Laser etching in fur

Creating 3D textures with sophisticated laser etching in fur

Laser etching in fur. Let me start saying that “fur” is the most versatile and luxurious fashion fabric in the world because it has volume, and it is possible to sculpt this volume even further by using methods to alter the hair length such as laser etching.

Everyone has seen sheared or plucked fur, which removes the longer guard hairs of the pelt and reveals the soft, downy fur underneath. This process can make a coarser, shaggy skin of beaver or nutria into a more smooth and refined coat (while also reducing bulkiness) or it can bring out new, velvety textures in a mink coat.

Laser etching in fur is a technique that can be used to take advantage of the sheared pelt by adding patterns, textures and 3D effects. It is a very precise technique but it must be used with great care. This is because there are many different ways to calibrate the laser machine to make the correct effect.

It is possible to etch onto either the leather side or onto the fur side. In my experience, the design on the leather side must be carefully considered and the power of the laser adjusted so that the skin is not seared. However, on the fur side, there is more freedom for design, as the depth of the underwool will protect the leather underneath from the strength of the laser.

First, you create a digital design to upload to the laser machine. This type of file is called a vector image and looks somewhat like a silhouette. Specific instructions in this image will change the strength of the laser.

When I tried this technique, the machine was set up to cut straight through any line on the image that was coloured red. This is more ideal for fabrics or plain leather to create a filigree effect.

In the case of laser etching in fur, however, a black, fully shaded area on the digital image will instead etch the surface at maximum strength without cutting a hole. Different shades of grey will make the laser less powerful.

Can you see how this can be used to make a design with different depths? In sculpture, such an effect is called ‘relief’, and can be used to make an effect of different lengths in fur, or to make a textured design fade out smoothly.

Once the particles are all brushed away, the design can reveal new colours depending on the different tones in the fur. When I tried this technique on bleached nutria, the laser etching revealed a darker base to the underwool. However, at Gliagias Furs in Kastoria, you can see that the technique reveals the very white underwool.

On my course, it was forbidden to use synthetic materials in the machine. Fake fur in the laser etching machine is likely to melt, and fake leather/PVC type materials would not only destroy and corrode the machine, but also release deadly chlorine gas when etched!

This makes the technique one of many that is ultimately best for real fur, and truly expands the surface design options of this wonderful material.

I hope to see laser etching in many more patterns in both garments and fur interior design!

Emilie Follow me on Instagram 

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