42 petal flower knot
80 pointed star knot
Most of my knots start with a lot of erasing. In fact it’s mostly erasing…
I choose a starting point, like a number of points or petals, and start drawing shapes, like 7 five pointed stars or 5 eights or 4 seventeens. You get the idea…
Then comes the process of what I call solving the knot. I break and connect lines in a variety of ways until I can get the line to be a single continuous loop. It’s a lot of trial and error.
That’s what all those little tick marks are; I make them when I’m checking to see if I’ve passed through every point.
After that it’s just a series of finishing steps to give the line weight, and add in all the overs and unders…
Then I re-draw the knot on the computer. It’s almost like starting the process all over again.
First I trace the actual drawing, from point to point, creating vectors that follow the design all the way around. This is a good way to confirm that it is indeed a single loop.
Eventually I have a file that I can send to the laser to cut.
I really enjoy the whole toasted wood aesthetic, and I love seeing my knots in what I call lattice form, all cut out from a piece of wood. It’s a lot more work for the laser, making all those cuts, but so worth it.
Since I started playing with a laser, I have created vector files for many of my knots. Now that I have this tool at my disposal, my decades of sketchbooks have become a veritable archive to draw upon. So many designs have found new forms after sitting for twelve or twenty years, just waiting for the right time, or rather, the right tool.
In the course of re-drawing my exsisting patterns, it has occurred to me that I could actually compose them on the computer.
My approach to drawing digitally involves tens of thousands of clicks, which is not dissimilar to my tried and true process of drawing and mostly erasing, and working the lines out on the page.
On the computer, I can click somewhere, and I have made a point, or a “node.” Then I click to make the next node and I get a nice straight line snapped between them.
I can move those nodes around anywhere, manipulating them endlessly.
Following this process I can create the same kind of structure that I described for composing on paper, only much faster.
Being able to compose straight lines on the computer was the first step. Honestly, it was a big step to adjust the “rules” I had created for my knots over many years.
In April of 2023, I realized that I could use a circular array function to create a framework from other shapes.
Specifically, by drawing one petal, I can repeat that shape to give myself a framework of any number of petals.
This 87 petal flower that I made for my Dad’s 87th birthday was a breakthrough piece.
In the following months I designed a 48, 46, 69, another 46 (on a 69 petal framework,) a 70, a 40 on a 64, a 128, a 77, an 88, a 25, a 75, a 57, and another 57 on a 114 using this new technique.
When I recall that my hand drawn 100 petal flower took two and a half weeks to compose on paper, and compare that to the 87 which took ten hours, I feel it is worth it. Even though it still feels like cheating.
In fact, simply “solving” the 87 petal flower knot took about ten hours, but that was only the initial step of the design work.
It took another twenty hours to create a file for the laser to cut. That part involves editing out all the crossovers to make the lattice version.
First I deleted 4292 intersection segments in one direction using a very convenient trim tool. I merely have to hover over a segment and hit the T key and it trims that line back to the next line crossing it.
Then I added 8584 nodes to isolate the remaining segments by pressing the I key while hovering over where I want to insert a node. Then I can use the D key to delete the other 4292 segments.
Finally, I join those 8584 nodes together so that the laser will cut them out as closed shapes. Otherwise it will cut them out of order.
Especially with these newer designs that take so many precise movements, there is a compounding error resulting from the limitations of the machine. It is not a huge amount of slop, but when I tell the laser to cut too many moves at once, that error becomes visible.
And if I don’t close the cut out shapes, they won’t line up in the end.
So 8584 more clicks it is!