I love computer design programs and the computer-driven tools like the laser cutter. But when it comes right down to it, I’m a visual-tactile learner. I need to see the real thing, not just an image on the computer screen. For one thing, my ability to tell what size something is on a screen is not good, because I can make it ANY size there–I need to see how it fits in my hand, or looks on the printed page before I can really settle the critical designs questions like How Big and Which Side Up. That issue of scale translates to more than just the outer edge–does the decorative element read well at the scale I’ve chosen? Do I want the design engraved, or engraved around it…or both? Outlines, or do they crowd the image?

Then, when making components for mosiacs and for jewelry, there is the issue of holes. One at the top, now that I have designated which is the top? Top and bottom both? No holes at all? Two in the middle as a button? So many choices! I can make a good guess, but I won’t really know until I see them and hold them in hand. Thats why I run the first batch on blonde birchwood, with no color distractions. That comes later!

I try the design, the inverted design, with and without outlines. Then I play a bit with the results. Too big is usually quite obvious, and so far too small has not been an issue as I often start around an inch or two. Anything bigger is likely too big for an earring part (I know, there are people who disagree!!) I see which designs and which versions I prefer. Are the holes in the right place(s) and not too far or too close to an edge? Are the cut and etch settings right for the laser? This part can take a lot of trial-lighter, darker, till I find just-right. After that I try them in colorized versions.

Shown above are traditional mehndi design elements, drawn in henna on skin for temporary tattoos for centuries in several cultures. I’ve taken those designs into computerized vector form, and cut them with a laser beam on wood. I LOVE the blend of art, history and science.

I use sales and reactions from others as research and inspiration. If there’s a design I’m not that found of but others do like, I keep making it, but eventually I put the best of them into design sets that I can run. Then, I try some more!

Shown here and at top are some Egyptian and African design elements.  I don’t have these new files just right yet, but I will keep working on it. Half the fun is getting there.