Saturday, July 4, 2009

TLC Interview: Cindy Liu

Another Saturday, another TLC interview. This time it is with Cindy Liu, who I first met through

The Laser Cutter: So, Where are you from?

Cindy Liu: I am currently located in Emeryville, California. I’ve been here less than 6 months but previous to that I was living in Berkeley, California for 4 years while I was in graduate school.

TLC: How long have you been… What do you prefer to be called?

CL: I’m not sure what I would call myself… a designer I suppose. I guess technically I’ve been a designer for a year since graduating from school.

TLC: Do you have any formal training as an artist?

CL: I actually have a Master’s in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley. I went there for a three year program but before that I had an “area of focus” in Art History in Practice during my undergraduate at the University of California, San Diego.

TLC: When did you first begin using a laser cutter? Who taught you? Where do you get access?

CL: The first time I used a laser cutter was at Berkeley, I actually worked in our CAD/CAM lab. I was taught be a fellow student. Since my Berkeley days I get access to a laser cutter at Techshop a sort of cooperative fabrication place.

TLC: How do you set up your files?

CL: Typically I set up files in AutoCAD although I use the create outlines command in [Adobe] Illustrator to deal with fonts. Occasionally I’ll use Rhino to model something and then cut serial sections with the ArchCut plugin.

TLC: What’s your favorite material to laser cut? To etch?

CL: My favorite material to laser cut is acrylic. Bar none. The edges you get with acrylic are unbeatable. Also no char round the edges so that it reads more as mono-material. I’m not a big etcher but I do enjoy using a rotary tool to etch cylindrical glasses.

TLC: Do you have any laser cutting horror stories to tell?

CL: In terms of laser cutting horror stories I saw a lot while working in the CAD/CAM lab. But you tend to see the aftermath rather than the actual destruction. I’ve cleaned out the laser cutter to find entire pieces of newsprint caught in the exhaust. I’ve found the laser lens blackened and cracked beyond recognition, which I imagine must have caused quite a light show but I have never witnessed the actual incidents. But I think all that really speaks to what happens when you give a group of people with no sleep of 35,000 dollar machine that can cut through ½ inch acrylic.

TLC: When the exhaust of the laser cutter at our school got clogged the machine basically etched everything as opposed to cutting it. I was luck – I got my files in before it was a major problem, just a few corners stuck - Other people: not so lucky.

Where do you get you inspiration?

CL: Some of my favorite artists include Olafur Eliasson, Eva Hesse, Cindy Sherman, and Ruth Asawa. In terms of designers I think I love all things Dutch. I’m a big fan of Droog and am enamored with the data visualizations of CatalogTree.

TLC: So where can the readers reach you?

CL: I can be reached at my blog, or at my etsy page

TLC: One last question… Is there any smell better than freshly laser cut wood?

CL: Yes the smell of success when you pull your material out of the laser cutter and all the pieces stay in the bed.

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