“The And”

Acrylic laser cut and design by Jaicyea Smith

3164525, OCADU 

Digital Fabrication 6013


The Design Concept:

“The And” is an art piece, tool, mirror and a political statement. 

The ampersand is one of those old school English words that has natural graffiti qualities. &, $, {, to name a few. I was initially working on etching some hand style into a mirror but I began to look into graffiti style text for a sharper, clearer effect. 

The character was discovered around 45 A.D. It appeared on papyrus, handwritten in the Roman cursive style. The earliest representations of the character were a combination of the letters ET (in the form of a ligature) and evolved into the more common & single-character representation over the course of the next 700 years.

Discovery and challenges:

As an art piece, “The And” I showed the piece in class, I got feedback (from women!) about how the piece could double as a purse-sized mirror and self-defence tool. The irony of it all was just too good and I wanted to explore it further. I tried applying practical use by doing my makeup in the mirror. Future developments would most definitely require a handle or soft brace of some sort, maybe a leather or soft velvet casing to protect the sharp edges. 

I walked around with “The And” as a tool and found it difficult to have it reachable without being an uncomfortable nuisance. Which led me to think about guns, knives, and other tactical defence armour people brace them selves with each and everyday. I thought it might be interesting to make a statement about weaponry and gun control and how casual the laws are by turning this old fashion punctuation into a controversial line of purse-sized mirrors. Could I empower women by offering a DIY weapon that doubles as a mirror?

The iterative design process was easy! DIY in 10 easy steps.

  • What kind of message are you trying to send? Get Creative!
  1. Select the font you want 


3. Install the font and insert the text into illustrator, adjust size.  


Prepare the image for laser cutting.

4. Reducing anchor points / simplifying drawing


Draw with the least amount of anchor points possible without sacrificing the drawing appearance. If you can reduce them, we suggest you do. The machines will process your drawings quicker. Too many anchor points can also impact quality.

  • You can reduce the number of points with the Simplify tool
  • Select the stroke path you wish to simplify and select Object > Path > Simplify from the top menu
  • Adjust the sliders until you have maintained a balance between preserving appearance and reducing the number of anchor points

5. Using text – outlining your fonts

All text used needs to be Outlined / converted to paths.

  • Select Type > Font > Create outlines from the top menu

This is to convert the text to vectors and preserve your font. If you don’t do this and we don’t have your font installed on our computers, the file will open in default font Myriad or Arial. The middle islands of some letters will fall out when laser cut which can make the text difficult to read. If you would like to prevent this one option is to use a stencil font.

6. Configuring units & colour mode

  • Measurements: 1 unit = 1mm
  • Draw components at actual size.
  • If copying and pasting vectors from another file, make sure that they are at the scale you require
  • Make sure you are working in RGB mode
  • Select File > Document Colour Mode > RGB
  • Red: RGB: 255,0,0
  • Stroke weight: to 0.01mm / 0.25 pt

Cutting and speed: The laser cuts different materials at varying speeds. As a benchmark it generally takes longer to cut thicker materials than thinner ones. The thicker a material the more power is required at a lower speed. The laser is also faster at cutting straight lines than it is at cutting curves.

For everything you would like to be vector engraved / scored set the strokes to:

  • Blue: RGB: 0,0,255
  • Stroke weight: to 0.01mm / 0.25 pt


7. Saving your file

  • Select File > Save As
  • Format Adobe Illustrator (ai)
  • Any version.

8. I loaded $20 worth of funds on my materials account using a credit card. 

9. Next, I took a trip to the Rapid Prototyping Centre at 100 Mc Caul Street. I met my friend there who offered me some leftover acrylic mirror material and double checked my work! 

10. The centre has usb keys for you file, which you will load up onto their computer. Make sure your lines are perfect! I ordered an acrylic cut on the c02 laser Trotec Speedy 500 120 watt which was set to only take a few minutes.

“How Does It Work? The machine head functions much like the extruder on a FDM 3D printer, it sits on a gantry that allows it to move on an x,y,z, axis. A software (this will always depend on the machine used) will tell the laser where it needs to travel based on your design file, how fast to go, and how powerful to set the laser beam. (ie. Cura for Lulzbot). This software will interpret your design file as instructions for cutting (vectoring) or engraving (rastering), based on how it was prepared in illustrator. With this software, the laser OP can fine tune power and speed to achieve thedesired outcome.” (Charbonneau, 2019)

The result was not only beautiful but useful! This laser cutting project gave me a first-hand perspective on how experimental art can ignite taboo dialogue and how through that conversation we begin to see the affordances that the art creates!

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