I developed an interest in the creative possibilities of Digital Technology by utilising a 50 watt CO2 Flatbed Laser Cutting Machine. Lasercutting being the high precision process that can be used to cut, engrave, raster (etch) and mark a variety of sheet materials including plastics wood, textiles, glass, ceramics and leather but not metals (typically in the case of lower powered machines) and is based on an input from a CAD file.
In simple terms, it works through a beam of light generating millions of watts of energy per square centimetre that melts or vaporises the material in its path. Through experimentation it was apparent to me the potential of working with a repeated series of two-dimensional parts created by the cutting process, later manipulated into three-dimensional forms and constructions.
In being aware of theoretical questions raised regarding the validity of high technology over the virtues and traditions of hand processes within craft practice, initially there was a feeling of nervousness at being distanced from the process of making due to the nature of the interface. Through greater familiarity my opinion is that the technology does not get in the way of the creative process and on reflection, ‘distance’ is not a new situation within craft practice. Ultimately the Laser-cutting process was judged to as just one creative tool towards the final production of work with the challenge to find the correct balance between traditional technologies of the hand and the potential of the high tech.
As a consequence, during this explorative phase I became increasingly aware of the evocative aspects of the way that studio craft objects are made, and the seductive nature of these craft processes that serve only to prop up a hidebound attitude to creative practice. My investigation of the Laser cutting process offered me a succinct illustration of how digital technology is changing the making process, and how the harnessing of such methods of production led me to question the values that we place on materials and processes and the cultural associations that they hold.