Moving Masterpieces

By Glowforge

Challenge: Make a statement with moving artwork.

Create a kinetic or moving sculpture that is powered by a form of motion such as an audience member, a simple machine, wind, or water and effectively communicates a message to the viewer.

Facilitation Guide


Kinetic sculptures have their roots in the early 20th century, when pioneering artists like Naum Gabo and Alexandre Calder began incorporating movement into their artistic designs. Their innovative pieces range from mesmerizing whirligigs to deceptively complex mobiles. Modern kinetic artists like Theo Jansen or David C. Roy, showcase their art in myriad forms that include compact desktop pieces, walking beast-like sculptures, and complex wall-hanging pieces.

If you can dream it, you can build it, and make it move, with Glowforge! Students at the Cornish College of the Arts have discovered that Glowforge is the ideal tool for creating kinetic sculptures. With precision cutting, your Glowforge can enhance the scale and detail of your joinery techniques, offering more options for connecting and moving pieces of your artwork.


Research and explore options for kinetic sculpture design. Consider the following:

  • What are some examples of kinetic sculptures that you find interesting?
  • How do artists integrate movement into their designs?
  • What is joinery? How do artists incorporate it into their works?
  • What idea or theme will your sculpture convey?
  • How can Glowforge help bring your kinetic sculpture to life?
  • Do you plan to design alone or with a team?

Explore Tip

For additional joinery ideas, explore the Glowforge Community forum or the Joinery: Joints for Laser Cut Assemblies that features several joinery options and extra resources.

Reflect and Review

Think about the research you did for your kinetic sculpture design.

  • What did you learn about adding movement to artwork?
  • What techniques or design elements do you plan to use as you create your sculpture?

Are there any other resources or techniques that would be helpful to explore before starting to brainstorm your own design?


Brainstorm and experiment with different techniques and design ideas for your print. Think of as many techniques or ideas as you can! You don’t need to worry about whether they’re good or bad ideas — just get creative! Consider:

  • What techniques will you incorporate into your design to add movement to your sculpture?
  • How might you make your sculpture interactive?
  • What statement will your artwork make? How will you convey the idea to your audience?
  • How could you use tools such as the Glowforge App or other design software to help create your sculpture’s movement and joinery elements?
  • What additional information do you need prior to designing your sculpture?

Ideate Tip

You can cut and engrave drawings and sketches using Glowforge’s trace feature! This allows you to create hand drawn elements of your design that help communicate your statement to an audience. Designs uploaded using this feature can be combined with other elements in the Glowforge App to enhance your sculpture design.

Reflect and Review

At this point, you probably have many ideas for your kinetic sculpture. Take a moment to reflect on the techniques and ideas you brainstormed.

  • Are any of your ideas similar and can be grouped together?
  • Do any of your ideas stand out as favorites? Which ideas might you disregard?

Are there any gaps in your brainstorming ideas that you want to consider before creating your final design? You might want to connect with a peer to review notes & research together.


Review the ideas you brainstormed and select one or two that you would like to develop further by creating sketches or digital mockups. Consider the following:

  • What digital tools or media will you use to create a unique sculpture design that incorporates movement?

  • What tools and materials do you need to develop your design idea(s) using your Glowforge?

  • How might you connect the different pieces together to create movement? How might different materials impact how these pieces function?

  • What force will drive the movement of your sculpture?

Design Tip

The Glowforge App can cut or engrave from SVG files. Design your joinery in CAD software and then follow these steps for tips on exporting your design as an SVG file.

Reflect and Review

Now that you have spent time developing your sculpture design, take a moment to reflect on the progress of your design.

  • Does your sculpture incorporate movement?
  • How does your sculpture design convey your intended message or statement?
  • Do you have the tools and materials you’ll need to create your design?

Consider if you would like to revisit your design further to change anything before moving onto the Prototype stage where you will create and test a finalized design.


Select one fully developed design. Using your Glowforge, create a prototype of your design using appropriate materials. Consider the following:

  • How long will your design take to print and create? How long will it take to assemble the pieces?
  • Could you resize different components or pieces of your joinery elements to improve the sculpture’s movement?
  • What are the pros and cons of using different materials and techniques? What materials will you use to achieve your desired design and movement?

Prototype Tip

Scaling your pieces of your design, especially in more complex projects, can save you time. Click on the Ruler tool in the Glowforge App to bring up a menu for changing the scale of an item. Review the Glowforge Community Forum for more tips and tricks for scaling designs.

Reflect and Review

Take a moment to reflect on the prototypes you created and techniques tested during this stage.

  • What do you notice about the techniques you used to add movement to your design?
  • How did the materials that you used impact the kinetic aspects of your design?
  • What might you want to revisit about your design?

Consider if there are any previous stages you might want to go back to in order to rethink any part of your design before moving on to the Evaluation stage.


Now that you’ve created, assembled, and tested your prototype, it’s time for feedback. Here are some sample questions to ask your peers in order to get useful and actionable feedback:

  • Does your final design express your statement as you intended?
  • Does your design move as you planned?
  • How did adding kinetic elements enhance your final piece? In what ways, if any, does your audience interact with the sculpture?
  • How did your use of digital tools enhance your final sculpture?
  • How can you further improve and refine your design?

Evaluate Tip

Record a video of yourself demonstrating your kinetic sculpture for your intended audience. Post the video on an interactive whiteboard, such as Padlet, or video discussion platform, such as Microsoft Flip, to receive feedback on specific design elements or to expand your feedback audience.

Reflect and Review

When reviewing the feedback you received, consider:

  • What aspects of your sculpture do you need to revisit or adjust?
  • Are there stages in the design process that you would like to return to in order to make these adjustments?

Once you have completed and finalized your design, it’s time to share it with a larger audience!

Share your students' creations on social media! Post your photos and use the hashtag #GlowforgeEDU and tag us @glowforge for the chance to be featured.