Recreating the Bamboo Letter Fold as a yarn wrap was one way to incorporate alternatives to paper. I continued to seek other possible materials but overall I was disappointed by the samples at this stage: I didn’t really achieve the delicacy I was looking for.
Looking back at the pleating exercises in Part 1, I recognised that my samples that included handwritten text were now particularly relevant because the Bamboo Fold is often used for letters. I decided to use tracing paper as an alternative to copy paper, having learned that its translucency offers an attractive means of distortion, revealing multiple layers at once.
The sample (right) just doesn’t work, the pen selected isn’t the right scale for the paper. Compared to the original sample (left) which has a spiky delicacy, the letter fold appears heavy handed and crude. In addition to the problems with the lettering, I found the Bamboo Fold has too many layers, the crisp translucency is lost, the hidden layers are too dense.
In another sample I tried to exploit the opaque white lines that can be achieved when tracing paper is folded and unfolded. I used Paul Jackson’s paper division technique to make linear stripes and then completed the Bamboo Fold. This has more of the elegance I was looking for but felt rather boring, it also bore no relation to printing.
I was able to push the scale of the sampling by folding a large piece of cellophane (from a bouquet of flowers). I learned that some of the issues I was having in the previous samples, with the layers being too dense, were actually related to the size of the material.
The bouquet cellophane actually proved a useful substrate, (as long as I handled it gently, it is prone to tearing). It had an slippery bouncy uncooperative quality that suggested the need for tape or stitch to secure the folds. I was pleased with the addition of machine stitch as I avoided the tendency to be too accurate and also left some areas unstitched. Printing with the sample was disappointing but gave me time to consider the abstract shapes that were developing.
Partly inspired by stitches in cellophane and partly by a scrap of parcel tape with fine threads embedded into it, I experimented with latex and yarn.
I had hoped that encasing the strands of yarn in layers of latex would produce a sheer material with ‘floating’ stripes that could be manipulated by folding. I chose Double Knit yarn as I thought it would create ridges that could be printed afterwards. The resulting material is exciting but unsuited to the Bamboo Fold, yet again, I had the scale wrong. I either needed to make a much larger piece or reduce the thickness of the yarn drastically. A sewing thread would be more appropriate to allow the series of folds required.
I enjoyed pleating thick packaging cardboard in Part 1, discovering it’s pliability and sculptural potential, despite its apparent unsuitability to precision folding. Here the layers have been distressed to reveal some of the internal corrugated furrows. This was an important sample because it helped demonstrate that I didn’t need the folds to be perfect. Using an unexpected and unsuitable material for the folding technique produced interesting shapes. From a ‘Sloppy’ perspective, this is a particularly successful sample.
It was really important to remember the power of imperfection when I introduced fabric as an alternative to paper. These samples were quite small and fiddly, which allows them to retain the looser aesthetic I am searching for. I still feel the temptation to revert to precision and tidiness, which is apparent in the third sample that incorporates stitch.
Adding stitch to the linen Bamboo Fold secured it but also flattened out the irregularities that were making it interesting. It has a more austere and formal appearance which actually reminded me of a Karate suit, which I guess is unsurprising because of the Origami/Japanese connection.
The observation led me to remember my own experiences of Karate. When my boys were young they had lessons and in the end I got the bug and joined in. Holding the sample in my hands, it felt like the same rough hewn linen and the stitching was just like the turned and reinforced edges. For me Karate was all about understated power. There is no frivolity, no one has to shout about how tough and strong they are. They don’t need to announce it, you can just feel it when you walk in the room. As well as being a lot of fun and great for fitness, Karate gave me confidence in myself and also made me feel like part of something bigger. Remembering all this caused me to make a connection to Japanese Art- simple, understated yet really powerful. It gave me a greater appreciation of the concept of wabi-sabi and it has left me wondering how I could use this knowledge in my own work? Maybe I need to consider what isn’t there being as important as what is? Something well executed doesn’t have to be over complicated? How do wabi-sabi and ‘Sloppy Craft’ relate to one another?