1.4; Sampling: Incremental Pleats

Inspired by the simplicity of Kyyro Quinn’s designs I began my exploration of Incremental Pleats using plain, white copy paper.

SAMPLE 1.4.1

The pleats are the same distance apart but get incrementally larger.


This sample is clean and crisp, the sharp edges are well defined. I like the simplicity, complimented by the use of light and shadow.

SAMPLE 1.4.2

The same pleats as previous sample have been recreated, this time the v-shapes have been glued together, more like a pin-tuck than a pleat.

The photographs above show how the addition of a directed light source can make a dramatic difference.This sample is very similar to 1.4.2 but gluing the pleats together has made it even more simple. I like the regimental nature of these verticals, combining regular spacing with incremental growth creates a formality that conversely makes me want to run my fingers across the edges (much like a child has to run a stick along railings!)

SAMPLE 1.4.3

This time the pleats remain the same height but the space between them grows incrementally longer.

I like this sample less that those before it. Since the pleats remain the same height there is less drama, especially as they get further and further apart. I do not experience the same desire to reach out and touch it.

What I do like is that it reminds me of  Jiri Kolar’s Flowers of Evil ‘prollages’. When I saw these at the Tate Modern I enjoyed the interactive dance we shared. I stepped one way then the other, I tilted my head from side to side, I moved forward and then back again, it was a whole body experience. It might be good to explore how pleating could be used to fracture a photograph?


I used the method for recording the folds as suggested by the course-notes (mountains in green, valleys in red), although I considered using broken lines of a variety of thickness, shape and colour as found in maps and dress making patterns.

As I recorded the samples above, I noticed the grids were similar to the broad horizontal bands seen in Agnes Martin’s paintings.(You can see a good overview of her work here). Even though I preferred the first sample, the two dimensional representation of the third attracted me more.

Having added shadow to the 3-D samples using directed light, I began to wonder: What if you could adhere the tonal graduation to the sample and unfold it? Obviously impossible but I used this idea to produce the Martin style composition (below right). I used pencil to record the gradation of shade.

At this stage I found that the drawings I made were more interesting and important to me than the three-dimensional samples. I adore Agnes Martin’s work for it’s regularity and stillness, I really wanted to develop these ideas my trying gouache, collage or stitch but was very aware I was at such an early stage of sampling. I may well return to this idea of unfolding shadow to create a flat painting.

SAMPLE 1.4.4

I was interested to discover how a reflective material would react to being folded so light would bounce from one surface to another so I tried pleating kitchen foil.


The result  was not as exciting as I thought it would be, I was expecting a complicated image like a Hall of Mirrors or a multi-faceted gem stone. Perhaps kitchen foil is not shiny or reflective enough? The result is dull, I wish I could fold a mirror. Or glass… What I did discover was a manipulating kitchen foil is accompanied by a rather satisfying crunchy sound which made me wonder if I was being to rigid with it, maybe it would respond better to crumpling or twisting?

SAMPLE 1.4.5 (a) & (b) 

(a) Tracing paper was chosen to investigate the effect of pleats in a translucent material.

I felt that I didn’t learn much from this sample, it is only marginally different from the white copy paper. It wasn’t until I tried to record the sample with a photograph that I realised the effect could be enhanced by using a contrasting colour as a background. The incremental widening of the pleats means each one folds progressively further and further over the next. In some places the tracing paper is of single thickness, then doubled, eventually there are four layers. This effects the transparency of the paper, creating light/dark stripes. Subtle but interesting.

(b) As I tidied the edges of Sample 1.4.5 (a) I happened to notice the trimmings curled up on the table.

This sample occurred quite by chance and because of this does not carry the same rigidity of the earlier ones. In this case the sample is much lighter, perhaps even whimsical. I like the delicate way the very thin slices form curves against the background. The curl sits in opposition to the tightly regimented creases and folds.

Again, adding a light source adds to the sample, I like the way the pleats prevent as much light coming through as it does in the straight sections. The shadows add another dimension.


I used the camera to record the arrangement, it seems an obvious way to portray the three-dimensional qualities. I considered sticking the slithers down but faced the difficulty of securing a horizontal to a vertical. Eventually I drew the composition in black pen.


It seems disappointing to lose the three-dimensional quality of the sample drawing it in such simple terms, but I actually quite like the simple lines. They remind me of cogs and wheels. I think there would definitely be mileage in developing this, perhaps as a print? Maybe I could use it in a later exercise: embossing or scratching?

SAMPLE 1.4.6

As I manipulated both the kitchen foil and tracing paper in quite a controlled manner I sense the need for chaos. The repetitive motion of folding and pleating suddenly made me want to crumple, not in frustration or anger but I wanted to FEEL the whole surface. The resulting paper was loosely pleated rather than tightly pressed.

Since I allowed the crumpled paper to dictate the form I made, it looks more organic. The texture of the paper softens the edges but the weight of the paper helps it maintain its solidity and shape. I like the dichotomy of the hard metal paper clips holding the soft folds together. This sample is very tactile, the deep folds look inviting yet the the colour suggests purity and chasteness. 


The pen and ink drawing I made of the sample is disappointing, I think the angles are all wrong but the process of looking and drawing did help me to understand the shape better. Incidentally, I also discovered the joys of Quink, I love the softness that can be achieved by adding water and the way the black splits into orange and blue .


This sample reminded me of the billowing folds of fabric that I had seen in photographs of Issey Miyake clothing. What I like about the images (you will need to scroll down, toward bottom of linked page) is that the models are often holding dynamic poses and the soft, loose clothes form dramatic shapes around them. To form these shapes as a sculpture would require a strong or reinforced material, yet photography captures a single moment of movement created by lightweight, pleated polyester. This inspired me to use the same drawing technique to record some of the images.


This was probably one of the better drawings, they were very small and fast and I think that helps to express the speed of motion in a static image. I am pleased I discovered this application of Quink, I think it is something I can use more often.

SAMPLES 1.4.7 (a), (b) & (c)

After working with such malleable materials I felt I needed to explore a stronger, firmer surface that I could work against rather than with. I selected this thick cardboard (the back of an old sketchbook) largely because the colour and non-woven structure reminded me of Kyyro Quinn’s application of felt. Obviously the cardboard would respond to folding in a very different way to felt.

(a) Scoring and folding the pleats still resulted in surface distress. The cracks and creases can be clearly seen in the photograph (below right)

I find the cracks and creases endear me to this sample. There is something interesting about a strong material bearing scars and revealing its limitations. This would be a good concept to explore on a deeper level.

(b) I tried distressing the cardboard further by soaking the surface with ink and water. I hoped the ink would highlight the damage.

I like the idea of a strong material bearing its wounds, but unfortunately, this didn’t work out. Firstly the ink was too thick and just made the sample very black. Once diluted, it looked a bit ‘wishy-washy’. Perhaps the cardboard remains too intact to portray the idea?

(c) Instead of sharp pleats, I made soft curves that contrasted with the straight falt spaces between. The arches need to be secured to stop the sample falling flat, so I punched holes and used a black linen thread to stitch the channels.

I found that as rigid an methodical as I am, I didn’t mind the crossover of exercise here (there are close links to Exercise 5.1 &5.2) I see this combination of techniques as inevitable.

The separation of the cardboard into layers under the arched areas surprised me. It also seemed that the cardboard preferred to be rolled one way rather than the other. Is this because of the direction the holes were punched? Does the card have a wrong/right side? (both looked and felt the same). I was able to exploit the natural bend by folding against it, creating more distress, as I did this I noticed the card became softer and more pliable, although I’m sure there is a limit to this.


I am really pleased with this sample, I finally felt like I had created something that was ‘my own’. Is this moment of recognition a part of developing a style of my own? 

I like the regularity of the incremental spacing and the stitching which is offset by the sense of movement created by the loose threads. The sample can be stood on end and it naturally coils upon itself, it appears to be organically growing. It can also be forced to curl in the opposite direction where the stitching becomes the key feature and the channels are obscured from view.

The sample makes me think about towers and castles but also corsetry and life-jackets. I would love to revisit this idea of being strong and upright, maybe straight-laced and bound in combination with earlier thoughts about visible stress and damage. 


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