Sunday, January 18, 2015

Laser Cutting: A New Method for Artistamp Perforations

Laser Cutting: A New Method for Artistamp Perforations

An interesting new method for creating perforations for artistamps came out of my research. I had long sought new methods for creating perforations, and stumbled upon a discovery in high tech DIY (do-it-yourself). Most low-tech artistamp perforation techniques are widely known (roulette wheel, sewing machine, perf machine). These are often ignored as cumbersome, and perhaps rightly so. If you do not have access to perforating machine, your artistamps may end up looking terrible.

High Tech to the Rescue

In the past decade laser cutters are becoming standard equipment in University Art & Design departments with Art & Technology and New Media Arts programs. Artists use laser cutters to create a wide variety of materials in cardboard, wood and plastic, for books parts, installations, and sculpture (along with 3D printers). The United States Postal Service (USPS) and other postal agencies have been using outsourced laser cutting techniques since at least the 1990s for real stamps. My job was to figure out how to do that with a laser cutter to which I had access.

Artistamp Sheet Design Tips

The design technology for creating perforations digitally is insanely simple, and offers some advantages over the best perforating machines. Any two dimensional design - quite beyond the simple grid - can make for very professional looking stamp sheets, sheetlets and souvenir sheet designs. Circular, curved and inset multiple stamp dimension designs can be created as easily as the typical grid. I chose an inset design for my Andyland multiple design artistamp sheet. Creating the perforation master was very simple in Adobe Illustrator. Other programs would work just as well, as a line of dots (circles, actually) are arranged according to the artistamp sheet design.

"Andyland" multiple design artistamp sheet (with inset perforations).
Testing 1,2,3

With my digital perforation master ready I was willing to give the laser cutter a spin. I came to work with a copier print run of 75 or so artistamp sheetlets, thinking I would have them all perforated quickly. My first tests did not go well. Stacks of ten sheetlets left very evident burn marks on the bottom sheets. It turned out that the best way to do them was one sheet at a time. This took a little bit of wind out of my sails as I thought I had discovered a mass production technique. Nevertheless the method was still sound, and supplanted the methods already out there, plus new design possibilities were born for the artistamp practitioner.

"Televisions of Andyland" artistamp sheet showing burn marks after laser cutter perforation experiments.

Pros, Cons and Further Study of Laser Cut Artistamp Perforations

Pros and cons are relative to existing methods but I believe the technology is becoming very accessible. Some artists to not have access to such equipment, but there is probably going to be more growth in accessibility as time goes on. By the same token, access to 19th century perforating machines is already difficult. The software design process is simple, but using the laser cutter is not. I burned a lot of paper in my testing, but l was using simple copies. Nicely printed work would be a shame to lose this way. I did not experiment with different types of papers, or different types of machines. The technology is always changing, so your mileage may vary, but I believe I've broken some new ground with laser cut artistamp perforations.