of worrying about future pains that don’t yet exist.

We’re all guilty of unwittingly falling into this self-defeating trap, myself included. But the difference between being someone who moves forward and one who doesn’t is the ability to catch yourself when you utter these unproductive thoughts.

When I do catch myself, here’s what I ask instead:

  1. Where exactly do you feel lacking to make you feel like your ambition is currently “impossible”?
  2. Is this really something you want?
  3. If so, what is one thing you could do now to start overcoming these areas where you feel lacking?
  4. Are you willing to be uncomfortable for a long time?

And I say uncomfortable because most people are not willing to give up the safe haven of their comfort zones. Instead, they’re more likely to rationalize their fears with convincing arguments about why they’re “not good enough” rather than own up to the fact that they’re probably just terrified of screwing up.

But what’s worse? The possibility of screwing up or never knowing what you might possibly achieve? This was something I had to ask myself in a recent experience where I clearly did not yet have all the “right” skills…

3D printing beautifully disturbing masks for JiHAE’s It Just Feels music video starring The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus…on a three day deadline.

NOTE: This fiery song is pretty much an ode to orgasm. Video is fairly safe for work though. Here’s what NPR shared in their interview with JiHAE:

It might be surprising that JiHAE (pronounced “Gee-HAY”), a Seoul-born artist now based in NYC artist, chose this under-appreciated ’90s collaboration between The Eurythmics Dave Stewart and the passionate Leonard Cohen for her new album Illusion of You. In fact, Dave Stewart helped make this record with electronic producer Jean-Luc Sinclair. JiHAE told us via email how she took the song and ran with her own interpretation, an interpretation that plays out in this video of intertwining and identity changing lovers.

“I connected how creativity and sexual energy are not only derived from the same place but also produced a very similar experience of escape. The song explores the illusions of self identity and how they play out in love. I went for a Morricone like vibe using 3 chords with a call and answer outro chorus that builds into bit of a musical explosion in the end.”

Around November 2014, film director Agnieszka Vosloo contacted me about needing some very special, life-like 3D printed masks (one mask for JiHAE and four masks for Norman).

As she started describing the masks she was envisioning, I soon realized she wasn’t really looking for my white, intricate Lumecluster Dreamer mask style. She wanted FULL COLOR masks. She also added that they’d need the masks within 3 weeks or so. This time frame wasn’t impossible but you’ll see how the deadline changed later 😉

LC vs It Just Feels masks

(From left to right). Lumecluster style Dreamer Mask: Breakthrough in white, strong, flexible plastic. It Just Feels Demonic man mask in full color sandstone (not at all my usual style).

 

My first response was, “No, I’m not the right person to do this. I don’t do color. I can find you someone who can do this though.”

But then I asked myself…what’s really making me say “No, I can’t do this”? It wasn’t the 3-4 week deadline and it wasn’t that she wanted something a little dark. Deep down, I always wanted to create something eerie and this was clearly my chance!

So, what was my real fear? Well…I had never designed/printed a full color mask, never made a life-like mask, never painted a texture for a model, never UV mapped, and never experimented with any materials beyond plastics and metals.

Note to my non-3D printing artist readers: My Lumecluster masks are printed in white, strong, flexible plastic, which is much stronger and also has very different printing requirements than full color sandstone. Full color sandstone was currently the only “safe” option I had for full color printing…but I had never experimented with the material yet. Thankfully my Shapeways buddies Andrew Thomas gave me a thorough runthrough on how to best handle the sandstone material while Malcolm Davis gave me a crash course on good clearcoating finishes.

This was a new challenge I wasn’t sure I was ready for. I also still felt like a newbie since I only spent a few months learning how to 3D model in Blender and was active in the 3D printing world for a little over 10 months. All I kept thinking was, “This is impossible for me. I can’t do this.”

Thankfully, my friend Savannah Peterson (formerly at Shapeways, but now the Director of Innovation Strategy at Speck Design) snapped me out of my typical insecure idiocy. So, I did my research to find out where the holes in my knowledge were and learned on-the-go as I took the leap into the mask project.

The moment of truth: challenging myself to create JiHAE’s 3D printed full color sandstone mask.

Over the course of a week, Savannah helped me get the photos I needed plus a 3D scan of JiHAE at the Shapeways offices while I painted JiHAE’s skin texture and modeled her face mask.
While the 3D scan wasn’t clean enough for me to use, it was a great help in providing JiHAE’s accurate face measurements for my own sculpt.

Thankfully, JiHAE’s 3D printed full color mask turned out well enough as you can see here.

JiHAE_process

(From left to right). Reference photos and my JiHAE mask sculpt over her 3D scan.

JiHAE - It Just Feels

3D printed full color sandstone JiHAE mask

After a mini celebration over a late night coffee with Agnieszka, we felt pretty good about planning the remaining masks. It felt like a great way to close the week as we entered the Thanksgiving festivities.

One mask down, four more to go. We’ve got time, right? Wrong.

A few days after Thanksgiving, Agnieszka told me the bad news. It turned out we only had THREE DAYS to complete the four masks for Norman Reedus (not counting the days required for 3D printing).

Originally, we assumed we’d have two or so weeks left but Norman’s acting schedule changed, which forced Agnieszka to move up the music video shoot date much earlier than planned.

When Agnieszka broke the news to me, we had done nothing for Norman’s masks yet. So, over the three sleepless days and nights, Agnieszka and I were practically glued to Skype.

The first day, she poured over hundreds of images of Polish poster inspiration until we figured out exactly what we were aiming for. And then my tablet decided to break…so I had to paint with my mouse.

Polish_poster_inspiration

Polish poster inspiration for the 3D printed masks. Reference images were provided by Agnieszka Vosloo.

The second day, after endless Skype conversations and iterations with Agnieszka, I finally pulled together some skin texture mockups for the four masks. While we were making good progress, there was one big problem…we still didn’t have Norman’s measurements.

On the third day, the four masks were only 50% complete and we needed Shapeways to start 3D printing them the next morning. We only had one shot.

There was no time to waste. Agnieszka knew what she needed and she was trusting me to help bring this vision to life.

JiHAE also miraculously managed to bring Norman into the Shapeways office (despite his crazy schedule). Soon enough, Savannah got me the 3D scans and photos I needed to ensure these masks would fit and match his skin tone. Again, the scan wasn’t super clean but it helped me correct my measurements on Norman’s masks.

NormanMask_process

(From left to right). My mask sculpt over Norman’s 3D scan and Savannah Peterson getting reference photos at Shapeways headquarters.

JiHAE - It Just Feels

3D printed full color sandstone Norman Reedus mask

After one more sleepless night and lots of back and forth with Agnieszka, I finally got the OK for all the masks and I sent them to Shapeways as a rush order. Two nerve-wracking days passed as I waited for the 3D printed masks. It was the day before the music video shoot and Andrew from Shapeways called me in to see how they turned out…

As you already guessed, they were a success. I was so relieved…I just wanted to cry and fall asleep on the Shapeways factory table. My part was complete…all that was left was the music video shoot itself 🙂

JiHAE - It Just Feels

(Clockwise starting from the top left). Norman Reedus mask, JiHAE mask, Angry man mask, Demonic man mask, and Arrogant man mask.

 

Interactive preview of It Just Feels masks:

JiHAE: It Just Feels music video masks
by lumecluster
on Sketchfab

There was pressure, uncertainty, doubt, confusion, anxiety… Looking back, I loved every minute of it because it was a challenge (and risk) I was willing to take.

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” ― Sir Ken Robinson

Within about two weeks, I had grown immensely and learned more than I could have imagined when it came to building skill, trusting myself, and trusting others. Shapeways also really came through for me and I can’t thank them enough.

Learning to love (and overcome) the challenge comes down to whether or not you are willing to identify and strengthen your weak foundations. In the end, dreams thrive or crumble depending on how far you choose to venture out of your comfort zone.

But what if you don’t feel like you have any challenges or opportunities in your field? Here’s what you can do:

  • Create your own challenging personal project.
    Not just any kind of project. Make it a bold one that really touches upon your interests and can stretch your ability. When you create things that are immensely interesting to you, others will tend to take notice. But more importantly, even if people don’t notice (yet), the best thing is that your heart will be in it.
    When I first started learning how to 3D model back in October 2013, my personal project was to make my first 3D print a mask of my own design (Dreamer Masks). It was a challenge that I desperately wanted to fulfill. Little did I know that it would become part of the Lumecluster brand.
  • Pick up a new skill you’ve been curious about learning.
    Stop thinking about learning it and actually start learning it. Maybe start by spending 1 hour a week on it and then gradually increase how much you spend your time on it (baby steps!). That’s the only way you’ll learn anything about yourself, what you’re capable of, and where you care to spend your time.
    Recently, I’ve been meeting more and more people asking me questions to figure out if it’s worth their time to learn 3D modeling/printing…without even bothering to try it themselves. No one is going to give you a checklist of what skills you “should” learn or what’s “best” or what they’ll do for you because how we choose to apply ourselves will depend on our own unique needs and interests.
    People often forget that, in order to keep making remarkable things, you have to be unafraid to pick up new skills all the time. We have so many easily searchable resources online now we really don’t have much excuse. For example, there are online course sites like Code Academy, Skillshare, Udemy or 3D modeling training sites that I’ve used like BlenderGuru, BlenderNation, and CG Cookie.
  • Participate in competitions or contests.
    Whether you’re a 3D artist, blogger, photographer, designer, or creative of any type, competitions are a great way to test and focus your energy. It’s low obligation but has the potential to offer great rewards and experiences.
    In fact, my first entry into the 3D printing world was through a Shapeways / Adobe competition. I shared that story here.

Life is too precious to waste it on feeling insecure or fearing you’re not “good enough.”

“At the beginning, when you first start something, it’s fun…Over the next few days and weeks, the rapid learning experience keeps you going…And then the Dip happens.
The Dip is the long slog between starting and mastery. A long slog that’s actually a shortcut, because it gets you where you want to go faster than any other path.”― Seth Godin

Most people fear major changes and tough decisions, which is usually what’s required for doing remarkable work. As a result, most people end up trading in the chance for adventure for feeling safe and secure. Is that a cost you are willing to pay?

Our self-talk has much more power than we care to admit and managing it is especially important if we’re just starting out. Other people may have influence over your choices but, in the end, each of us makes the final call that can make or break our own will.

Adventures don’t come to those who always look for the easy road or throw up their hands once things get difficult. They also don’t come to those who sell themselves short. As a beginner in anything new, everything starts out as something “impossible”…until you discover it’s not. The question is, are you interested in taking the leap to find out?

So, embrace life’s challenges. Or just make your own 😉

<3 Melissa

P.S. JiHAE’s Album Release concert and party is in NYC, May 27th! You can buy tickets HERE.
You can also Pre-order LP on iTunes.

IllustionOfYou

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Comments

  1. Great story, Melissa! Thanks for posting. I had a similar experience when I was just starting out in scientific animation…a challenge, a deadline, the need to learn new skills immediately, and a lot of self-doubt. I felt every emotion you described in this post. But I did it!

    • Thank you, Kimberly! It’s always great to know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Love your science and nature-themed jewelry, by the way! 😀

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