One of the most important outcomes for our Making Social Change is that students leave the class empowered to use a variety of tools.  While our focus so far has been on digital fabrication tools – for instance, using the laser cutter to create stencils – we also want students to leave the class with proficiency in more traditional ways of making, including electric and hand tools.


After some background and safety information, including the use of PPE, we took students out in back of the Innovation Center, where they each had the opportunity to work with a miter saw, band saw, drill press, sanding station, driver/drill, radial saw, Dremel, jigsaw, reciprocating saw, and a variety of hand tools.


Some students were already proficient in using one or more tools, and they provided support and guidance for their less experienced classmates.


Students left class with basic proficiency in additional ways of making that they can employ in their final group projects, and in their collaborative class project, a prototype of a large scale, interactive public installation that will represent the social movements we’ve learned about.

Chemistry Extra Credit Chips

Dominic Green (Chemistry) and I collaborated on these General Chemistry extra credit coins, and used the laser cutter to etch and cut them.   Dominic will distribute them to students who earn extra credit in class, and then collect and tally them at the end of the semester.

Inspired by our class visit to the Rocklin Mini Maker Faire, where the bulk of our time was spent in the open sewing lab, we spent a recent session of Making Social Change creating applique quilt squares for a collective class quilt.  The Theater Arts Department loaned us seven machines to add to the one we have in the Innovation Center, and were able to borrow a few others from students and faculty so that each student would have one to work with.  Students started by selecting fabric from a beautiful trove of fabric samples (generously provided by our faculty researcher Jill Bradshaw) and used the laser cutter to cut out 12″ background pieces.

Sewing for Social Justice

We set up two ironing stations so that students could apply Mistyfuse backing, after which they cut applique shapes and words using the laser cutter (and sometimes good old fashioned scissors).


T is for Transgender

We had a few folks with sewing experience, and some with none, but students helped each other, and Diane was around to provide guidance and pointers.

U Is For Uterus

Overall a very empowering and dynamic class session! Here’s a gallery of Diane Carlson’s (Sociology) photos from the day:

MSC Soc379 10.23.17


The hardware store was blowing out these Halloween ghost-projecting LED lights for $5, so I picked up a couple, with the intent of modding them to project images of our own choosing.  After some initial hassle getting the nonstandard screws out of the housing, we were able to pull the whole thing apart, after which CJ (student) laser cut a new projection mask featuring Nova, our mascot.  Behold!

On Halloween this year, we hosted a potluck in the Innovation Center. Music, pumpkin carving, and a couple of experiments, including turning the X-Carve into a pancake machine. We went with a low tech approach, simply replacing the router with a squeeze bottle and relying on thin batter and gravity to keep things flowing.

X-Carve: Pancake Maker

We also laser etched Nova (our space bunny mascot) onto a pumpkin, which turned out surprisingly well!

Laser Pumpkin

Laser Etched Pumpkin

A couple of additional laser + fabric experiments…

Our first fire! 🙂  Here we were cutting very fine letters, and it was a little too much for the fabric to handle.


Here’s FLC’s Feminist Alliance logo on some contrasting fabric.

Feminist Alliance in Fabric

Our next step will be to try the process with fusible appliqué paper.

At the Rocklin Mini Maker Faire this past weekend, I spent a lot of time in the sewing lab, and was able to gain some confidence in working through the sewing process. Diane Carlson (Sociology) and I have been working to develop a collaborative quilting activity for our Making Social Change class, and one thing we’re really interested in is using the laser cutter to cut fabric.  As it happens, I had an appointment yesterday morning with Mark Boguski (Ceramics and Ceramic Sculpture, Sacramento City College).  Mark works in clay, and whenever he’s in the lab we end up brainstorming different ways to combine technology and other production processes traditionally associated with the studio arts; for instance, our recent experiment with multi-part stencils.  I was sharing with Mark my interest in using the laser to cut fabric, and showing him Tinkercad, and in particular its *.svg export functionality.  In the process of poking around, we found a Japanese prefecture generator, and decided to use that as the basis for our experiments.

Mark set up a few prefectures, after which we exported the file, opened it in Illustrator, made the tweaks required to prepare the file for the laser, then fired up the machine:

I’m not sure why, but I was surprised that it worked as flawlessly as it did. No scorching, no fuss, just crisp, clean, viciously accurate cuts.

Mark Makes Japan from Fabric

Here’s Nagano:

Nagano Prefecture, In Fabric

Not sure what Mark plans to do with them – we talked about collage, and about dipping various things in clay slip and then firing them – but we’ll certainly cut some fabric as part of Monday’s Making Social Change class.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a few studio artists to help them incorporate digital fabrication processes into their work, and it’s always fascinating to gain some insight into how they map various concepts from “traditional” studio arts to things like laser cutting and 3D printing.  This morning I had the opportunity to work with Mark Boguski (Professor of Ceramics and Ceramic Sculpture, Sacramento City College) on the laser cutter workflow.  I showed Mark the gallery of stenciled images created by our Making Social Change students, and after talking about things like abstraction, legibility, resolution, and the minimum detail required to communicate a particular image, we set out to create a multi-layer stencil.  Mark chose a famous image of Pete Townshend of The Who as his subject, and we used the stellar tools at to create the necessary *.svg files.  I showed Mark how to prepare the files for laser cutting using Adobe Illustrator, which mostly involves setting the lines to be cut to pure red (RGB 255,0,0), and setting the strokes to .001 (which would be “hairline” in most other software programs).

Some photos from our session…

All five images cut:

All Five Layers Cut

Spray paint colors chosen:

Five Colors Selected

Establishing a reference point:

Establishing a Reference

Spraying a layer:

Mark Painting

Finished image:



5 Layer Stencil of Pete Townshend

Mark and I learned a lot about the process, and there are some tweaks to be made, but it’s a great v1 prototype, and I’m eager to share it with our MSC students.

In Making Social Change today, we talked about Zapatistas and the Chiapas conflict, and the role of symbols and murals and art in political and social movements.  Based on social justice issues important to them, students then created stencils using Stencil Creator and cut them out of card stock using the laser cutter.  They spent the rest of the class spray painting their stencils on a makeshift gallery structure Diane Carlson (Sociology) and I created out of leftover metal shelves and an old scaffold that’s been out behind the Innovation Center for a decade or more.




F*ck the Gender Binary!


Great students, great class!