Abstraction[0] - Design Process

Abstraction[0] was finally installed in its new home at Hanh Solo!

From the entrance

There is quite a bit of planning and trial and error that goes into creating something you have no experience making.  I have been casually making origami since I was quite young, but didn't start pursuing it seriously until late 2012.  When I was commissioned to make a hanging paper sculpture of some kind, I honestly wasn't quite sure where to start.  I liked the idea of capturing a moment of transition, as I do in most of graphite drawings, so I started with a few sketches.

"GSD" (greater stellated dodecahedron)
There was a gravitation towards the spiraling cone pattern: the idea of pieces of paper 'falling' from the top of the piece and becoming folded as they spiraled downward.  I have always been inspired by the works of Akira Yoshizawa, the father of wet-folded origami (he also created the notation system you see in almost every origami book, cataloged all of the traditional designs, and almost single-handedly turned origami from folk craft to true art with his hundreds of beautiful designs).  

Wet-folding is simply folding paper while damp so that curves can be achieved.  Paper choice is very important here as most paper does not have sizing, which is a special water-soluble adhesive.  Non-sized paper will simple fall apart when wet, but sized paper will hold its shape.  As an added bonus, the sizing helps the paper rigidly keep the wet-folded form when it is dry.  An origamist can either used a sized paper, like some water color paper, or add a sizing agent like methylcelulose to unsized paper.  I bought up several different types of water color paper and tried folding some test forms.

Cutting squares and writing the type of paper on each
Test folding
After cataloging some data, with some very nice and some not-so-nice paper types, I settled upon a type and bought a large roll of it.  Then came a brief meeting with the Caroline (the commissioner) at her salon and it became apparent that my initial designs weren't going to work for the space (in a spatial sense).


I definitely had a freak-out moment, because I had done quite a bit of planning (even developing an equation using Mathematica to describe the perfect Archimedean spiral for the pattern) that could not be used anymore.  Thankfully, inspiration hit me quite suddenly, and I got a very vivid image of a curtain-like structure that would be long, but not wide.  Later that day, I sketched this up and then waited for the roll of water color paper to arrive.

Initial sketch
From here, I knew that these large pieces would take some serious practice to get the right look.  Nothing to do but cut some large strips and start!

Cutting some strips
Initial folding
Additional shaping
This first strip taught me quite a bit.  The paper was drying fairly quickly, so it wrinkled quite a bit.  And I had to get quite creative with finding bits and pieces to hold the paper in place while it dried.  The clips at the end are holding the paper in place around a wooden dowel, which will be the top of the top of the piece.

I cut some small holes near the wooden dowel and wrapped 18 gauge copper wire around and hung it up.  It looked pretty much as I intended, so I went about creating a couple more panels and then spent quite a while looking at them, trying to figure out what I liked and disliked about the spacing between the pieces, the positions, the copper wrapping, etc.

The first three panels
Mostly happy with the way these panels turned out, I started work on the rest of the piece.  I wanted to create this feeling of the panels "falling to pieces" or being "digitized" or some otherwise deconstructing around the focal point (which was going to either be a tetrahedron made of a bunch of tetrahedrons or a Sonobe module icosahedron).  To achieve this, I just starting cutting the strips to pieces before wet-folding.

Cutting the strip
Shaping and drying (need to get more flat surfaces...)
Tetrahedrons, and some 'mid-fold' pieces
At this point, I was accumulating quite the pile of shaped paper of various sizes, and it was time to start working on the wooden base.  The idea behind the base is to hang all of the pieces to that so that the entire structure could be moved instead of having to spend a lot of time hanging the pieces directly to the ceiling of the salon.  I didn't want to have an overly complicated design to take attention away from the paper, so I settled on a box shape (which is also appropriate for my current skill level in woodworking...).

Base with brass hooks installed
Next I built a support structure of 2x4s to make it easier to transport and then hung the pieces in place.  I used a 1/64" drill bit to make tiny holes for fishing line and started stringing pieces into place.

Early in the hanging process
It took quite a bit of time to find the right pieces and positions.  There is quite a pile of scrap paper from pieces that just didn't work.  In fact, the first panel didn't make it into the final piece.  Hopefully the next piece in the series will involve less waste paper to recycle in the end.

There aren't photographs of the final steps in the process, but it was mainly just iterating the previous steps anyway.  The one major revision that I made was removing the copper wire and re-wrapping everything with brass wire.

It was a bit surreal to walk into the salon today to install the name plate and take photographs of the final installation (I forgot both the name plate and my camera when it was initially installed a couple weeks ago), but I'm glad to have gone through this process.  There was a lot of stuff to learn and I'm eager to move onto the next abstraction.