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I love what I call “niche geekery” so when Kyla McCallum, founder of design studio Foldability, started telling me about the origami ‘Mitsonobu Sonobe’ module I was immediately fascinated. “The module was designed by Mitsonobu Sonobe in the early 1960s – he used it to create prisms and cubes, but I don’t think he realised its full potential,” Kyla told me. “I discovered that there are so many other shapes you can make from it. It’s almost like a code. I’ve become quite addicted to discovering more and more shapes, the possibilities seem endless.”

Her experimentations have led to the Sonobe Collection, a series of origami lighting designs that are folded and pieced together entirely by hand, which will officially launch at designjunction during the London Design Festival 18 – 22 September 2013.

Before the collection is unveiled in all its glory, I wanted to see exactly how she does it…

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“My obsession with origami began about five years ago and ever since I’ve been experimenting and playing with a range of folding techniques,” says Kyla, who graduated in 2012 with a Master of European Design from the Glasgow School of Art.

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“Each of the lighting designs are made completely by hand from my East London studio. The designs are constructed from folded, paper squares and a steel, white-coated inner frame.”

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Kyla says: “Modular origami creates several different layers. When illuminated, it creates tonal variations and the colours you can get from white paper are amazing – the first prototype was made from normal 80gsm printer paper and it turned out to be fluorescent pink.” Each light is made from a number of hand-folded modules using paper from GF Smith.

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“Since then I’ve tested around 50 different papers before settling on Naturalis Absolute Smooth from GF Smith.”

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“First I fold the squares in batches and wrap the completed modules in industrial cling film to keep them clean.”

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“Every design uses a different number of modules, from 12 to 136. There are three different sizes of modules, which are joined together using water-based glue.”

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“By putting three modules together, a pyramid shape is created. I then circle around to create a ring of four, five or six pyramids, depending on the lamp I’m making.”

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“I use a variety of steel frames from triangles and squares, to pentagons and more complex 3D structures. The frames are outsourced and made using an industrial wire bending machine,” explains Kyla.

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“The final stage is to insert the frame into the structure to complete the light.”

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“When I’m exhibiting the designs I often create an origami wall panel to use as a back-drop. The paneling uses the same folds as the lighting designs and is very time consuming to put together.”

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“This example is made from 4,917 modules and each 3.5m row took an hour to glue together. In total the wall took about a month to complete.”

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“The last time the panel was installed, we needed the help of 10 people to mount it on the wall!”

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Make sure you come and see Kyla’s incredible creations on stand F27a at designjunction from 18th September.

Further reading for the especially geeky:

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