Professional Practice for MAMDP

December 2016.  What I have done for my professional practice in 2016


There are several strands to my current practice, including plywood toys, T-Shirts, fabric printing. For the past year much of my effort has been with designing and laser cutting in plywood, quite a lot of that effort was spent in getting to grips with Adobe Illustrator, AutoCAD and 123Design, all quite demanding software packages. Recently I made an artist’s book based around a poem.

In October I began using a tablet – Surface Pro 4 – for sketching, drawing and for notes, using several apps including Autodesk Sketchbook, Sketchable, Plumbago, Bamboo, Graphiter and Adobe Ilustrator, Photoshop and InDesign.  I am continuing to learn how to get the most from the tablet.

I have continued to visit exhibitions and shows and write accounts of these on my blog.

1. Plywood toys.

A. Designed a ‘press-out’ toy helicopter for laser cutting. This was done in several stages:

  • rough sketches
  • more detailed drawings
  • a construction board model
  • a 2D drawing in Adobe Illustrator
  • a 3d exploded drawing
  • a initial laser-cut (Bower Ashton Fabrication)
  • a revised laser-cut
  • test with children
  • registering the design at the Patent Office
  • create packaging and point of sale material

When the design stage was finished I found – after some false starts and with help from Catherine – a small laser-cutting company to do the cutting (Cut & Burn, Exmouth).

I then negotiated a price for a batch of 20 units. After some market research to find outlets I have begun selling at a craft fair at the Bookbarn, Paulton, a shop in Ross-on-Wye, a cafe, and other fairs such as the UWE Christmas fair.

B. Designed a toy theatre/shadow theatre for laser cutting. This followed a similar process to the one used for the helicopter but was a far less intricate design.

  • sketches and drawings
  • construction board model
  • 2D drawing in Adobe Illustrator
  • initial laser-cut (Bower Ashton Fabrication)
  • revision of design to reduce waste – by incorporating a different toy
  • initial cut with Cut & Burn
  • create shadow figures – this is almost a separate project
  • further test with children – ongoing

There are a number of challenges with the toy theatre project. The initial design was a compromise, a shadow theatre needs a quite large screen whilst a toy theatre may be much smaller – there are many examples on Pinterest. The unit cost of cutting is rather high; I added another entirely separate toy to use up waste plywood and add a possible profit point.

C. Balance toy. Created to use waste ply from the toy theatre. The design process was similar to the other toys. This is a small, low-cost (under £3), press-out self-assembly toy.

D. Roll-on Roll-off Ferry toy. This is an intricate toy and was the first one I attempted, design process is ongoing in December 2016.

  • sketches and drawings
  • construction board model
  • test on child
  • revise
  • construction board model
  • 3d drawing in 123design
  • 2d drawing in illustrator
  • revision and correction of drawing with help from fabrication (Michelle and Zarya)
  • laser cut in 4mm ply (fabrication)
  • further revision of drawing
  • laser cut in 3mm ply
  • test on children
  • simplification of design, redraw in illustrator, 3d drawing
  • laser cut in 3mm ply
  • negotiate a batch cutting price and cut 10 units
  • package and sell

The main challenge with this project was to get a design with plenty of play value whilst keeping the cost of production low enough. This is not entirely solved but I feel that I have made a lot of progress.  The current design should solve several problems – ease of construction, stability of the toy, reduction in production cost.

2. T-Shirt design and print

For my Professional Practice I have negotiated a placement with a Bristol T-Shirt printer. This links with my academic research for the MA Research Practice module , “Unravelling the T-Shirt”. This secondment will be in February/March 2017, and I anticipate that I will be involved in all aspects of screen printing onto T-Shirts. I am particularly interested in quality of print and material, and all aspects of design.

During the MA so far I have produced a number of T-Shirts with designs relating to the course and to my artistic experiences, this is on-going.

I am also looking at two other printing companies, one in Bristol (R3) and one in Cardiff, both primarily printing on paper and card.

3. Artist’s Books

Having been introduced to the artist’s book as part of the MA course I attempted to produce one, based on a poem I wrote in 2015. I made this book in October (2016) from packaging paper, water transfer paper; using hand drawn and found images which were giclee printed. I also incorporated paper pop-ups and cut outs, fabric and a small amount of stitch. The book has 70 pages, fragility is a core theme. For this work I drew on a visit in December 2015 to the CoBrA art museum in Amsterdam and to related museums and exhibitions, especially Seth Siegelaub at the Stedelijk in Amsterdam.

I have started work on a second book related to a project, “Mother and Child in the 21stC”.

4. Children’s illustrated poems, stories and songs

Some examples of these ongoing efforts are here, more will follow.  I have begun to use Adobe InDesign – I previously used Swift Publisher on the Mac – somewhat reluctantly, but because it is a cross-platform package.