Meet the shiny, “yummy”, alien-like characters of 3D artist Harriet Davey
Originally from Yorkshire but now based in Berlin, Harriet embraces the mistakes that come with working in free softwares and relishes being a member of the 3D community.
- Ruby Boddington
- 13 October 2020
The 3D digital world is a complicated and incredibly vast one. “There are often 30 different ways to achieve the same result,” says Berlin-based digital artist Harriet Davey. Luckily for her, though, it’s precisely this fact that keeps her so engaged with her medium. “I enjoy scouring forums, searching for alternative methods. I love comparing notes with other designers,” she continues, “the 3D (and especially Blender) community is so tightly knit online that we are all constantly learning from each other, pushing the medium, and the software further and further.”
A long term member of Digi-gxl, Harriet is an engaged and compelling designer. She’s restless in her pursuit of new techniques, new projects and new concepts and this energy is palpable across her portfolio. Alien-like creatures fill her Instagram feed and it was their impeccably executed forms, full of shine and packed full of character, which piqued our interest. In a world where 3D techniques are proliferating, Harriet’s work stands out for its technical prowess and sheer imagination.
Aesthetically, there’s a certain gloss to everything Harriet creates. “Everything I make becomes shiny,” she jokes. “It’s not particularly on purpose, but I’ve just fallen deeper and deeper in love with specularity in my shaders. You know, it just looks so yummy, but impossible, but also hyper-realistic, I can’t escape it however hard I try.”
It was during her second year studying graphic design at Kingston School of Art that Harriet first starting dabbling in the 3D world, after realising she didn’t actually enjoy graphic design that much: “Typefaces, layouts, grids, it all made me feel sick,” she recalls. She tried out Blender (“because somehow my email for a request of a free student license of Cinema 4D got missed”) and hasn’t looked back since. “There was something so rewarding and charming about wrestling with this ugly, counterintuitive UI, and then producing images that were so beautiful and dynamic,” she tells It’s Nice That. “I will mention that Blender has since undergone an incredible UI overhaul, and now looks gorgeous.”
GalleryHarriet Davey: Maison Margiela Wet Look Triptych (Copyright © Harriet Davey, 2020)
Because Harriet’s introduction to 3D was through Blender, she still embraces using free softwares in her process and the barriers that come with that. She allows herself to make mistakes by not being an “absolute expert” in these softwares and, in turn, “these mistakes turn into whole new outcomes that I couldn’t have predicted.”
This is something she particularly employs in her personal practice which she calls The Real Unreal, a series of character explorations that serve as a foray into Harriet’s “identity expression as an online virtual body, and what it is to be a fluid human (or non-human) in a digital world.” She thinks of herself as more of a photographer for this project, she tells us, “‘discovering’ and ‘casting’ these humans and creatures as I build them, then choosing a suitable way to pose and ‘photograph’ them.”
Through this exploration, Harriet has created a virtual version of herself called Whowle. A name she has used for online gaming for years now, Harriet explains that they have a lot in common: “I scanned my own tattoos and gave them to her, she has my hair, my eyes, my skin textures, however all with an otherworldly twist.” In a particularly otherworldly twist, Whowle was scouted and signed to virtual modelling agency Mutantboard. “I’m looking forward to using her for virtual runways, shoots, meetings even – keep an eye out for her!”
Harriet does, of course, maintain a commercial practice too. “I’m forever evolving the styles I choose to pursue so I always say my favourite project is the last one I worked on. I was really happy to be able to work with Dazed and Maison Margiela recently,” she says. “They asked me to reimagine their Wet Look theme from John Galliano’s Artisanal Co-ed collection AW20.” It was an open brief and Harriet was essentially given carte blanche, leading her to explore creating “a wet feel alongside a character.” As being explorative and curious is often Harriet’s way of working, she discovered a new sculpting tool in Blender during the process of the project and “enjoyed sculpting some very fluid abstract shapes directly onto the character I built.”
Excitingly, Harriet is about to become an Artist in Residence at Factory Berlin x Sonar+D, and Beats by Dr.Dre, a position which will offer her the chance to explore working more with game engines and motion tracking. Ever ambitious, she describes how she really wants to “push further than the works I’ve created until this point, and really delve into storytelling through interactivity, and continuing to merge the physical and digital worlds.” She’ll be undertaking the residency alongside a number of musicians and sound artists so it appears we can expect some pretty innovative works just around the corner from Harriet.
Harriet Davey: Whowle (Copyright © Harriet Davey, 2020)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.