On a bright Tuesday in February, Natalie, Mary and myself descended on Juneau Projects’ studio for a tech session on laser cutting with Ben Sadler. Laser cutting is something I’ve wanted to try for a while, so it was great to get the chance to have a go as part of the Fellowship.

We’d downloaded Inkscape (open source software) beforehand, so we were ready to jump right in. Ben talked us through the process step by step. First, we created a file and drew our shape or design. A red line would tell the laser cutter to cut all the way through, a black line would cut surface detail, and a green line would create a surface engrave, which is good for text or filling in details.

I’m a total novice when it comes to any kind of digital drawing. Inkscape’s tools are apparently similar to Illustrator, but I have no clue how to use that either, so I really was starting from scratch. I did manage to create a stars and planets design using circles and lines, though, so I was happy. We saved the files, adjusted the speed and depth for the material we were using, and Ben uploaded them to the laser cutter.

First, we used wood. It was amazing watching the laser cutting my design. We stood around watching the sparks fly and lines appear. Next, we tried it with perspex. Ben used fluorescent perspex, so when the light hit it, it really glowed, especially along the surface lines that had been etched in.

I’d had a few ideas about what I wanted to work on during the Fellowship, and one of these involved a wooden or cardboard box with designs cut into it. So the wooden lasercut was a test for that. But when I saw the perspex, and the way it came alive in the light, I knew that was the way to go.

Throughout the Fellowship, at the Residential, during tech and mentoring sessions, I’ve found certain things have leapt out at me, inspiring new ideas and prompting further enquiry. I guess it’s a bonus side effect of being introduced to new ways of working, new technologies, and spending time around and having discussions with different artists from so many disciplines. It feels like the learning I take from this will be way bigger than the sum of its parts.