Upcycling – Part 1

by maggie

Knocking around the print studio at Morley college for the last year has been a big red box. It’s actually a laser cutter and one the staff have been reluctant to let the students play with – what with the fire risk and blinding hazard and all.

Over  the first three weeks of December, the department have run a short course of relief printing with an exploration of the laser cutter’s capacity at the heart of it.

The students were encourage to provide a black and white file before the start of the course. This is because a great deal of digital fiddling is required before the laser can get to work ablating the surface of your chosen block. Essentially the image is converted to a set of vectors, with the option of either cutting along the vector or taking off material to inside or outside of the vector.

The image I chose to work with originally were used to make M for Maelstrom way back in 2014


This image is a composite. It originates in a number of black on white images, made by marbling black oil paint on water. To use the original images for the laser cutting course I knocked out a lot of the fine detail and noise, and used the threshold tool in photoshop to create an image that is either 100% black or white.

Apparently when you import your file into the laser cutting software it forgets what size your image is. So although I wanted an square 150mm a side for my first attempt I ended up with two blocks, one 20 by 20 cm and one 21 by 20…

That’s why there’s a weird registration [white space thing] going on in these images. After some deliberation I decided to used the Japanese woodcut printing technique for all the blocks made on the course. Using the keno registration system I could decide where these two uneven blocks would meet up



Both these images use sumi ink and a warm grey body colour. The ink was put down first and then the watercolour The upper image using the background block first, the lower image the ‘image’ block.

Because I cut the keno into the same corner [top right] of the block the image is always going to be ‘this way’ up. But if I used a different registration system would give more flexibility in positioning the blocks in relation to the final image.

My ultimate aim for the prints generated during this course is to link back up to my Pebble theme.