Author Paul Jackson has written five bestselling books for Laurence King, all of which encourage readers to explore the possibilities of paper, using design techniques to amazing effect. His latest Cut and Fold Paper Textures doesn’t disappoint – packed with practical tips and beautiful examples, it aims to both inform and inspire.
While Paul’s previous books dealt with structure, this book explores the possibilities of paper from a surface design perspective. Paul explains that the book is aimed at everyone from school students to design professionals, and is very much a starting point: “It is not a book of cut-and-fold design templates to copy, but a book of suggestions and inspirations for how paper can be cut, folded, twisted, woven, crumpled, stippled, coiled, pleated, incised and more to create beautiful, innovative surface textures.”
Each of the twelve chapters covers a different technique, starting with basic white copy paper, then progressing to coloured paper and other materials such as wire, wood and fabric. As well as the two-dimensional elements, there are examples of the techniques being used by designers to create items such as jewellery, furniture and clothing.
We’ve picked out some of our favourite techniques described by Paul in his book – why not grab a copy and try some out for yourself?
Narrow strips of paper can either be rubbed tightly between the fingers to create dense lengths of paper string, or twisted around and around more roughly to create a more textured surface. These lengths may then be glued individually to a backing sheet. They may also be plaited, twisted, woven or knitted together to create paper rope, or paper fabric, which will have surprising strength and durability. The conversion of a sheet of paper into a linear form and then back to a two- dimensional surface is a particularly pleasing series of transformations.
The weaving of narrow pieces of cloth, strips of tree bark, slender leaves or grasses into two-dimensional surfaces and three-dimensional objects has a long history around the world. The weaving of paper surfaces fits perfectly into this tradition. If you are new to weaving, try parallel strips, laid horizontally and vertically, woven into simple ‘one under, one over’ patterns, before attempting more intricate patterns. You will soon be creating surface textures of great sophistication. Instead of weaving together two lines of strips placed 90 degrees apart, try weaving together three lines, placed 120 degrees apart. Weaving can be addictive!
Layering is simply the placing of one piece of paper on top of another. The papers can be glued directly to each other to create a continuous surface, or they can be floated above each other on hidden supports. This latter technique creates larger shadows and thus the layering effect is more easily seen. The technique comes to life when the layers are not only progressively smaller as the stack rises, but there are also holes in them, creating the illusion of great depth, as though looking into the diminishing perspective of a tunnel. Careful cutting from layer to layer is key to the success of the technique.
The technique of rolling long, thin strips of paper into tight or open spirals is sometimes known as ‘quilling’. It originated in Europe during the Renaissance as the inexpensive alternative to filigree metalwork. In recent years it has undergone a revival of interest as a decorative art, shedding much of the overly decorative kitschiness with which it had become associated. There are a surprising number of diverse and creative coiling techniques. Take care not to use excessive amounts of glue when sticking the edge of the paper coil to a backing sheet.
No paper-texturing technique is quite so much fun as tearing. But be careful. Inside this seemingly destructive act is a technique of surprising subtlety, more closely related to drawing than to cutting. The key to controlling how the paper tears is to understand the ‘grain’ of the paper. Paper is a fibrous mat, in which the fibres line up in parallel. This means that the paper will bend easily along the line of the fibre (because there is little resistance), but will bend less easily across the fibres (because there will be more resistance). If you have never noticed this effect before, try it with a variety of papers and cards. The difference can be dramatic. This difference can also be seen when tearing paper. Paper will tear straight along the line of the fibres but tears will be uncontrollable and crooked across the fibres. So, when the character of the surface you make can be designed. Before you create a textured surface, experiment with tearing the paper in different directions and also, perhaps, at different speeds or by holding the paper close to the tear or far away.
This is the simplest and quickest of the 12 textures to achieve, but needs to be undertaken with great care so that the bends remain perfect and aesthetically pleasing. More than most techniques, bends rely on good lighting for their effectiveness, so be prepared to experiment with different sources for maximum effect, allowing shadows to change their position and length. Done well, bending can be an elegant antidote to the dense patterns of other texturing techniques and should be a number one choice for surfaces that need to be calm and simple.