Learning to Laser Cut at Haystack

This summer I was incredibly lucky to spend 12 days learning woodworking at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts with the artist Barbara Cooper. The experience was above and beyond my expectations, and the beauty of the campus and the delicious food definitely helped. Haystack has a Fab Lab which is an educational component of MIT’s Center of Bits and Atoms, a network of 400 small-scaled digital fabrication centers.

I was pretty excited to spend time in the Fab Lab, especially to get my hands on a laser cutter. During the Fab Lab orientation I was introduced to creating designs on plywood with the laser cutter that can make the wood bendable. I knew immediately this was a concept I was going to use for one of my experiments.

Barbara Cooper was incredible to work with and the biggest take away I’m using with my students is to think of your projects as ‘experiments’ and not as ‘pieces’. This immediately took the pressure of the creative process and let me just experiment with the wood pieces I had on my work table.

When I started planning my experiment with the laser cutter, I chose to use found these great wood shapes that organically came out of cutting down some planks of wood which used to act as the deck at Haystack. My goal was to use the bendable laser cut wood to fill the gaps in the other wood pieces. I chose to laser cut an entire piece of plywood which did end up taking over an hour – but so worth it!  It took a lot of wood glue and masking tape to get the laser cut portions to fit in place into as well as the hands of some of my colleagues.

I can’t wait to get to worth a laser cutter again. I’ve started seeing many different uses of laser cutters around me since my time at Haystack. I don’t think I can ever state in words how incredible of an experience Haystack was. As a maker, it was magical being around so many like-minded people who love to explore the visual arts in different capacities.