Since 2001, Phil Duckworth and Ben Sadler have been working together under the name – Juneau Projects – fusing new technology into their art and music projects. This week, we’ve been fortunate to quiz Phil and Ben about their recent screen print making project using laser cutting.
Above: Laser cut wood print blocks
BCA: Tell us about one of your recent project?
Juneau Projects: We’ve recently been quite interested in print making in our work, as it is not something we’ve done in the past. We like the idea of being able to make our own print blocks. We’re interested in wood block printing as it is an early form of print making. We thought laser cutting would be a good way of making some print blocks. By drawing these shapes out quite meticulously in a programme we’re using called Inkscape we create almost hand drawn vector images that we scale up or down. This allowed us to create a whole series of blocks in different sizes and shapes predominantly using birds and geometric shapes that we could then use as a suite of print blocks to make a whole series and range of one-off prints.
BCA: What else have you done with laser cutting?
Juneau Projects: In 2013 we were invited to make an exhibition at Somerset House in London. The idea was that, as part of the exhibition, there would be a series of Robots that would act as guides to take people round the exhibition. We built a suite of 6 robots that people could interact with and those robots were made with quite a few different technologies. The robots were made from wood which we laser cut. We were quite keen that they had a different look to what you may expect from a robot so, rather than being made from metal, they were made from different types of woods that were then hand painted so they almost had a folk-like look. We integrated that with a series of servos that controlled the robots from Arduino and then people were able to interact with the robots. We worked with a friend of ours who was a programmer to develop a speech programme that allowed us to put in the different questions and responses that the robot would give. We wanted it to be like those infuriating phone systems you sometimes get stuck in where you have to press different buttons on your phone to navigate round or a bit like when you’re troubleshooting software on a computer and it asks you a series of questions but often you don’t get anywhere. These robots are quite circular in that way and the way they interacted with people. They’d ask you a question and you’d press a button to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no and then it went through a tree of responses that varied and branched out depending on the responses that the visitors gave.
Above: Laser-cut Guitar Effects Pedal
BCA: How has laser cutting helped your projects?
Juneau Projects: What’s been invaluable in our learning process is the idea of prototyping ideas, making a working model that often doesn’t quite work but allows you to see what will work; also there’s no real substitute for having the physical thing in your hand and thinking about how you might develop that rather than it being a theoretical thing that exists in your mind or perhaps on paper. I think that physicality of having it actually there and being able to make changes has been a valuable part of learning how to develop our laser cutting skills, in the same way as we might learn a painting technique. It’s almost like learning different laser cutting techniques that are useful within our work as tools to make work.
BCA: What advice would you give an aspiring young artist?
Juneau Projects: Rather than relying on manufacturers, we think it’s best to get some hands-on experience. Learn as you go-on and make mistakes to learn from. Building your own experience is important rather than sending a file out and getting something back in the post. Always be learning to better yourself, your creativity and your work.
“Technologies such as laser cutting and 3D printing offer really exciting possibilities for creativity and production. The most important thing to have though is an interesting idea – seeing an idea you love move from dream to reality is incredibly exciting, and is what makes us want to go into the studio each day. The best way to have interesting ideas is to just do stuff, make stuff, read stuff, look at stuff, and have fun!”
– Ben, Juneau Projects
If you would like to learn more about Juneau Projects or our laser cutting courses then please contact us on [email protected] – don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.