Making the final boxes

Woodworking tools

I knew I wouldn’t be able to make a lightbox of the quality I had envisaged, so I commissioned a local craftsman to construct it for me. Ian at Custom Woodwork in Cotgrave took on the challenge and accommodated multiple changes of plan after the Covid-19 lockdown.
He suggested we use a French Cleat hanging system, which means the heavier the item is the more securely it is held in place. The cleat is screwed to the wall and therefore easier to level before lifting the box into place.
The build quality of the boxes is fantastic and they work perfectly.

I’d been using the laser cutting facility at NTU, which had been great. Just before CV-19 lockdown, I’d cut my final design in light card and decided on a design for the engrave. Then… nothing was avilable for me to use. After a number of failed attempts to find someone to engrave the box pieces, I found Keith at Handytech. Keith has been a great ally, who picked up my prject with gusto and helped me find solutions to seemingly intractable problems. His laser wasn’t as big as the flat bed at uni, but he cut the large Charnia design from six individual pieces of card, which slotted back together perfectly. He also engraved the outside edge of the medium size box, again splitting my designs to make them fit in his machine.


Steps to the final lacelightbox

The largest Lacelightbox was made and delivered to my studio in early May 2020

Strips of self adhesive LEDs on biodegradable foamboard for inside the lacelightbox

Trialling embroidery on net with the perspex and LEDs

I tried just using text on net inside the box (above)but it needed the laser cut card give hard shadows. So I commissioned Handytech to make the laser cut after much backwards and forwards where I learned my understanding of Illustrator wasn’t up to much.

I made the embroidered picot onto cotton bobbinet from Swiss Tulle (see this post for more detail) while waiting for the laser cut . Click on the gallery below to see the construction step by step

The lacelightbox in action

First LED light box

An image of lace and shadow

During late Spring 2019, I tried new ways of using lace and light in a way that satisfied some of my key words and followed my initial investigations into darkness and shadow. ​

I bought a wall mounted LED light box (think late night kebab shop illuminated menu board) to explore layering and shadow with a more controlled light source. ​I got very excited when I first set it up, hoping that lighting the lace from behind would reveal new ideas and shapes. ​To diffuse the lights I got some frosted polypropylene from Bonington shop and decided I wanted to have it curved. I draped some lace in front of it…


I was SO disappointed. But I decided to try the lace behind the plastic. It blew my mind ​

The centre image shows the lace in front and behind. You can see that the lace behind the frosting is refracted and has an almost digital quality. ​As you move your perspective, you see the image break and almost glitch

Video shows laser cut lace behind polypropylene sheet

Laser cutting

laser cut engrave

Sailing the sea of #sketchbookwoes, I found myself spending a lot of time in the laser room with Sue Turton. After a basic intro into what the laser may be capable of, I was fascinated by what I could do, not just through cutting but using a low powered laser to engrave or etch on the surface of the material.

The university has a number of flatbed lasers for cutting but one large Grafixscan machine which can be used to engrave all kinds of materials. the construction of the machine meant the base material did not have to be totally flat or thin, and the Grafixscan was super fast, producing engraved samples in minutes or even seconds.

laser cut engrave
Laser engrave onto tracing paper using the grafixscan

It could engrave areas from a jpeg or (which I preferred) lines of less that a millimetre from a vector file. These lines to me were as the bobbin thread in a lace machine, fine as hair. I imagined ways of using this to engrave a ‘net’ ground on which to embroider. As it happened I didn’t go down this line, but at least it gave me an avenue to investigate while I got my sketch on.

You can just hear my gasp of delight…