Laser Cutting in Massachusetts

As mentioned in a previous post, I collaborated with FreeFall Laser located in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts for the cover page of Surveillance—my tunnel book project. 

Sarah Pike of FreeFall Laser was great to work with and efficient as she typically focuses on each specific customer with a personalized service. 

Our initial communication started with a brief consultation by email describing the project from which Sarah asked for samples of the page with printed images on the exact substrate chosen for material testing.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Inside my artists’ book  Surveillance —a mock-up.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Inside my artists’ book Surveillance—a mock-up.

My images for this project were reproduced on Moab Entrada Rag Bright paper. This is a double-sided archival acid and lignin-free, 100% cotton fine art paper. My question was “would this fibrous paper be a problem for the CO2 laser cutter”?

Double sided images need to be precisely registered for the desired effect to be successful. After figuring out the perfect registration, I sent a package with ten double-sided printed copies, hoping no difficulties would arise during the laser-cutting process.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Consulting with Sarah Pike for the cover of  Surveillance  FreeFall Laser in Massachusetts.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Consulting with Sarah Pike for the cover of Surveillance FreeFall Laser in Massachusetts.

When the work for Surveillance was completed, I promptly decided that picking up the work directly from the studio would naturally give me the unique chance to socially meet with Sarah in person. The plan for the first phase of my journey was to visit FreeFall Laser after I crossed back into the US following my two month stay in Canada. 

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Sarah Pike showing me around FreeFall Laser.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Sarah Pike showing me around FreeFall Laser.

Sarah’s approach combines artistic experimentation with technological experience to create exceptional work for fine artists, designers, conservators, bookbinders, artisans, woodworkers, and museums. It was a tremendous experience to see Sarah’s studio and her state-of-the-art CO2 laser cutter.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Sarah’s studio and her state-of-the-art CO2 laser cutter.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Sarah’s studio and her state-of-the-art CO2 laser cutter.

I was so excited when I picked up my precision cut covers that we discussed the distinct possibility of laser-cutting the binding for my creative project. I could not fathom cutting the exact holes for the electronics and faux camera another 8 times through binders board. What a life saver!

Visiting FreeFall Laser provided me the opportunity to observe some of Sarah’s own art work—what a treat! A lot of her art work is laser cut marquetry in wood veneer. Sarah also designed a beautiful sample book to demonstrate her CO2 laser cutter capabilities.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Sarah’s sample book demonstrating the capabilities of her state-of-the-art CO2 laser cutter.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Sarah’s sample book demonstrating the capabilities of her state-of-the-art CO2 laser cutter.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Sarah’s art work using laser cut marquetry in wood veneer.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Sarah’s art work using laser cut marquetry in wood veneer.

On my initial contact with Sarah, with due diligence, I wanted to view some samples of artists’ books or bindings created with the help of FreeFall Laser. 

© 2019 Sarah Pike. Laser cutting of the   The Radiant Republic   by  Sarah Bryant  at FreeFall Laser.

© 2019 Sarah Pike. Laser cutting of the The Radiant Republic by Sarah Bryant at FreeFall Laser.

© 2019 Sarah Pike. Laser cutting of the   The Radiant Republic   by  Sarah Bryant  at FreeFall Laser.

© 2019 Sarah Pike. Laser cutting of the The Radiant Republic by Sarah Bryant at FreeFall Laser.

© 2019 Sarah Bryant.   The Radiant Republic   by  Sarah Bryant , built entirely out of language found in Plato’s Republic and Le Corbusier’s The Radiant City.

© 2019 Sarah Bryant. The Radiant Republic by Sarah Bryant, built entirely out of language found in Plato’s Republic and Le Corbusier’s The Radiant City.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux.   Reason Belief Truth   by  Thomas Parker Williams , binding, French split goat skin, laser-cut binder's boards; edition of 12.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Reason Belief Truth by Thomas Parker Williams, binding, French split goat skin, laser-cut binder's boards; edition of 12.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux.   Reason Belief Truth   by  Thomas Parker Williams ; laser cut painted with ink and watercolor; letterpress printing (hand-set type, polymer plates) by Mary Agnes Williams; marbled paper.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Reason Belief Truth by Thomas Parker Williams; laser cut painted with ink and watercolor; letterpress printing (hand-set type, polymer plates) by Mary Agnes Williams; marbled paper.

Wynn Bullock images © 2019 Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved .  Wynn Bullock:  Relativity: Wynn Bullock and Albert Einstein , edition of 15; published by 21st Editions; binding by Peter Geraty and Julia Rabin with production assistance by Tim Faner.

Wynn Bullock images © 2019 Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved. Wynn Bullock: Relativity: Wynn Bullock and Albert Einstein, edition of 15; published by 21st Editions; binding by Peter Geraty and Julia Rabin with production assistance by Tim Faner.

Wynn Bullock images © 2019 Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved. Wynn Bullock:   Relativity  , 9 bound and 9 loose, platinum estate prints, 1 signed vintage silver print.

Wynn Bullock images © 2019 Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved. Wynn Bullock: Relativity, 9 bound and 9 loose, platinum estate prints, 1 signed vintage silver print.

I was content to get back to work, after my informative conversation with Sarah. Next phase—prepare the boards by covering them with Canapetta bookcloth, measure all the positions of the holes... so Sarah could make my vision a reality...

Ottawa, Ontario

My up-coming publication Surveillance underwent many design sessions before its creation. The theme being on surveillance, I wanted to produce an artists’ book that would involve the reader in an alternative way. 

First, the thought process of finding the correct binding to properly present my artists’ book. After an active year of collecting images that would bring home the fundamental idea behind the project, I was ready for its conception. I chose, collated, sized and ultimately transferred the images into a layout in Photoshop. This step is always painstaking, since the choices are endless but results matter to bring to fruition the imagined piece. Once the book has been thought out, the essential work of deciding on size of the book, its presentation, the layout, placement... Then the printing phase follows. 

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Printed pages for  Surveillance .

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Printed pages for Surveillance.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Folding the accordion pages of  Surveillance .

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Folding the accordion pages of Surveillance.

A double sided printing job is never easy, registration is a whole other world, as you know. One has to remember that paper sizes are never perfect. I have typically found that 8.5” means 8 3/8”. This naturally means that all images and text on the verso need to be moved to the right at least 1/8” or more depending on your printer. It takes a while, but once the images and text are ideally placed on the verso, the work is done! But don’t forget to check your registration marks for every sheet or page to be printed so not to waste ink and paper. 

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Cutting boards for the binding of  Surveillance .

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Cutting boards for the binding of Surveillance.

Once more, my creative thinking wants new experiences and working with a new binding. After deliberation my choice was the tunnel book binding. But, how will it work with the content and the electronics. How to bind with electronics? ...

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Figuring out the binding cut-outs to fit the electronics.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Figuring out the binding cut-outs to fit the electronics.

When in Austin, last Fall, I met with Natalie Freed and presented my idea and needs for Surveillance. Natalie was excited and open to all the requisites for the book, keeping in mind the possibilities and limitations of the materials involved. This was a great experience and Natalie was fantastic and knowledgable.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Natalie Freed’s sample of the possibilities of electronics in artists’ books.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Natalie Freed’s sample of the possibilities of electronics in artists’ books.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Solving other dilemmas to fit size of the fake  security camera as part of the binding.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Solving other dilemmas to fit size of the fake security camera as part of the binding.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Natalie Freed working on the electronics.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Natalie Freed working on the electronics.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Natalie Freed’s finished work for  Surveillance .

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Natalie Freed’s finished work for Surveillance.


Natalie Freed works at the intersection of education, hands-on making and technology. Natalie was incredibly excited about coming up with ways to teach challenging STEM concepts through expressive crafts, especially textiles and the book arts. Natalie graduated with an M.S. from the MIT Media Lab in 2012, received her B.S. and M.S. in Computer Science with a concentration in Arts, Media and Engineering from Arizona State University, in 2009/2010. Freed moved to San Francisco in 2012 for a fellowship in the New Media Studio at the San Francisco Exploratorium. Then joined Lick-Wilmerding High School’s Technical Arts program, where she started the new Computing track and taught computer science and digital fabrication.

At this pivotal point after months of travel and other activities between our meetings, Natalie and I dovetailed our separate deliverables and the book is ready to be assembled. Oh! Wait, it’s a tunnel book binding and I require seeing through the cover to the inside pages!

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Mock-up of cover cutting for  Surveillance .

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Mock-up of cover cutting for Surveillance.

By pushing the boundaries of my work and creating a tunnel book, I had to meticulously cut all the little windows in the cover page. Another process that would take an eternity. Unable to carefully cut to my OCD standards, I researched for a creative company or artist that could precisely cut the front page, which was my next step, since smaller laser cutters would tear into the fibrous paper. 

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Third mock-up of the cover and inside pages for  Surveillance .

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Third mock-up of the cover and inside pages for Surveillance.

I fortunately found Sarah Pike from FreeFall Laser, who works remotely with clients across the country on custom laser-cutting projects. Her approach combines artistic experimentation with technological experience to conceive exceptional work and always looks forward to becoming a part of the creative team. Collaborating with Sarah was another outstanding experience. Sarah uses a state-of-the-art CO2 laser cutter to precision cut and engrave wood, paper, acrylic, fabric, and much more, up to 1/4 inch thick, to convey one's unique vision into a reality. Sarah, used custom settings that optimized my selected substrate and helped develop the finished look for Surveillance.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Sarah Pike’s laser cutting result after trial run.

© 2019 Louise Levergneux. Sarah Pike’s laser cutting result after trial run.

After 2 weeks, the job was done, and it’s waiting for pickup. Traveling in Canada at the moment and shipping the pages back to me in Ottawa, Ontario, would be astronomical in cost. Therefore, a visit to Berkshires in Massachusetts in the Fall is in the works.

FreeFall Laser was born when Sarah Pike left the safety and security of a successful academic career and jumped off the proverbial cliff to start her own business. Sarah is a practicing artist with years of experience in bridging technology and the artistry of the hand.

I’m looking forward to finishing the first copy of Surveillance in its entirety and presenting it to Library Collections.

If you have projects you are having difficulties encompassing electronics and/or precision cutting situations, I suggest working with both Natalie Freed and Sarah Pike. For me it was a genuine pleasure!

© 2019 Dale Rogers. The hatching of small Hummingbirds in my friend Dale’s backyard, Avimor, Idaho.

© 2019 Dale Rogers. The hatching of small Hummingbirds in my friend Dale’s backyard, Avimor, Idaho.