Primary Tools & Materials:
PEN & INK, LASER CUTTER
Additional Tools & Materials: Card stock paper, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, scanner, camera, wood
Day 18 matchup included TWO things I've never used before: a real, honest-to-goodness calligraphy pen (with metallic ink!) and a big scary laser cutter.
I started by making tons of scripty curly letter Os, with metallic ink on black paper. My brand new calligraphy pen is kinda hard to get used to, and the brand new point made some rather unpleasant scratchy sounds while I practiced drawing Os. I made several dozen, scanned them all in, and chose my favorite.
I brought it into Adobe Illustrator - where I first did an auto trace of the letter, which resulted in a dotty, textural, messy letter shape. Then I used the original O as a template and drew it myself in vector. I liked both, and I was curious how they'd each turn out on the laser cutter.
I brought five different types and stains of wood (free flooring samples!) to the Materials Lab at NC State where we have three big intimidating laser cutters. After a quick refresher on how to work the machinery, I tried several different settings on each one, and the final letter I chose as my favorite in this study came from the dotty, live-trace letter. I also set the laser to do three passes on it, so the little dotty areas would be well-defined.
Some of the characteristics of this mashup were expected, and some weren't. While I'd never used a calligraphy pen before, I did know where the thick and thin strokes should be, and tried to make that contrast as great as possible. I had expected the laser cutter to discolor or burn the edges of the design, but it didn't - perhaps due to the wood's stain. I also didn't expect the bumpy, almost linen texture that emerges when large areas of the wood were burned away. I love the inner shadows the letterform creates with so many peaks and valleys. I was also sure I'd love the look of the clean, hand vectorized letter more than the live trace, but I didn't. This would be an incredibly difficult combination of traits to reproduce across a whole letterset, but I think it would be quite beautiful.