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Kate Goldsworthy & Helen Paine

Laser Welding of Textiles: A Creative Approach to Technology Through a Reflective Craft Practice

Kate Goldsworthy & Helen Paine

Affiliation: University of the Arts London (UAL) & Royal College of Art (RCA)

Keywords: technology, craft, textile finishing, laser welding, tacit knowledge, creative problem solving

Conference activity: Presentation

Project summary:

In an increasingly digital age of manufacture the role of the craft practitioner and particularly hand making processes has had to be reconsidered. There are those that would argue the depletion of goods made by hand simply negates the need for making skills in the development of new products; however, there is an emerging argument that places more value in the potential benefit of craft practice, and particularly making, to bridge between scientific knowledge and the needs of industry.

This paper calls upon the research of Dr. Kate Goldsworthy and Helen Paine, who have utilised laser-welding equipment, to explore the benefits of a ‘craft approach’ in assisting the development of an emerging technology, for decorative and functional textile finishing applications. Goldsworthy first worked with the technology in 2008 during her doctoral research, and has used it to develop unique surface finishes for textiles that preserve material purity and can be recycled within a closed-loop system. The inventors of the technology, TWI, fund Paine’s current doctoral research, and wrote the original brief for the project that is essentially technology driven; from which Paine has chosen to investigate new aesthetic and functional opportunities for stretch textiles offered by the equipment.

Despite the disparate contexts for the research of Goldsworthy and Paine, their shared background in textile design has led them both to follow a familiar practice-led approach. In this unified approach they have been able to collectively recognise the benefits of working in a hands-on way with the technology. This paper will explore techniques undertaken by both researchers during their investigations and share their insights from working with the laser welding equipment, made available to them by TWI. More widely, the paper will demonstrate the benefit of an intuitive craft approach in the development of an emerging technology.


Harrod, T., 2007. “Otherwise Unobtainable: The Applied Arts and the Politics and Poetics of Digital Technology” in NeoCraft: Modernity and the Crafts, ed. S. Alfoldy, The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Canada, pp. 225-239.

Jones, I. & Patil, A., 2013. “Laser seaming of fabrics” in Joining Textiles: Principles and Applications, eds. I. Jones and G.K. Stylios, Woodhead Publishing, Cambridge, pp. 398-434.

A question that arises from your project: To what extent do digital technologies restrict freedom and playfulness in design?

Full paper

Goldsworthy, K. & Paine, H., (2014). Laser Welding Textiles: A Creative Approach to Technology through a Reflective Craft Practice. In K. Bunnell & J. Marshall (Eds.), All Makers Now: Craft Values in 21st Century Production, International Conference Proceedings, Autonomatic Research Group, Falmouth University, 10/11 July 2014 (pp. 45 – 51). Falmouth University, ISBN 978-0-9544187-9-3