MMT: pt1; Pj1; Ex 1: accordion pleats

And we’re off…

The first thing I did on receiving the course notes was email my tutor with my introduction. Then I had to read through Part One and ‘earmark the exercises that appeal to you, either because the materials sound interesting and inspiring or because the technique intrigues you.’

Alongside this you are asked to commence research into artists who are know for their surface distortion.

I have made my selection of exercises as a plan of action.


Commencing with Exercise 1: Linear Accordion Pleats.

I chose this because these folds/pleats seem simplicity themselves and I wonder what mysteries they hold. Often the simplest process can divulge the greatest mysteries. A mystery to me is revealed as a series of possibilities rather than answers.

I looked around at the materials I had to hand and started exploring this pleated playground. What does it feel like in crisp white printer paper? What happens when I look at it from another angle? When I bend it? Shape it? Then explored different materials to see what changed and what seemed to stay the same.

I was also conscious when recording the samples to explore creating a paper/card studio for photographing samples. Alongside this have been my initial research into the process of accordion pleats(seem also to be known as ‘concertina’ pleats/folds with book artists).

The samples first in order of production (tap on each image for caption):

Simple forms, crisp clear, clean, balanced array of light and dark zones. Next to experiment with a shaped paper outline. Then a paper cut-out – both positive and negative shapes. Sections pleated after cutting – pleated cloud-like area with erratic spacing of long and narrow accordion folds. Interesting that they don’t reassemble after.

Then on to spirals cut from a square of paper. Experimented with folding before and after cutting. After gave a very curved fold and the shape was much more fluid. Folding before kept the rigid pleats and the whole form seemed more architectural.

Then, played with spirals for some time. After that folded a wide accordion pleat on A4 paper and tried to create a triangular prism. This worked against the pleat softening edge, yet the ends almost enveloped themselves.

Experimenting with diagonal linear pleats. This was very severe and reminded me of lots of paper sculptures that have a wintry feel. Explored the contrast between folded and unfolded areas on the same sheet of paper.

Moving on to other materials: tin foil. To create the cylindrical form O folded the tinfoil double then pleated it. This enabled the structure to be self-supporting.

I had some strange rubbery packing material that had protected the ends of a package so was springy, spongy and thick. It bent easily yet refused to hold the pleat. Seen form the side it has almost disappeared. Yet from the surface the crease line is predominant.

To contrast with the above experiment: folded a bubble wrap envelope – it maintained the fold long enough to take a photo and then had no memory of the distortion. I was surprised at the plastic freezer bag though which held the pleats and gave sharp creases. The corrugated cardboard had a good pleat memory, yet wouldn’t crease uniformly or sharply.

Then changing the scale to very thin old dictionary paper and very small narrow pleats. I loved the effect here. The pieces needed to be teased apart after they had been creases so I had control over the fanning effect. I preferred folding along the line of the text as it gave a new account of the page to read and highlighted and hid areas simultaneously. Folding vertically broke the text down into what appeared to be a series of code. I then experimented with pleating the pleat. This gave a great sculptural bridging feel – again somewhat architectural – this is an area that could be worked further.

Using the book page naturally took me to look at the work of book artists and research how this fold it used in the book arts. As seen in the Bibliography below there is much advice, gallery works and step-by-steps available for this type of fold in the book arts. I settled to look at the work of Hedi Kyle and also played with some book folding techniques that I learnt when I was at primary school – I have made many many mini books with these two folding techniques since. I particularly like the spin and envelope feel that was created following Kyles’ tutorial in the Penland book. Endless experimentation here!!

For accessibility I will record the artists’ I have looked at so far in another post. So far I have found much to inspire from paper artists and book artists- there is much available on accordion bindings (sometimes referred to as ‘concertina’). There is a common interface for me between paper and surface manipulation in textiles. After all, in Japan shifu paper is used to weave ornate fabrics that have the fineness of silk which then create kimono. As a little aside here, I think the Japanese word for ‘accordion pleat’ is ‘jabara-ori’ as ‘ori’ stands for both pleat and crimp.


‘The Art of Manipulating Fabric’, Colette Wolff, Krause Publication, 1996, pg 111-114

‘The Penland Book of Handmade Books’, Lark Crafts, 2008, pg 116-135 (Hedi Kyle)

‘Making Handmade Books’, Alisa Golden, Lark Crafts, 2010, pg 103-120

‘Paper Cutting’, compiled by Laura Heyenga, Chronicle Books, 2011, pg 32-33







4 thoughts on “MMT: pt1; Pj1; Ex 1: accordion pleats

    1. Thanks Nina. What’s the saying… ‘you can’t push a piece of string’. No pressure worse than that I put on myself- then I get into all sorts of knots!


  1. Impressive start! (I know I’m a bit late reading this ..). Particularly like Samples 23 an 25, how the geometric shapes change in relation to the folds and viewpoint.


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