T1-MMT-P3 Melissa Silk: Lightfold workshop

Paper folding and light – this workshop at the Art Gallery of NSW seemed made for my current course. Melissa Silk guided our exploration of “ideas related to biomimicry, elementary symmetries, iteration and illumination while learning about structure, strength, stability and translations” in making a lamp using “origami sekkei (mathematical paper folding)”, to quote from the class blurb.

Melissa is a school teacher who has been developing classes that cross curricular areas, finding the creativity in mathematical theory and its use in an aesthetic form. It falls within a movement or approach with the acronym STEAM, which is STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – plus Arts.

Basic unit

Basic unit

The class began with a brief overview of the concepts involved, and introduced us to a basic unit. This has internal symmetries that will provide strength and flexibility. For our project a glide reflection transformation of the basic unit was used. Melissa made this easy for us, providing paper that had been embossed by a printer, with hills, valleys and the very important flats or gaps.

We embellished the sheets of paper, using a variety of drawing tools or simple piercing. There followed a period of very careful pre-creasing, then the actual folding. “Folding” is such a benign term for a very frustrating process.
20150101aI had done a little folding at the beginning of the year while waiting for the OCA Mixed Media course to arrive, and as the final pattern looked familiar thought I had done it before. In fact that had been fishbone folds from “Folding Architecture: Spatial, Structural and Organizational Diagrams” by Sophia Vyzoviti (see 9-January-2015). It turns out I remembered the new pattern from the cover of “Folding techniques for designers: From sheet to form” by Paul Jackson.

Finally the folds fell into place, we glued the results into cylinders, and used battery powered LED submersible lights to finish our lamps.

Lightfold lamp

Lightfold lamp

The lamp is around 16 cm high and I chose a very simple piecing pattern as my embellishment. I also chose a white light. Some colours were available, and at the end some students experimented with using a different colour at each end to create some really lovely effects.

Everyone used the same basic fold structure, but got quite different shapes and levels of structural strength and flexibility based on dimensions of the original page and direction in which the cylinder was formed. Mine is very flexible, curved, and can be manipulated into a ball shape. If rolled perpendicular to this, a straight and rigid cylinder is created. If rolled against the natural curve of the folds other shapes emerge.

I would love to experiment more with some of those variations, or at different scales, or some of the more complex folds included in Jackson’s book. A fellow student and I speculated about textile techniques that could take advantage of the structural possibilities. I also want to get some more of the little LED lamps and learn more about other new lighting options. Given simple backlighting can be so effective with course samples there must be wonderful opportunities to exploit with varied light sources.

More information about Melissa Silk’s explorations: http://www.refractionmedia.com.au/education-insider-melissa-silk/

T1-MMT-P3 Melissa Silk: Lightfold workshop
Textiles 1 – Mixed Media for Textiles
Part 3: Molding and casting
Melissa Silk: Lightfold workshop

3 Responses to “T1-MMT-P3 Melissa Silk: Lightfold workshop”


  1. 1 Claire B September 23, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Love this outcome and the white light was exactly the right choice.

  2. 2 fibresofbeing September 23, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    At the end of the class we all crowded into a small darkened room and the glows and patches of light on the ceiling were beautiful. I like the white light, but mixing the colours was interesting too.


  1. 1 T1-MMT-P3-p2 More casting with resin | Fibres of Being Trackback on September 23, 2015 at 10:47 am

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Fabulous figure sculpting workshop with Kassandra Bossell!

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