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Gadget of the Week: This gadget makes the cut

Arts and crafts will never be the same again, once you’ve tried out the Cricut Explore Air 2, literally the cutting edge of D-I-Y, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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What is it?

The Cricut Explore Air 2 is a personal Do-It-Yourself cutting machine that can cut over 100 different types of materials, from vinyl to foil and poster board. Described as “the perfect entry point to the world of precision crafting”, it is a little less than that but also somewhat more.

As an entry point, it still requires extensive reading of manuals, following instructions, and exploring menu options, functions and commands before one can get stuck in. Once underway, however, it is so much more than just an entry point. It allows one to make custom stickers and greeting cards, personalised gifts and decor, and custom clothing.

The machine comes with a fine point blade and housing, a 12”x12” adhesive cutting mat, a black fine point pen, Sample cardstock, and access to Circuit’s Design Space, which provides both design software and numerous templates and images. One can also create and upload one’s own images, via computer, tablet or smartphone. The paid-for subscription version of the service includes a library of more than 100,000 images and fonts.

It’s compatible with Windows, Mac, Android and iOS, and Bluetooth connectivity allows one to connect wirelessly. With the Cricut connected – you can plug it in via USB as well – one essentially guides the materials while the system does the rest with blade and pen. We tried it out with vinyl, cardstock and an iron-on, and could not fault it.

Veteran crafts creator and trainer Jowilna Nolte took us through the Cricut’s paces, showing how effortless it can be once one knows where to go and, more important, what one is capable of doing.

“It is a temperamental machine, so it does need a bit of fiddling, but it’s a lovely entry-level model,” she says. “It’s ideal for mums or for anybody who wants to start a small business in terms of mass-producing iron-on cutouts for T-shirts, maybe for craft markets, making stickers, that kind of thing.”

It comes into its own when you bring in accessories, such as the Cricut Ultimate Fine Point Pen Set and the Cricut Infusible Ink set, each with 30 different coloured points. Vinyl, Iron-ons and Transfer Tape add to its versatility – but also to its cost. All of these can be bought from arts and crafts stores or online.

This, quite literally, is the cutting edge of DIY.

How much is it?

Recommended retail price of R4999, but spotted on Takealot for R3999.

Why should you care?

For many people, scrapbooking is often an entry point into arts and crafts, but also an appetiser for getting into more involved crafting activity. It is hard to take such creativity to higher levels without the right tools or suitable support. Cricut provides the tool through the likes of the Explore Air 2 – but also the community. Numerous groups have emerged on social media to share tips, ask for help and share projects and inspiration, eventually becoming close-knit communities of crafters, makers and DIYers.

Biggest negatives

  • You need the equivalent of a training course to get the full benefit – or at least someone to hold one’s hand through the early stages.
  • While it can be used out of the box, this is limited, It requires a range of accessories and material for it to become truly useful.
  • It’s an expensive hobby.

Biggest positives

  • Unleashes creativity for the average user in ways that were rarely possible in the manual, offline world
  • Precision of the device can take one’s crafting ability to a professional level.
  • One device combines numerous machines into one.
  • The versatility of materials and designs it handles is astonishing.
  • It’s not just an entry point to crafting, but also to entire categories of home businesses.

* Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee

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