The dying art of paper pleating has been captured in an art installation by up-and-coming designer maker Kyla McCallum, founder of design studio Foldability. Described as ‘London’s new Queen of Origami’, Kyla has been commissioned by Desso to create a unique art piece on the theme of ‘Transitions’, which launched during Clerkenwell Design Week.
Drawing inspiration from a personal pleating project – and her love of folding – Kyla has captured the intricate art of pleating with the use of a hand-crafted paper pattern which elegantly transitions into patterned fabric.
Over 17,000 lines were folded to create the paper patterns – each one painstakingly folded by hand – a process taking several days. To create the installation, Kyla collaborated with a UK-based pleating factory, a business with over 100 years of experience in the traditional art of paper pleating – one of the few pleaters left in the UK. Each piece of fabric is placed inside the paper pattern, carefully folded and steamed for 25 minutes, transitioning the material from 2D to 3D.
The intricately folded installation is another addition to Kyla’s rapidly expanding portfolio. Recent projects include making thousands of paper flowers for H&M’s flagship store in Oxford Circus, the Christmas 2015 front cover for ELLE Decoration magazine featuring a cluster of geometric folded shapes to resemble falling snowflakes, Perrier-Jouët, L’Oreal and John Lewis.
Kyla comments on her inspiration for the art installation: “Pleating is sadly a dying trade. In the 1980s many UK pleating factories ceased production as clients began outsourcing their production overseas, attracted by lower labour costs. The pleaters who survived seem to be the ones who had many small clients rather than one or two big ones. I began working with pleating fabric just over two years ago and quickly learned that it is not a simple production process. The patterns are very labour intensive to make, so many pleaters rarely develop new moulds.
“Instead they use existing designs over and over again, as the paper pattern is resilient and can last for decades. I’ve been learning about pleating fabric and every time I make a new pattern, it still surprises me which fabrics work well or not in a new mould. It takes patience to develop new designs using the pleating process. Some people might be put off by the amount of time required but I think it’s an incredibly rewarding process to take a flat sheet of paper and fabric and see it evolve into this beautiful 3D shape.
“The story behind the Transitions collection and the beautiful imagery inspired me for this project. It’s fascinating how the patterns in the collection transition from dense to light, moving from angular folds to smooth, yet overall it gives a fluid and organic feel to the floor. This window installation was created to represent this transitioning flow.”
Photography by Ross Fraser McLean