Atelier Découpage Laser & Cuir

Together with the fablab DefkoAk Niëp based in the Kër Thiossane residency in Dakar, Laurent Malys and I developed a workshop exploring the benefits of laser cutting technologies and design methods for supporting the local leather craft.

The fablab DefkoAk Niëp wished to show how traditions, CNC machines and know-how can complement each other, in this case leatherwork.

The workshop took place over two weeks with a dozen participants who had a wide variety of knowledge, working with leather, as shoemakers, craftspeople and artists. Many of them had no computing experience. The 2 weeks workshops were structured around several pedagogical points:
presenting the theme, getting to know participants and instructors, showing a broad variety of examples, first spontaneous test, various exercises to work on creativity in volume (such as origamis, drawings in nature...), creating files on Inkscape, using generative design possibilities, the various uses of the laser cutter and necessary precautions, choice of materials, constraints of working with leather and of lasercutting leather (the smell!), knowledge exchange (students become the instructors in shoe-making, visits to local craft areas), iterations, reflections and final public exhibition.
One of the highlights was a group visit to Ngaye-Mehké, about 3 hours-drive north of Dakar, which is a highly reputed town for traditional leather crafts in Senegal and in particular for shoemaking.
It was also an opportunity for us to help with calibrating the lab's laser cutter for which Kevin Hinz's collaboration was important.

Laurent wrote and compiled a larger web documentation on the atelier (in French).

Info & Credits


Joëlle Bitton & Laurent Malys


Fablab DefkoAk Niëp, Dakar


Kër Thiossane, Dakar


July 2017