Unlike children today, when I think of my childhood, paper played a crucial role in my early days. Aside from drawing on paper, I collected paper bookmarks, writing paper, and stickers; I dressed up paper dolls with my classmates after school; I did origami and paper cutouts; I learned calligraphy and practised on translucent paper; I made birthday cards for my parents… It would be fair to say that paper dominated my childhood.
But like most people these day, I am spending more time in front of the computer, and I sorely miss the days of touching and playing with paper. It is not easy to find a course that focuses on paper art (and I don’t mean origami or pop up books), yet I came across a Paper art course at the The Camden college and I quickly signed up for it. I loved it.
Years ago, I bought paper artist Peter Jackson‘s book ‘Folding techniques for designers’, and I have tried (and failed) to create some paper structures from the book. I have also applied some of the techniques onto textiles with some interesting results. Hence it was encouraging to know that our tutor/designer/artist Thomas Prendeville also used this book as a reference for the class.
Manipulating textiles using folded paper moulds is fun too
One of the most basic techniques is learning to score, which means creating a crease in the paper so that it can be folded easily. Thomas suggested using a ‘dead’ pen and a metal ruler to score lines on the paper. Another important point to remember is the rule of mountain (high) and valley (low), which applies to everything we fold. Folding straight lines are not difficult, but patience is required if you are folding larger pieces. And it becomes more challenging when you fold curves, so the weight of the paper has to be considered.
Paper folding feels like meditation to me. It is a meditative practice and you cannot rush it. Yet when you see the results, you would appreciate all the time and effort that has been put into it. Also, the possibilities are endless, and you can certainly apply the skills onto other materials like textiles and metal.
Architects like Thomas Heatherwick often applies paper folding techniques in his architectural work, e.g. the vents for a substation cooling system at Paternoster Square in London (2009) was derived from a piece of A4 paper. And for decades, Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake has applied the pleating techniques in his collections. He invented the ‘garment pleating technique’ back in the 80s and launched the Pleats Please collection in 1994, which is consisted of light, stretchable and wrinkle-proof garments for all shapes and sizes. In recent years, Miyake and his Reality Lab. team also launched IN-EI, an innovative lighting line produced by Italian lighting company Artemide.
It always amaze me to see a flat piece of paper being transformed into a sculptural piece. I also love the shadow and light created by the ‘mountains and valleys’, which look beautiful when being photographed up close.
After scoring and folding for a few hours a week (plus homework time), we all improved and became quicker by the end of the course. Meanwhile, Thomas was keen to get us to make larger duplicates so that we could create hanging sculptures by connecting mutiple pieces together. Before I knew it, my place was filled with paper sculptures!
I thoroughly enjoyed the course and would love to carry on folding or apply the techniques elsewhere. Now all I need is paper, time, and a large studio.
Watch this space.
Other interesting paper artists:
Richard Sweeney – an English paper artist who creates large sculptural paper installations. He has also published books on the subject.
Fung + Bedford studio – I became acquainted with Angela Fung at a Christmas design fair. Angela is a paper artist and jewellery designer who makes origami-inspired jewellery and large scale architectural paper sculptures for many U.K. art institutions.
Foldability – a London based design studio run by Kyla McCallum, a set designer and paper artist who has been working with origami for over 10 years. She also sells paper art and lighting on her website.
Aditi Anuj – a textile designer from Mumbai not only produces large-scale paper sculptural installations, but she also conducts workshop and collaborates with other artists.