Laser Cut Sculpture – Primary

Artist: Helen Snell

Participants: 16 children aged 7 – 11

Aims of activity: For the children to design and create a laser-cut boat, using design ideas on the theme of ‘China’

Activity: The artist provided the school with a template ‘net’ which could be cut out of card and folded to form a boat. The children worked on their ‘Chinese’ boat designs before the workshop. The workshop took place at the FabLab Barnstaple. Older pupils (Years 5 and 6) used the FabLab laptops and open source editing software to scan, edit and vectorise their images, before they were laser cut.  Younger pupils (Years 4 and 5) watched a demonstration on a larger projector screen about how to edit and vectorise images.  As only one design could be cut at a time, the children took part in additional activities including design of a ‘Chinese Slipper’ net, some drawing and hand cutting, and a shadow play exercise with some of the handling objects using the projector and projector screen.

Creative processes used:  drawing, hand cutting, design including understanding of transformation of 2D net to 3D piece, digital editing and vectorising


  • The children experienced the process of transforming a 2D net into a 3D sculpture
  • The children were able to create complex and intricate designs because of the laser cutting technology


  • The processes of laser cutting, digital editing and vectorising were new to the children
  • The process of creating ‘multiples’ from a single design through digital technology was new to the children and the school, and opened up a new way for the children to create art work and present their work


  • As only one design can be cut on the laser cutter at a time, and cutting speeds can be slow, additional activities are required so children are usefully engaged throughout the workshop
  • Fablab Barnstaple didn’t have industry standard software at the time of the workshop and reliance on open source software or clunky laser cutting software interfaces (in Chinese) produced  glitches which exacerbated some of the cutting speed problems
  • The hire cost of FabLab Barnstaple for the day was expensive and could be prohibitive for many settings