Week 3: Mirror Jigsaw Puzzle


Create something using the laser cutter, more than just a simple 2D cutout or etching.

Inspiration & Considerations
I struggled through my initial idea for this week’s project. Midway through I realized that I was in over my head with too little time to waste. Fortunately, I had a backup plan that would still help me accomplish my main goals of learning Adobe Illustrator and the laser cutter: a mirror jigsaw puzzle--never solve the same puzzle twice! A quick search revealed that this was nothing new, but as a novice Illustrator user it posed a good challenge.

The back story (and project notes for future Ellen): A good friend of mine is about to give birth to her first child, and I originally considered constructing a color subtraction mobile with moving panels of transparent pink (2085 FL), yellow (2208), and blue (2424) acrylic pieces from Canal Plastics. Acrylic sheets are not cheap, and when I remembered that I had several pieces of mirror acrylic at home from another project, I decided to work with those. Confession: I’m not particularly fond of mobiles, but I enjoy the shadows cast when activated with directed light. I tentatively went ahead with the idea anyway, found a tutorial, and started gathering supplies, such as 16 and 18 gauge steel galvanized wire, fishing swivels, weights, pliers, wire cutters, and acrylic paint. I remembered an inspiring Alexander Calder exhibit from a few years ago and jumped into the process without a final vision. This mistake cost me an understanding what the assembly process would entail. Part of the lesson for me this week was understanding when to recalibrate in light of learning unforeseen skills within the given time constraints.

Materials & Tools
Silver Mirror Acrylic, 9" x 9" Sheet at 1/8" Thickness
Painter's Tape
Band Saw
50 Watt Epilog Laser Cutter
Computer with Adobe Illustrator


I love brainstorming ideas, and it's easy for me to get carried away by them. Sometimes that provides a great advantage, except when I underestimate the amount of time needed to follow through. I still consider mobile making a fun problem to solve, but at this early point in time at ITP, I'm much better served by my new understanding of Illustrator. I now know my way around drawing and shape building, and in fact, I’m much more proud of that accomplishment than learning how to use the laser cutter. For short term projects, however, advice to myself remains best to form a clear picture of what I'm making before I start.

Additional Resources
Jeff Witchel's Puzzle Piece Design with Illustrator and Photoshop
Geordi H's 10 Tips and Tricks for Laser Engraving and Cutting