here’s one I made earlier :: foldability

Katie | September 11, 2013

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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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Further Reading for the Especially Geeky ::

Founding Editor – Katie Treggiden

Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.

Follow Katie on Twitter or Instagram.

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  • Won’t the dye eventually lose its colour over time, or if left in sunlight or put in the dishwasher?

    • The higher the concentration of dye in the solution, the less colour is lost. There seems to be a point at which the moisture is fully absorbed back into the air, leaving the particles of dye in the ceramic body unable to move and so the colour/ pattern is fixed

      Sunlight doesn’t seem to affect the colour; I had a few test pieces sat on the window sill in direct sunlight with a line of tape on them to see if sunlight did anything and nothing happened. The test was conducted over the few months so am not sure about longer term exposure

      The pieces are decorative so wouldn’t need to be put in the dishwater but I did test them, one with a sealant on and one without, and there wasn’t any change – although I left some tiled pieces I made in the rain and the dye moved around again and became very vibrant

      There is lot of science behind the process, most of which I don’t fully understand and sometimes doesn’t make any sense – could talk about it for hours but I’ve tried to be concise!

  • Kuo

    this is such a cool process. did your friend emma come up with this on her own?? that’s incredible! also, i was watching the video while listening to “Goodnight, Travel Well” by the Killers, so the video was very dramatic for me haha

    • Thank you and yes – the process came from trying to dye everything, even the studio sink!

  • The technique is so pretty and natural. Thanks for sharing.

  • Fer

    Wow! I love your work. Congratulations!

  • Christine Lynn

    I like the watercolour effect on the pieces. They look very natural because they don’t look like they were painted. By using the dye to colour the pieces, is it safe to use the bowls and cups for dinnerware?

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