Laser Cutter Innovative Curriculum

Cathy Hunt and Brandt Ward

St Hilda's School

Walk into any visual arts classroom and you’ll find tools derived from age-old techniques and processes. But often it is the intersections between the old (ancient?) and 'the cutting edge' that present the most interesting opportunities for exploration, engagement and learning…

Over the past few months we've been exploring art-making applications for our school laser cutter. This powerful new tool is getting a workout in the Design and Technology learning spaces, but new tools should inspire new ideas, and artists operate at the cutting edge.

As always, when you begin using a tool that is in the early stages of deployment in schools, challenges abound.

And that’s the point.

Because when we started working to create and connect to the curriculum, we didn’t know really know what we were doing. Our teaching staff worked hard to explore the possibilities, and, instead of shying away from unknown as a starting point, we embraced it, sharing our developing knowledge and project iterations, across faculties, and collaborating in classrooms across subject areas. We connected with the students on this learning journey, learning in partnership.

Because we are all innovators, capable creative, we have positive mindsets, we leverage an iterative design processes, and we love to learn.

Relief printing using linocut and the process of etching sit at the core of a number of programs in our Visual Arts courses. With this foundation in place, we became interested in the possibilities surrounding the production of intaglio etching plates with the laser cutter, as early experiments using the tool as an engraver, transferring text, logos and photographs onto perspex were really successful. Looking at these products made us wonder if the process could be manipulated so the printed surface could hold ink and be run through the printing press in the art room.

Eching is a wonderfully hands-on technique that has essentially remained the same for hundreds of years. As our teachers planned and tested and tinkered with our laser cutter, and students printed and experimented with the trials, the excitement and anticipation grew. Could we make this work?

When we finally laid our first plates on the bed of the press, with a fresh piece of damp paper on top, it got exciting! We wheeled it through and the 'reveal' was worth all the effort - as the mat and paper were pulled back and the paper lifted away there was a very clear image, and proof that we had developed a brand new technique. The possibilities abound!

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