Laser Cut Jewelry: Drawing Through the Making Center
For our first project in the elective Drawing Through the Making Center, we made use of Adobe Illustrator and the laser lab to create custom-made jewelry for a client/partner in class. After the project was introduced to us, we were assigned partners in class and we each interviewed each other on our preferences for jewelry.
My partner, HJ, said that she liked simple and dainty jewelry and that her fashion style leans more toward the simpler side. With this in mind, I wanted to come up with something that made use of organic shapes. When I asked her more about what kind of design she wanted, we settled on either florals or leaves.
The first design I thought of was a simple bracelet that had two leaves as “charms” and a chain that would go around the rest of the wrist. After trying to design this and input it into Illustrator, I realized that the design would be too small and simple for a laser cutter. I then decided to make a cuff out of the two leaves and create a more intricate cutting design and pattern to add character to the piece.
From the very start of the design process, I had already decided that I wanted to use a material that looked like gold. My client and I discussed her preference for color, and she said that she wanted either gold or silver. I chose gold because I thought it fit the design better, since it gives a more classic look to the piece as well.
The first material that came into my head was acrylic, which that was immediately pushed aside after realizing that I was making a cuff. When I couldn’t think of what material to use, I just went to Michaels and explored the selection they had. Luckily, I was able to find a selection of genuine leather for Cricut machines that were covered in gold, rose gold, and silver. When I saw these, I chose to get the gold one because I imagined that it would be the best for my design and for the laser.
I had already gotten the orientation for the laser lab in the previous semester, so I scheduled a consultation with the laser lab the day after we did the orientation in class. Because of this, I had a cutting session scheduled on the Monday before our critique, giving two or three days to assemble and troubleshoot if needed.
Cutting at the laser lab went very smoothly for me. I cut out a total of 4 pieces: the first being a tester, the next two being the ones I used for the final output, and the last being one that I scaled to be bigger so I can show the design of the leaves better during critique.
To put the two leaves together and make a cuff, I used a jump ring and placed joined the two leaves using the holes I made as part of the tip of the leaf. To close and secure the cuff around the wrist, I added a small clasp which I connected using the round holes I included at the base of the leaves.
To finalize the project, I used small pliers to make sure that the jump ring and clasp were secure o the leaves. After that, I used cotton swabs drenched in isopropyl alcohol to clean the surface of the leather and get rid of any burn marks that were on the piece; a step that made a significant difference to the color and shine of the leather. I also tried getting rid of a few of the long, stray leather “hairs” that were appearing from the cut outs using an X-Acto knife.
In conceptualizing and creating this project, I focused a lot on making it something that my client would enjoy and actually use. I tried to incorporate the characteristics of the jewelry that she already wears, but at the same time make this piece stand out and add something to her collection and style. During the critique, I saw how everyone in the class used different techniques to achieve the look and concept they were aiming for, which I found to be very interesting. Although I did not change or improve my piece after the critique, I think it was nice to learn the different ways we can create different looks using seemingly simple materials if we just manipulate the strategically.
I think this project is definitely a test of patience and compromise. Coming up with a design for a client is an entirely different process because of how we need to adapt to the wants and needs of a client instead of just our own. It also took a lot of patience because working in the laser lab can be frustrating if something goes wrong with the design or the material and how it is reflected in the laser cutter. Compromise is an important aspect of this project because we needed to alter our pieces based on our client and on the laser cutter. Patience and compromise are two very important things we need to learn if we want to work in any industry because creating artwork, fashion pieces, or anything for that matter goes beyond what we, as individuals, want out of it.
Because of my previous experience in the laser lab, which was filled with disappointment and endless redos, it was extremely satisfying to have this piece come out the way I wanted it to even after just one appointment. It was also rewarding to see how well my piece was received by my client and by the other members of the class because I remember thinking to myself before the critique that it seemed too simple since I didn’t use that much hardware. Because of this experience, I am considering creating more pieces like this for myself and for other people since I think I understand what kind of designs work and don’t work well with the laser cutter.