Teaching a Laser Cutter the Language of Glass

I’m thinking about language and translation. Tools are important to me, and I think that each one has a vocabulary that is very much it’s own. So, I decided to see what it would look like, or mean, to “translate” a mark made with glass to a mark made with a laser cutter.

wood burned with hot glass
I’ve been making these for a while, so they seemed like a reasonable starting point. For me, these burns are about how, in order to communicate, we need to have an agreed upon language, and how professional language can be completely unintelligible to the outsider. They are understandable for what they are by someone who understands hot glass, they are part of our professional language, but to the outsider, they are mysterious. The laser cutter makes marks in a superficially similar way, through burning the media, but the meaning, process and mark are wildly different.
laser cutter!
wood, laser cut, raster, slow and cool

wood, laser cut, raster, fast and hot

One of the more interesting things about this for me was that often new technologies can be thought of as the quick way, or a short cut, whereas here, was was completely the opposite. The process involved to get glass to make this mark was fluid, quick and simple. It takes a few minutes, at the most. To translate the mark into something the laser cutter could understand and begin to replicate involved a lot of time and intermediary tools. The object had to be scanned and edited to create a file that the cutter could work from, and the cutting itself took much longer than for the original drawing.
The mark in glass is vigorous and robust, while the laser cut image was controlled and precise. With the cooler, slower laser cut was washed out and muted, and the hotter, faster setting the mark became slightly more harsh, but it still did not reach the dynamic flow of the line made with glass alone. It’s also interesting to me, that even though the line is ostensibly the same, the glass made one indicates direction, movement, and time much better, while the laser cut mark is almost static.
I’m probably being unfair to the laser cutter, as I’m trying to make it speak glass, maybe it would speak it’s own native language better.

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