• The Disruptive Designer

Laser Cutting Tailored Art Piece

This exploratory research aimed to determine what would happen if a large 2D/3D reworked tailored jacket was laser cut all over. I was keen to find out:

  • Is it possible to laser cut an object of differing elevations, what are the difficulties and potentials?

  • How would the individual materials react to the laser cutter, would they burn, melt, set fire etc

  • Would the outcome be aesthetically pleasing or a complete mess.

The jacket artefact was placed on the cutter with the laser collaborated to the highest elevation to avoid damaging the laser through collision. The laser is attached to a bar of fixed height and is able to move left/right and forward and backward. The height is controlled by lowering and raising the bed on which the object sits on. The top right picture shows me pressing the button to change the bed height. The height of the bed can be altered during lasering.


One of the main problems encountered was the relationship between the laser and the elevated areas of the object. The laser was "focused" to allow for optimum image quality, however given the the height differences of the object it resulted in areas being lasered and not lasered. In some areas a gradient effect was visable however most of the time it was either lasered or not lasered as seen in the above images. The affect on the objects different fabric types was quite surprising with some fabrics producing some very interesting results. Areas that have potential for further exploration:

  • Fused chest felt

  • Pocket lining

  • lining

  • Canvas

Lasering over multiple cloths/materials simalatenously breaks up the image further as the laser burns (etches) some materials more so than others, causing a change in tonal colour.

Due the highest elevation of the object having a direct relationship on the laser focus, and given on this object the highest object was only on a specific area it would have resutled in only a small area of the object being actually lasered with the rest main left unetched. Some faded areas would be visible but limited to those on the higher elevations. Given this situation I decided in order to make the most of the sample, to experiment further with the manual raising and lowering of the bed during lasering. This was carried out through operator "designer" observation and decision making on when to raise and lower the bed. My decision making was based on trying to get the distance between the laser and cloth at the optimum focused distance, through my visual interpretation. The laser could be stopped and started at any point and the lid of the cutter raised. This allowed the laser to be refocused using a specially made tool. However, this would involve stop starting continuously through the laser cutting process and significantly impacting productivity. Several times this action was implemented, primarily to confirm my judgement of distance.

Several thoughts and questions can be raised at this point:

  • What is the relationship between designer, operator and technology?

  • To what extent does technology play in the design process?

  • The design process and creative intersections.

  • How important is spontaneity in the design process?

  • How can happy mistakes inform design thinking and risk taking?

  • How can a designer exploit the limitations of technology?

  • Where does/can technology sit within the design process?

Next Stage:

I plan to create another tailored art piece using the chest canvas's only (based on the potential noted above). I am keen to replace the William Morris image with one of my own. My hope is that the outcome is aesthetically pleasing and can be further manipulated afterwards. I am planning to explore quilting in historical military tailoring and this could potentially have a connection with the above.