BY PAMELA KEECH
When you open Moda Industria’s website, you might think you’re looking at a hot design company in New York or San Francisco. It’s really the work of just one woman, Lucia Bennett, who is busy on Bloomington’s west side designing her socks off.
“I love to design,” says Bennett, 43, whose self-described styles include “classic period designs, urban steampunk, and gothic.” She found the perfect tool to realize her vision, and it’s an uncommon one. An IU fine arts graduate, she had 20 years of graphic design behind her when she started working for a waterjet-cutting business. She quickly mastered the technology and has made it her own, producing signs, home decor, jewelry, and handbags as fast as she can imagine them.
The waterjet cutter consists of a stationary platform, a moving nozzle that shoots a jet of water, and a computer. It cuts like natural water erosion, only much faster. “Basically it uses high-pressure water and an abrasive to cut through everything,” says Bennett. “Aluminum to wood to glass to leather, limestone, marble, and steel—up to eight inches thick.”
The jet is computer directed and can cut both straight and curved lines. “Like a giant Etch A Sketch,” she explains. Bennett draws a design by hand, then scans it into a graphics program. A dot (technically, a vector point) is placed on each line whenever it changes direction. The jet simply follows the dots. “I’m not limited to rectilinear geometry, so I can do all kinds of weird cuts,” she says.
Custom signs and house numbers are a cinch. The waterjet’s 6-foot-by-20-foot platform allows her to cut large pieces for wall art, furniture, or garden embellishment. She offers 30 custom finishes.
Moda Industria became a stand-alone business in September but still shares workspace and the waterjet with a parent company. Sales are online only. “My ultimate goal is to have my own place,” Bennett says, “part retail store, part workshop, so I can sell directly. I’m hoping 2012 will be the magic year.”
See the Moda Industria designs at modaindustria.com. For more information or a studio tour, call 606-7185.