One Step Forward, Two Steps back…

An update on the work on my entry for the Flower Show. My original title was “Sprout’s Greenhouse: Revenge of the Mandrakes” and it was going to feature crazy little mandrakes running around wreaking havoc on the greenhouse from Harry Potter. I am still doing the greenhouse (as you will see below) but I am going to put less emphasis on the chaotic mandrakes (partly because I haven’t mastered the 3D design program and 3D printer I need to make them). My new title is simpler: “The Herbology Greenhouse at Hogwarts.”

What I have been working on is perfecting my skills with a laser cutting machine. I joined NextFab Studio in Philadelphia and after several classes I can now work on the laser machine (as soon as they open up again: they are moving to a new space). Laser cutting is perfect for the greenhouse because of all the windows that need to be cut in the walls and roof.

I started developing the ideas by doing a mockup in foam core board (I think a lot of us do this). This gave me a sense of the proportions and also the pieces I would need. I didn’t cut out any of the windows but just set the locations of the walls and the potting tables that I have to make. I also decided to give Professor Sprout, the Herbology instructor, an office in the corner.

I ended up designing for six 24in x 48in sheets of 1/4 inch plywood and two 12in by 24in sheets of 1/8 inch plywood. It was an amazing amount of work, all done in Adobe Illustrator. The designs had to meet the specs of the laser cutting machine as well as fit all together at the end.

Mockup of Sprout’s greenhouse and her office tucked in the corner
In Adobe Illustrator, each piece that needs to be cut is measured and drawn. The color coding indicates the order of the engraving of designs and the cuts.
Sign designs
I designed a series of signs indicating the names of the magical plants.
The Illustrator files become laser cut signs like these.
The Illustrator files become laser cut signs like these.


  1. Louise, totally love this blog! I do the foam core fit thing too. I’m going to miss doing the show this year, but watching you put yours together is enough of a fix. Where do you get your laser signs made?

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