As we were walking up a lane in Old Town the other evening we bumped into some friends who said "Are you going camping?" We must have looked like we were on a mission trudging up there with our rucksacks on. 'No' I said 'we're going drawing'.
We were going to find some Rosebay Willowherb to draw. It is just beginning to flower in the lanes and when I saw some last week with all it's spiky little buds waiting to open I got a flash of how it could look on a lamp. A tall lamp, like my Foxglove.
I wanted to catch it at the point of being half open and half in bud as I love the silhouettes.
And I wanted to look up close at the structure of the flowers so I could figure out how to stylise them. How many petals? What shape are they? How do they sit together? What are their key characteristics?
I got straight to it. I just started at the top and worked down and remembered what I love about drawing outside. The sounds of the evening washed over me, butterflies danced, bees buzzed in and out of the flowers, birds wings fluttered overhead and all those questions got answered half in words but mostly in shapes and lines and spaces, as I drew.
Dean often draws outside in nature, much more than I do. "I'm just off to my hill" he says and comes back with pages full of the landscape. He doesn't usually concentrate so much on the tiny details like me, but this evening he challenged himself to draw the Willowherb too. It was nice to have a drawing companion.
When I turn something into a design for a lamp I have to think about how to express the essence of the subject, simply, in three layers of light - I have the cut out bit which shines the brightest when the lamp is lit, I have the darker silhouette which gives definition and texture when the lamp is switched off and possibly an engraved layer too.
And there are other rules - no very large shapes cut out or stuck on as they can distort the shape of the cylinder when it's laminated. I also have to think about what the light bulb inside will illuminate the most.
Here I am preparing my drawings to be scanned and then traced and turned into something that my laser cutter can interpret. The bits coloured in black will become the silhouette (but they may be too big yet, I have to experiment). The flowers will be the shining bright bit which will be a separate file. Hopefully I can get the silhouette to be one whole shape - this makes constructing each lamp much easier.
I'm working on my light table here so I can trace elements of my drawings. I create the silhouette in bold black, scan it into the computer and then trace the outline digitally so I can create a file which tells the laser cutter what to cut.
This is the first laser test. Much potential but not stylised enough yet. Next I needed to simplify the flowers and make them more like a pattern.
This was the first attempt at simplifying the flowers. Even that is quite rosebay-ish on its own.
Then I tried to create the darker petal details. Laser engraved or laser cut?
Neither worked for me!
This is what it looks like as a laser file. The red lines cut. Black shapes engrave, orange lines (the holes that popper the lamp up) kiss cut. The stem is currently green but when it comes to cutting it out I will create a red outline to cut.
The results of another experiment. Flowers top heavy - not enough leaf. Just still not quite right. So I made the leaves reach higher, and took away a few flowers at the bottom.
I worked in pink and green on the computer to cheer things up and when I started adding the stamen in the flowers that's when it started to come together.
I loved making them cut across the petals. They are so delicate.
And then she was done! Rosie W as Ffion calls her. She snapped one up, the very first one, for her new flat.
She sits well with her buddy the foxglove.
So there we are. That was the making of a lamp. From idea to reality.
Here she is on my website.