I have been reading Roger Housden’s book, Keeping the Faith Without a Religion.
Who made the world? he asks. Who made this hand traveling across the page in the slanting light of an August afternoon? I look and I wonder and I sit back and I gasp as I realize that I do not know what a single thing is. What this is before me that is known as a table and who this is that sits breathing softly by my side, her legs crossed and her eyes down? It is a wonder we are here at all and a greater wonder still that I can wonder at it, and yet the more I wonder the closer I feel, the more intimate I feel, to this throbbing wild and passionate world. I wonder, and I come alive as the world comes alive before my eyes. Can we wonder the world alive, in spite of all that we think we know about it already? In spite of everything?
I spent my morning, wondering the world alive, turning my thoughts away and instead looking and sensing. I went into my garden, I noticed the waft of honeysuckle under the pergola, I examined the soft down on the stems, the shape of its curling, looping, fragile, tapering flowers, the alternating saffron and white colours, so bright in the sunlight, its twining branches that curl around everything in its path. The intense green leaves, bold against whitewashed walls and the veins that branch out into tiny curls of web like structures. A potter wasp was hovering nearby, drawn by its mysteries, I was in overwhelm of nature and I had only been there for a few minutes.
I might draw this plant, I might photograph it or use its leaves as a colouring agent, I might put it in the house, so that the scent can remind me of its presence. I don’t know. I’m trying not to think. I could never know the depth of these fragile, living structures, even if I spent the rest of my life studying every thing that is known about them…. and that is the human dilema…. We think we can know everything there is to know by reading and researching it. Our minds are stuffed with information, personal problems, world problems, information technology and our own biased cultural conditioning. Do we miss or bypass our senses, when the mind-made-self has such importance, do we miss the essence of the moment? I’m trying not to think. I want to escape the mind of words and judgements. Today I want to wonder.
My wondering took me into the house, and to my experiments with folding flat paper into 3D structures. I am sat in a room full of sunlight, so good for experimental work and photography. Paul Jackson’s book, Folding Techniques for Designers is in front of me: He has been teaching paper folding and crumpling techniques for over 30 years. He encourages the reader to adapt his basic ideas to create personal work using their own themes. He has taught the basic skills to fashion designers, architects, jewellers, interior designers, packaging companies as well as artists and embroideres.
His primary advice is “…to work fluently and quickly…” and “It need not be technically perfect…” this is unexpected, given that some of his projects look terrifyingly precise and geometric. However, he does warn the reader to follow his exact instructions. Some rudimentary equipment is recommended:
- scalpel or craft knife
- pair of compasses
- sharp pencil
- A4 paper
I started with the basics, making linear accordian pleats, in various divisions. I quickly understood how crucial it is to follow his method, especially using discreet pencil marks, because it is all too easy for the fold lines to disappear and loose track of where the next valley or mountain should be placed. I’m not good at following rules, on my first attempt things went awry. There is an inner drive in me that wants to do things my way! Once I got back on track, folding and following the instructions, I found myself in a heightened state of reality.
Maybe it was because I was sat in a white-painted room, flooded with sunlight from four high windows, I was sat at a white table, using white printer paper, wearing white shorts and t-shirt, an almost white cat was sat on my lap. The only colour is the terracota tiles under my feet. I was lost in the work, nothing else existed except the scratchy sound of my hands working the paper on the table, my cat occassionlly stretching out a paw with affection. I was in Zen time.
I took the basic folding idea (equal spaces between valleys and mountains) to other materials that can hold a fold reasonably well. First I chose new African wax cloth, it is unwashed, thus it contains a stiffening agent. I ironed equal sized valley and mountain pleats into place, then punched central holes through the pleats. Next I threaded a wooden skewer, and then a ring binder through them to hold or enhance a shape.
Mosquito netting is an interesting and plaible material, but it does not press into shapes very well. I created equally distanced valley and mountains in the fine netting and held it in place with a bulldog clip overnight. The next day the linear shapes were still not pronounced enough to stay in place. I put a warm iron on them, between two pieces of brown paper. This resulted in the two folds nearest the heat source melting! There must be a lot of polyester fibre in the material. I decided to stitch all the folds (valleys and mountains) in place with a tiny button-hole stitch, using a fine cotton thread. It took over an hour, but it is a hot August day (35 degrees), and too hot to be outside, I sat in the shade of the pergola, stitching after a lazy Sunday lunch. I had made a seafood rissotto and shared a bottle of chilled white verdejo with my husband.
The flat surfaces I started with this morning are starting to feel more interesting. The regularity of the linear accordian pleats on white paper was quitely satisfying, and whilst I worked on them I thought to put some of them together inside a box, like a Louise Nevelson assemblage. In the later samples I liked the addition of a little color, of red matt cotton, it was a complete contrast to the grey shiny mesh. I left my red threads loose and long, waiting for more inspiration.
1.1.16 My final sample used a fine filament mesh to create semi-circular accordian pleats. It was tricky keeping the mesh from being damaged during folding. I handled it with great care. The depth of the folds are 6cm each, they held their shape better after being put under a press for a couple of hours. I love the fragility of this piece and used a dyed silk cocoon rod to hold it in place.I could use organza on this idea next. I hope the images are good enough because hardly any of this work would survive a journey in the post for my tutor to view them.
In summary for these exercises, I can clearly appreciate that I like a little disorder and working on organic shaped pieces more than stiff regimented lines and precision. I love this graceful sculpture (above) with its folding elements, leaning to one side in repose and looking out over the ocean in Arrecife, Lanzarote. There is no plaque to say who the artist is. I pass it, and admire its beautiful shapes often, when I cycle along the coastline, no words spring into my mind, I just feel peaceful when I look upon it. I think Kandinsky would be pleased with my response.