Our approach to teaching is very simple: we want you to learn by doing, with our guidance. We’ll hold your hand as much as you need to feel confident, but we encourage a bit of experimentation, because there’s no such thing as a failed experiment as long as you learn something from it!
Here you’ll find a short description of our equipment, and the software we recommend using with it. If you have any more questions, please reach out to us and we’ll be happy to help. And if you’re struggling with confidence, we’re with you every step of the way!
Many people aren’t sure what to imagine when we say “laser cutter.” Our laser cutter can cut or engrave wood, stone, acrylic, paper, and so on – sometimes we have to check that materials are laser-safe, because some can cause noxious gases to escape, so check with us if you’re cutting something unusual.
We make a file, usually in Inkscape, a powerful and free piece of software, and colour the lines differently according to what we want the laser cutter to do with them. For example, we can cut all the way through, cut part of the way through to “draw” on the material, or engrave where the laser digs out all the space inside an enclosed line. You can download Inkscape for yourself, but we have laptops available too, so if you’d rather design in the space, that’s perfectly possible.
Don’t worry if that sounds tricky – we can help! The laser cutter is one of those machines that makes a lot more sense once you’ve seen it in action, so come and have a go. In the meantime, below you can find a few photos of laser cut projects to give you an idea of the type of things you can make.
3D printing is a bit less alien to most people. In our printers, a thin strand of material (usually plastic, some of which is biodegradable, but there is a variety of types) is heated to melting point, at which time the printer uses it to draw layers upon layers to form a 3D structure. As the layers cool, they harden, and the result is a hard plastic piece (flexible filaments also exist, but we don’t currently have any in stock).
To design in 3D, there is a lot of choice in terms of software. An easy-to-use, free option is tinkercad.com, where you can design your piece and export it to .stl. After that, we can load it right into the laptop that runs our 3D printers, and get it started. 3D printing takes a while, so larger prints can take a few hours or even run overnight, but that’s okay – you can come back to pick it up once it’s done. Again, design can be done at home or in the space, where we can help if you get stuck.
Vinyl cutters use a tiny blade to cut through a thin layer of vinyl. Different types of vinyl can be used in different ways; some are self-adhesive and can then be easily applied to a variety of materials, others need a heat-press to make, for example, T-shirts or mugs. We have a heat-press for either of the latter, but there are others on the market for phone cases and other customisable items.
A sublimation printer allows you to print any picture onto special paper, using special inks. With a heat-press, these can be transferred to appropriate materials. We have mugs available which have been treated in such a way as to make them suitable for sublimation, and any polyester fabric will also do. Polyester blends, such as part-cotton, part-polyester fabrics, will look great at first, but the natural fibres will wash off. While that’s not always what you want, you can play around with a sort of distressed effect.
We have 3 sewing machines, as well as a selection of presser feet and needles for both woven, and knit fabrics. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newbie at sewing, you’re very welcome to come and use them. On a Monday afternoon, we run a fibre arts group called Techstyles between noon and two pm, during which members with encyclopaedic knowledge of various types of fibre arts come and share their expertise (and a cuppa), so if you’re after a bit of banter, that’s the perfect time for it.