A Tasty, High-Tech Take on Medieval Rosary Beads

Media Lab Intern Kevin Yoo wowed attendees at the Spring 2015 Expo with his presentation, “Medieval Treasures and Chocolate Pleasures,” which showcased the use of 3D printing to create edible works of art.

As part of the Media Lab Internship program, Yoo was granted access to the Met’s collections to seek inspiration for an original, technology-driven project.

During the early stages of his project, Yoo scoured the collections on display at the Met for hours at a time. But it wasn’t until he found himself in the office of Object Conservator Pete Danbridge that inspiration struck. On Danbridge’s desk sat several 16th-century boxwood rosary beads. Yoo was immediately drawn by their beauty and sculptural qualities.

With extreme care, Dandbridge unclasped a bead to reveal intricate carvings of Adam and Eve and the Crucifixion. He then unfolded the Adam and Eve carving into a triptych of scenes from the life of Christ. The level of detail was remarkable for a bead a mere 2 1/16th inches in diameter.

Paul and Jill Ruddock Curator Barbara Boehmn offered her insight into the bead’s historical origins and religious significance. Equipped with a deeper appreciation of the bead, Yoo began to explore how futuristic technology could be used to invoke the Medieval world.

Aided by technology company 3D Systems, Yoo speculated that he could 3D print an edible sugar rosary bead in any combination of colors, scents, and flavors. An interpretation faithful to the sensory details of a Medieval church would result in a frankincense-scented, wine-flavored bead, whereas a version oriented toward abstract religious qualities—like mystery and wonder—would call for fantastical combinations of patterns and flavor.

Yoo had extensive prior experience 3D printing in plastics as an undergraduate Industrial Design student at Pratt Institute. However, 3D printing in sugar presented new challenges. When 3D Systems printed the bead with a diameter of 2 ½ inches—slightly larger than life-size—their machine failed to clearly render the minute details of the original. To correct for the machine’s limitations, Yoo proposed printing the bead with an eight-inch diameter. However, at this size, the bead would become structurally unsound and collapse, even if gums or other binders were added to the sugar.

Ultimately, Yoo decided to display two of the smaller, low-resolution sugar beads alongside an enlarged rosary bead printed in gypsum, which, although inedible, would simulate the potential that he sees for 3D printing in sugar. He hopes that 3D printing in sugar will one day not only be able to match the resolution of the boxwood rosary bead, but to surpass it—by restoring detail lost through centuries of wear. His ultimate goal is for people to be able to appreciate rare works of art with all five senses that they can currently only admire from a distance.

Written by Hannah Holden

Pratt Institute student from East Haven competes in art design competition in Florida


Kevin Yoo. Contributed photo

By Register Staff

POSTED: 04/07/15, 4:52 PM EDT |



EAST HAVEN >> A student at the Pratt Institute is competing this week for an opportunity to have his art design featured as a sculpture honoring donors at an arts center in Florida.

Kevin Yoo is an East Haven resident and a fourth-year student at Pratt’s bachelor of industrial design program. According to a release from the school, Yoo is joining seven other Pratt Institute students as they submit designs for a donor recognition sculpture for the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida. The winning design will be used for a sculpture that honors donors at the center’s Helen K. Persson Society.

The competition is part of partnership between the Pratt Institute and the Kravis Center. School alumnus and trustee Bruce M. Newman founded the center and said in a release that the partnership represents a unique opportunity for the school’s students to channel their creativity into site-specific art.

“The competition provides students with access to a distinguished performing arts organization where they can apply 21st century technologies to address real-world design challenge,” Newman said.


Yoo’s sculpture, “Reflecting Realm” creates, “a sensation of entering an alternate reality,” the release said, as he used architectural design and fine art to create his work. The eight students were instructed to incorporate lighting and seating elements into their designs, using a mixture of traditional and digital technology, as well as fabrication techniques.

According to the release, initial designs for the competition were completed in January, though the competition started in fall 2014 after students were selected. Students presented their work on Tuesday morning, with the Kravis Center/Pratt Institute Sculpture Competition Awards Ceremony taking place later in the evening.

The designs will be judged by a panel including six design and art leaders from the greater Palm Beach County community and West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, according to a release.

Kravis Center CEO Judith A. Mitchell said in the release that the center recognizes the importance of cultivating the next generation of artists.

“Partnering with Pratt Institute for the sculpture competition underscores our commitment to supporting the world of art beyond live performance, and showcases our mission to provide arts education to our community,” Mitchell said.” “For more than 20 years, the Kravis Center has helped students of all ages fuel their imaginations and expand their lives through comprehensive arts education programs such as this one with the prestigious Pratt Institute.”