Use of Digital Technologies in my Practise October 29, 2015 16:00

I have been asked to write some words about my use of digital technologies for the Xmas exhibition at The Devon Guild. It gives an insight into how I work and how I've come to use digital techniques. I hope it reads well...

Drawing forms the foundation of all my work - simple line drawings. Made with a pencil or a fine black pen.

I transform my drawings into designs for stencils and these in turn have been used to create printed fabrics, sandblasted glass and most recently, papercut artwork.

I trained as a textile designer and in 1998 I switched to glass. I began by cutting sandblast stencils by hand, firstly for glass vessels and then for small scale architectural glass projects. As my career in glass progressed I was commissioned to make large installations for public spaces. It was physically impossible for me to hand cut the stencils on such a scale, and to complicate matters the studio I used to make the glass for me was situated 150 miles away from my own studio. I was compelled to learn a computer programme that enabled me to create an accurate stencil from my drawing which could then be emailled to the glass studio for cutting by them.

Around this time I enrolled on the Glass MA in Swansea. I attended lectures on 'Illustrator' and with much practise I learnt how to manually plot every cut line on my computer and create a digital file. This allowed me to send my artwork to my glass studio and accept large commissions.

However as time passed I found I was spending a considerable amount of time on the computer plotting the stencils, and I became more and more disengaged with the material. I missed the satisfying feeling of cutting a stencil with a really scarp scalpel.

I was using black vinyl to make my glass stencil but it was destroyed during the sandblasting process, so I began to experiment with black paper which could function as an artwork in it’s own right. I cut by hand, a process I've always enjoyed, in my studio, on my own. I was in complete control of the process and the end product. It was so gratifying.

The work sold well and I struggled to keep up with the demand. Paper cutting by hand is a slow and laborious process, completely absorbing, but not commercially viable at the prices I wanted to sell my work for. I wanted it to replace my glass practise so I investigated laser cutting and by using the same digital process I am able to create multiples of my designs.

However, I always cut each original image by hand - not only because I enjoy it but I also need to ensure the composition works. If I'm happy with it I scan it into my computer and trace each and every single point with the mouse to create a perfect digital replica (this part actually takes longer than hand cutting!). The file is then sent to my local art college to cut on their large flat bed laser.

Although I limit each edition to 100, I have each design cut in small batches of about 4. This is because I invariably make changes to the digital file between each batch, always looking to improve the image!

The cut black line work created by the laser cutter is one aspect of the finished product which is then collaged with colour and mounted in relief.