Project investigates laser cutting technology

Issue date: 26 November 2009

Example of work A researcher from the Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR) at the University of the West of England has been awarded just over £30k by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to explore the potential of laser cutting technology.

Tom Sowden will investigate how laser cutting technology can be used to develop new artists' books and paper-based creative practice for arts, crafts and design.

The laser cutters used in the Centre for Fine Print Research are CO2 lasers that allow intricate and accurate patterns to be cut or engraved into a variety of materials including paper, card, wood, textiles and acrylic. They are ideal for artists' books, pop-up books, paper engineering, textile design, jewellery design, stencil making and 3D modelling.

Tom explains, “The pilot project will explore and demonstrate the potential for the laser cutter to be used as a creative tool in terms of design, structure and construction for the production of artists' books and paper-based works.

“I will look at the cutting methods currently used by artists and review how the laser is used for creative projects. I plan to create new methods for the use of the cutter for paper and card based work.

“The research will include case studies of artists who will utilise laser cutting in the production of their artists' books. The case studies will document and demonstrate how an artist can use the laser cutter as an alternative to hand cutting and scoring. I'm hoping that this will result in a useful reference tool for artists and craftspeople new to laser cutting.”

As well as developing his creative practice and research using laser cutting, two invited artists, Su Blackwell and Mette-Sophie D.Ambeck, will visit CFPR for a four-day residency to explore the potential of the laser cutter in relation to their own work.

Both artists use hand cut elements within the production of their work but neither has fully explored the capability of the laser cutter to produce larger editions and more experimental formats of construction.

The project aims to share the results with as wide an academic and arts and crafts audience as possible. This will be achieved through free cutting guides available on the CFPR Book Arts website and a touring exhibition that will take in UWE, Winchester School of Art and the 2011 Book Arts Festival in Doverodde, Denmark.

The project will run from March until October 2010.


Editors notes:

Tom Sowden is an early career researcher, based at UWE's Centre for fine Print Research, who is a well known artist and curator of artists' books and has an impressive list of publications and exhibitions to his credit.

For more information about Tom's work please see

Su Blackwell is a London based artist who on her website says: "Paper has been used for communication since its invention; either between humans or in an attempt to communicate with the spirit world. I employ this delicate, accessible medium and use irreversible, destructive processes to reflect on the precariousness of the world we inhabit and the fragility of our life, dreams and ambitions."

Mette-Sofie D. Ambeck is a Danish artist from northern Jutland who says on her website: "The artists' books I make are self-published, using hand-cut illustrations and typography. They experiment with formats, from traditional binding to more sculptural approaches. Sequence, narrative and the unexpected inspire me, and light, shade and texture also play an important role in my work."

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