I am a history teacher, so I wanted to create an ornament that was inspired by the magic and wonder of Christmas from the past while using the power of 3D printing as one of the tools of our present and future. I enjoy learning how to use the tools of the present and the future to recreate images from Christmas past.
I did not mean it to be purple, we were having some trouble with the 3D printer, and the purple was working better. I had imagined a white frame and a red santa, but you could print in any colors.
Step 1: Step 1: 1861 Thomas Nast Inspiration
I started with the Harper’s Magazine cover for Christmas commissioned by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861 by Thomas Nast. Nast is one of the 19th century artists most responsible for our classic images of Santa. Although the Santa pictured on the cover has his back to the reader because he is giving gifts to the Union troops, the decorative banner welcoming him caught my eye as a lovely image for the top of the ornament.
I copied the image into Inkscape, a great free vector drawing program, and traced the basic shapes for the arch, the start, and the words Welcome Santa Clause. I then imported the 2D vector drawing (.svg) into Autodesk 123D Design to create the .stl file. It took a few iterations, but I finally got the top of the design the way I thought I wanted it, and I did a test print on a MakerBot printer. It was nice, but not quite right. So I went back into Inkscape and created the rest of the frame I wanted, adding the bottom of the circle to match the arch from the drawing, and fixing a few little problems I saw in the draft print.
Step 2: Step 2: the Center Santa Circle
While I was getting the outside frame part of the ornament together, I was also thinking about the image of Santa that needed to go in the center. I found several classic Thomas Nash images of Santa, and I used them on the online tool from Autodesk 123D called Charmr. It is in their “sandbox” for tools not quite ready to launch, so it may not be all that stable, and in fact I had it crash on me once, but the idea is cute, you can add a photo to a small frame (an oval, circle, heart, etc.) and it will create a 3D version of the image for you to save to your projects and print yourself or send elsewhere to print.
It took a few versions to get an image of Santa from the Nast drawing to render clearly in 3D. The best one in the end was one I had run through a Photoshop filter first. I printed it quite small and thin to hang in the center of the ornament. I used a loop of jewelry wire to connect the two parts, so the center moves independently of the frame.
Step 3: Step 3: Combined Drawing Version
Although I would recommend printing the two parts separately, it is useful to see them together to get a sense of what the final ornament looks like.