So then, is it surprising to discover that some artists actually use laser cutters in their art? Here are five very different approaches to laser cutting art, from five of the best artists in their fields!
Gabriel Schama’s Laser Cut Art Sculptures
Gabriel Schama’s art pieces resemble large three-dimensional canvases. His pieces feature intricately cut and layered pieces of plywood. Stacking these layers gives each canvas incredible depth, so much so that his pieces often seem to almost emerge from their laser-cut plywood.
In general, his pieces begin life digitally, as complex vector illustrations. Schama laser-cuts his illustrations into plywood, then glues in each piece by hand.
Originally, Schama only used an X-acto and paper for his projects. After experimenting with laser cutters and wood, he realized the technology’s benefits. In an interview with medium.com he explains:
“I have gone from perpetually drawing in notebooks, to doing 100% of my creative work in Illustrator. If I’m sketching, I’m doing it digitally… My laser cutter means I can prototype a new design really quickly, so it’s not hard to let go of a design, and just see how it turns out. I can just jump back on the computer, and rework parts of it and try again if I need to.”
His pieces often aren’t trying to speak meaning into anything, but are instead simply abstract pieces in a unique style.
“I work in abstraction enough to be comfortable distancing my work from any particular meaning or narrative content, so much so that even my portrait series never feel like self-portraits to me.”
Projection-Mapping and Laser Cut Sculptures – Laser Cut Art With a Twist
Schama’s style would grab the attention of Limelight, a group of Hungarian artists and specialists with 3D projection mapping artwork.
On his website, Schama explains:
“More experienced with projecting their work across whole buildings, Limelight was invigorated by the challenge of scaling down to match the intricate detailing of Schama’s work… once Limelight’s animated sequences of light and color are perfectly aligned with the contours of Schama’s sculptures the resulting effect is both mesmerizing and surreal.”
An effect you can see in his piece “Seven Fates” below.
SpaceWolf’s Laser Engraved Art Paintings
Laser engraved paintings are similar in discipline to traditional illustration. As their name suggests, they are unique in that a laser cutter etches in an artist’s design, rather than ink. This technique adds depth, unique discolorations, and of course texture, to what would otherwise be a flat and 2-dimensional piece.
A notable engraved painting artist is a man currently operating under the pseudonym of “SpaceWolf.”
The above piece is a good example of his workflow. On his website he explains that
“Each one is carefully cut, sanded, and oiled by hand then put under a powerful laser in order to burn in this SpaceWolf original illustration. Afterwards, SW hand paints each one with acrylics.”
Interestingly, his engraved paintings are only ever produced in limited runs. SpaceWolf explains that this is intentional:
“Once an edition sells out it will be gone for good, and he destroys the original artwork, so it is impossible to make more. Don’t worry though, he will be coming out with new engravings all the time.”
The reason for this is unclear, though we can speculate that this adds to the uniqueness of each piece. After all, laser-cut paintings are already rare, so why not add to them?
Kate Raudenbush’s Laser Cut Structures
Let’s move up several magnitudes of scale! How are laser cutters gotten involved in large-format art installations?
Kate Raudenbush, famous for her installations at Nevada’s annual Burning Man Festival, is a notable practitioner of this technique.
Her installations often make heavy use of laser-cut stainless steel. The technique’s flexibility is on display here with the sheer variety of her installations.
Raudenbush’s 2018 piece, “Transitional Portal” is a good place to start.
Besides looking very cool, its construction is almost entirely made from laser-cut stainless steel. This design calls back to both Nevada’s industrial past and future, as she explains:
“Transition Portal is a monumental gateway sculpture intended to herald the arrival of future technology and its creators… Curved weathered steel honors the earth, and the traditional mining industries of Nevada’s past, while it embraces a laser-cut stainless-steel doorway that symbolically leads us onward and upward to a new world of energy creation and emerging technology.”
Martijn Van Strien & Laser Cut Textiles
Are fashion designers artists? Well, that’s not a question that this listicle isn’t going to try and answer. What I am certain about, is that we can’t ignore the place that laser-cut textiles has on this list.
Martijn describes himself as working in the “field of innovative textiles and fashion.” Visually, this is seen in the way his artworks challenge the ways textiles are produced. And how does he frequently create his art pieces? Well, with a laser cutter of course.
Contra • Dictions
“Here the boundaries meet and all contradictions exist side by side.” Fyodor Dostoevsky, in ‘The Brothers Karamazov’.
Martijn’s 2014 fashion collection, “Contra • Dictions,” demonstrates his innovative approach.
Although they’re not the most abstract pieces to strut down a runway, they stand out by being entirely produced with laser cutters. Martijn explains his process:
[the pieces are] “Made using high-tech laser-cutting equipment to turn unconventional materials into wearable pieces, this collection is an exploration into the future of fashion. Taking a parallel path to the opportunities 3D printing brings to product design, this technique makes one-of-a-kind, custom garments possible to exactly fit the “consumer’s” size and demands. A 21st-century approach to haute couture.”
Up until now, we’ve covered specialists in their fields.
Where Big Secret stands out then, is in its willingness to turn its hand (and laser beams,) towards anything. In their own words:
“BIG SECRET uses lasers for creative collaborations to etch, cut, and mark a wide variety of materials such as wood, paper, acrylic, glass, metal, and fabric. We enjoy experimentation with non-traditional materials such as food, bones, leaves, film stock, and shoes. We are happy to assist with your project at any phase from design and development to fabrication and finishing.”
With this in mind, let’s look at some of their works:
Nike & Qualtrics
Nike commissioned Big Secret to produce a collection of baseball bats. Inspired by classic baseball typography, this was Big Secret’s result.
A combination of cutting, engraving and wood stains created the final effect. Engraving on a narrow and curved surface such as a baseball bat is far from easy. Although Big Secret never detailed the laser settings they used, the fact that they were even able to achieve this result was noticed.
Karen Welmann, a judge in the 2016 TDC62 Communication and Typeface Design Competition, remarked:
“The design was etched onto a surface that was supposedly impossible to laser. I love it when a designer breaks the rules, produces something beyond the realms of the expected…”
Following a similar style, came this collection of unique guitars
These guitars were commissioned by software company Qualtrics. They were awarded to clients during the company’s “X4 Summit” conferences.
HBO & “His Dark Materials”
Taking a completely different approach, Big Secret also accepted a commission from HBO. They created custom gift sets for fans of the series, “His Dark Materials.”
Each set contains a hand-crafted porcelain dæmon, a creature from the series. Big Secret’s contribution was the figurine’s base and the box that would contain it.
Each box is constructed with dark mahogany and golden accents. The wood is intricately laser engraved, and each lid is laser cut into a multi-layered focal point.
Some other items that received Big Secret’s artistic treatment are a cognac drinks set, graphic style earrings, skateboard grips, and a leather-bound bicycle.
So yeah, as I said, they’re happy to turn their hat to anything.
If you liked this article, check out our top recommendations for sites to download laser cut files.
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