“My momma always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
– Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump
You never know where life can take you. Opportunities can spring up at any time and lead you to discovering your passion. Here’s a prime example: How can zombies lead to laser engraving? Just ask artist/designer Ivo Rodrigues, AKA Obuq of Lisbon, Portugal.
After he finished obtaining his Masters Degree in Sculpture in 2014, Rodrigues worked a number of odd jobs to make ends meet. One day, he and a friend volunteered as makeup artists at a small zombie-themed event. Once it had ended, they spoke with the organizers who were impressed with their background in the fine arts and put in a big order of silicone molds for them to create life-size muscular superhero figures which would be used to produce superhero costumes.
Without a proper workshop to produce in, the two searched for a space to use and discovered the FabLab Lisboa, a communal technical workshop made to support and foster emerging artists and those interested in graphic design, 3D printing, laser engraving, and more. It was there Rodrigues first laid eyes on a laser cutter and in his own words, “got kind of addicted to it”. The superhero figures were never produced, but he continued to assist with the laser engraver at FabLab and did some freelance work for a while.
It was during his time working at FabLab that he came up with the name for his own personal brand, Obuq. Named by reversing “cubo”, the Portuguese word for cube and changing the “c” to a “q”. His first ever design under the Obuq name was an intricate patterned cube with place for a light inside. While still learning how to use the laser, Rodrigues was more interested in the creative process than the finished product. Not wanting to see his completed designs shelved and hidden away, he decided to upload them to Thingiverse for all to see and reproduce.
Obuq’s Thingiverse uploads vary in design and function. Some were made for fun, others were experiments, and some were made to organize his own items. He explained his real focus is imagining and designing fictional creatures or real animals to cut out and put together. Most of his designs were made using Adobe Illustrator CS6, and later he switched to SketchUp. Most recently, he’s been using Fusion 360.
The timeframe for creating his designs varies from project to project. Simpler designs such as a box or office supply may only take half an hour or less, while others can take several hours. A couple of his projects have been left unfinished simply because he “didn’t know when to stop”. In fact, when asked what the most challenging part of the design process is, Obuq’s answer was simple: “When to stop”.
When it comes to expanding his creative horizons, Rodrigues has a desire to produce larger artworks. He’s done some art with the laser already, and has even had a few pieces displayed in some galleries, but has “always wanted to do something bigger”. He also plans on developing the Obuq brand and is in the middle of launching an online store. With regard to sources of inspiration, he finds it hard to define. “[Inspiration] comes from everywhere,” he explained.
Rodrigues believes learning about laser-engraving is an important investment, but standing out and gaining notice in the area can come with some difficulty: “In Portugal, every shop you walk into has some small trinkets made out of laser-cutting. A lot of companies and universities are starting to offer laser-cutting services. It’s everywhere now. On the web too. In this saturated scenario, I think that the only way to gain some notice is to nurture your skills first. Get the knowledge and make something that branches out”.
With the growth in presence and popularity of 3D printers and laser-cutters, these tools are becoming increasingly accessible. There’s never been a better time to start getting involved in the world of laser-cutting, and Obuq is helping to pave the way for an up and coming laser-cutting artist/designer community. It seems the wisdom of Forrest Gump holds true. In life, “you never know what you’re gonna get”.
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