posts tagged with the keyword ‘art’



“Sometimes we don’t understand the significance of something until we create it.”



“LaserCut LetterPress” (for lack of a better name) is a project I worked on in 2014/2015 which was an idea to create a full letterpress set using a laser cutter capable of cutting 3mm Baltic Birch plywood. The idea was that the files would be released that allowed anyone with access to a laser cutter (even lower-powered cutters with small beds) to create the set.

I know there are many ways to create things, but at the time I wanted to limit production to one method, and one particularly fast method, vector cutting with a laser cutter. (Note: If you’re fascinated by the production of wood type, check out Moore Wood Type.)

I mentioned some of the process in a post titled Measure Twice, Laser Onceā€¦ but never wrote up the whole thing, so here we go.

LaserCut LetterPress Example Print

The typeface I chose was OpenDyslexic, which was inspired by a friend who is Dyslexic. I also thought it would be interesting to use a typeface that was new, and didn’t exist in the time that wooden type was widely used.

Art Letters

I did the design in Inkscape, creating the letter and the pieces that fit under the letter so it could slide into a tray.

Letter and Tray

Wood is such a wonderful material, except when it isn’t. Tolerances caused a number of issues, but I kept going forward, and didn’t worry too much about having things fit together perfectly. (I won’t say this was my downfall, but I spent a lot of time fighting it.)

Art Letters Tray

Here’s the design for the small tray. Ultimately I wanted a larger tray that had multiple lines so you could do an entire poster. That of course would have required an entire alphabet, and multiples of most letters, and punctuation, and… letterpress is hard.

Oh, somewhere along the way I also started to write code that would generate all the characters needed by outputting the needed SVG files. In theory it was totally doable, but in practice it served as a distraction that I eventually ignored.

Art Letters

With the plan to turn this into a kit that one would assemble, I thought about how one would determine what pieces would go together, and thought that etching the letter onto each piece would be a good idea. (I didn’t get to this step due to being stuck in the prototyping phase.)


Here’s the letter “A” sliding into the small tray I made. Tolerances were good with the first batch of letters, but with subsequent pieces not so much.


You can see a bit of the height difference with this batch of letters…

Height Comparison

…and you can really see it with these. Yes, this is all 3mm wood. Again, as mentioned with the previous post, there can be quite a difference when the layers add up.


I did manage to create enough letters for one of the Arts + Tech Nights at UWM.


And oddly enough, I was able to arrange the letters into “TEACH ART”, which I ended up doing six months after I abandoned this project.

LaserCut LetterPress Example Print

Here’s a few test prints I did. They worked fine, which made me think I may have overthought how “perfect” it had to be. In the process of talking to printmakers (who were very interested in the project) they got me thinking about type height, which is useful for a press (and I considered using these letters on a press) but in the end I think I should have stuck with my “hacker ethic” and just made it work with the minimal amount of success.

I don’t consider this a “failed” project because I learned a lot in the process (and got to meet & work with some awesome people) but I’d love to see someone else run with this idea… or maybe it’s something I’ll pick up again in one form or another.

Remember kids, Keep on Making!



What I would say to my students all artists & creatives…

Art matters, and it can be an agent of change. Art can make people think, and thought can lead to action. Art can reveal hidden truths, and art can change minds. Art can be a voice for those that feel they have none. If you’re angry, channel that anger into action and expression. If you If you feel afraid, create art that relays your feelings to others. If you make music, write protest songs, if you write poems, imagine a better world and share it through your words. If you make images, create strong images of a brighter future that can inspire people.

Art is a weapon… wield it wisely.














We’re already half way through the semester and finished our third assignment for Electronics and Sculpture last week. Assignment 3 requires analog input and output for the project. (Assignment 1 is purely digital, and Assignment 2 requires analog input for control.) And yes, the class is called “Electronics and Sculpture” but it could just as easily be named “Arduino for Artists”.

Projects have varied from very interactive to installations to mostly sculptural with some electronics added in. I find that students do the best work when they can take what they are learning in class and combine it with their own practice, or what they are learning in other classes. The Digital Fabrication students definitely have an advantage here, and I wish all of the students had access to digital fabrication tools, though we just wouldn’t have time to cover it all in the 318 class. (That’s not to say the work of non-Digital Fabrication students is lacking in any way, and I’ve seen some great work using very simple material and tools. As always, art is a combination of things, including concepts, themes, ideas, technical skills and abilities, and more.)

We’re currently in the middle of the midterm project, and things are coming together quite well. Critique is in two weeks, and after that we launch right into the final project. (Since there isn’t an Arts+Tech Night this semester, we’ll probably just push the final critique onto the date that our final exam is scheduled for.)



I recently heard someone I know say “Yeah, I used to be an artist…” and they sounded disappointed when they said it. I’m not sure I know many people who are full-time artists and have the time/money/resources to just create whatever it is they want to create.

What I do know is that many of the artists I call my friends and colleagues spend time teaching, and sharing, and organizing, and basically facilitating things so others can be creative, and do things, and learn things, and make art…

And I’m fine with that.

Art can be a selfish thing, and it can be hidden away, but facilitating others to be creative usually fosters a community, and sharing, and working with others, often in an attempt to make the world a better place.

And I’m totally fine with that.

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