Part 1, Stages 2&3, Project 1, Exercise 5 – Basic crumpling

15 September 2016

Project 1, Exercise 5 – Basic crumpling technique

Throughout this exercise, I referred to the text “Folding techniques for designers” (Jackson, 2011:200-209). A full citation is given in the reference list at the end of this blog entry.

An exercise in crumpling and opening a paper sheet

As suggested, I followed the method for crumpling and preparing a paper sheet ready for manipulation and embossing. I used some very crisp stiff gift-wrap tissue which was approximately A3 size. I started by crumpling the paper into a small ball.

I then picked the paper open to approximately half it’s original size:

Then, I crumpled it into a ball again before unpicking to a roughly a quarter or its original size, repeating this iterative process another twice, until I had a very small, partially unpicked, crumpled sheet of tissue:

The paper was now covered in random creases, with an elastic feel/handle. I followed the order of the samples suggested in the course notes before moulding the paper over various surfaces and using different materials.

SAMPLE 1 – Pink tissue, single rib

I made a simple rib in my tissue and photographed it under natural light:

Being pink, the sample reminded me of a chicken’s comb, or perhaps even female genitals. 

I left the corners of the paper crumpled rather than attempting to spread them out into a sheet. This gave a strong contrast between the relatively smooth sides of the rib and the heavily creased areas, which were denser and darker. There was an interesting effect of translucency where the smooth areas let light through and creases formed darker more opaque ‘lines’. I’m not sure whether the rib was supposed to turn out “wavy” – I think this was because my rib was wide, so the excess tissue behaved like a frill. In any case, I rather like the effect.

I was rather surprised by this sample. I enjoyed handling it; the crisp crunch, and springiness. The level of detail of the creases was engaging too. When I sketched the sample (see photos below), I realised that there were different depths of creasing; some fine and superficial, others deep. 

Above: Pencil and water-soluble pencil sketch of sample 1

Above: Enlargement of an area of the sketch of sample 1

Despite being supposedly random, there were definite groups of creases (lines), some of which were parallel, others which seemed to radiate from a point. Looking at the sample in close detail, it reminded me very much of wrinkles on a human face. There was a weathered, aged feel to the sample.

SAMPLE 2: Pink tissue, parallel lines of ribs

Using the same piece of tissue as in sample 1 (unfolded and re-formed), I made a sample with several parallel ribs. The sample naturally formed an arch (inverted U shape).

Because the sample is raised off the paper it is possible to see fine creases between the ribs. I noticed how they resist the passage of light and look darker, almost like blood vessels in a thin piece of skin. It was an interesting result.

I don’t feel that my technical skill is very good yet, because I didn’t manage to make the ribs even sized and completely parallel. Maybe this had something to do with the handling qualities of the tissue paper? 

SAMPLE 3: Pink tissue, radial ribs

Again, This sample was made using the same piece of tissue as in samples 2 and 3. This was my favourite so far. The definition of the ribs was very strong. 


It reminded me of a sea-urchin case. I like the fact that it didn’t “sit flat” on the paper and has the feeling of floating or being partially suspended.

I decided to sketch the sample. I like to use different media, as it encourages a different interpretation and greater insight. My sketch of sample 1 had been very detailed and true to the object, so as an alternative, I used water-soluble wax crayon and an Inktense bar to make a less detailed, tonal drawing, concentrating on shadows in preference to individual crease lines/marks.

Using clumsy wax crayon forced me to concentrate on the areas which I find important. It would be interesting to look at an area of the detail from sketch (such as that below) and develop it.

Looking at this close-up it is possible to appreciate the textural quality of the marks and the sinuous nature of the creases. Viewed like this, suggests to me that the sample could be used as flower, or as one of a series of petals. The fragility and translucency of the tissue seems appropriate. I can imagine multiple shaped pieces of tissue being used in this way in a textile project, in which I imagine lighting and shadow would be critical, with pieces of partially overlapping and creases and/or ribs inhibiting the passage of light.

SAMPLE 4: Glassine paper, circular ribs

I initially attempted to make this sample using the pink tissue paper. However, I found it very difficult to get the ribs to stay in place, especially those nearest the centre of the circle. I felt that maybe the tissue was becoming over creased and too soft, so I switched to a piece of glassine paper.

The glassine paper was large (approximately A1 size), crisp to the feel, with a smooth, waxy finish. After preparing the paper in the same way as I had with the pink tissue, I set about making the sample. I had very similar problems. I even tried changing my order of working, starting instead with the outermost ring and working inwards. It didn’t seem to make a difference. I did not feel that the centre two ribs were very well defined and I was initially very disappointed in the outcome. However, when I photographed my sample against a white background in natural light, the ribs showed up beautifully.

Once again it is a delicate, fragile, beautiful sample. I actually prefer the absence of colour, as I think it allows the viewer to focus on the shadows.

SAMPLE 5: Moulding around a sherry glass bottom

I used the round bottom of a sherry to form my crumpled pink tissue over it’s surface. I repeated this multiple times.

Although the shape didn’t hold that well, the glass base formed a rather interesting surface. I really like the fact that the impressions partially softened, feeling as if the are partially erupting, unevenly from under the paper. The surface is interesting and tactile, with an element of mystery about what might be underneath.

SAMPLE 6: Pink tissue, radial impressions from a brush handle

For my next sample, I wanted a change from the obvious, circular moulding shapes, so I used the handle of this dishwashing brush. 

I used just the handle, forming the tissue around it and pressing my finger gentle inside the hole to form a dimple. I arrange the handle impressions in a radial shape, with the hole at the centre.

This sample was a real disappointment, the shapes of the handle being barely discernible. 

SAMPLE 7: A repeat of sample 6 with glassine paper

I decided I would use glassine paper to see if I could get better impressions.

I think it is a slight improvement, although you probably wouldn’t be able to recognise the pattern. Again disappointing.

SAMPLE 8: Glassine paper, brush handle impressions is a line

I made one further sample with the brush handle, this time making a single row of impressions side by side one another, in a line.

Again, not great results – the impressions look more like simple ridges which I probably could have made more effectively with my fingers. 

SAMPLE 9: Pink tissue, espresso cup, shallow impressions

For my next sample I returned to the pink tissue, using the opening of  an expresso cup to form shallow craters. I also tried to form the tissue around the handle, although I don’t think this is evident in the photograph, reflecting poor definition in the sample. 

The craters were quite well defined. However,  I preferred sample 5, made with the glass base, which had a better shape definition, and a more recognisable surface pattern.


SAMPLE 10: Silver tissue, espresso cup, deep impressions

The same espresso cup was used to make a very similar sample to 9, and in doing so compare the effect of using a slightly different material. The silver tissue was softer than the pink tissue and also was only metallic and glossy on one side, being matt grey underneath. This time I pushed the tissue right down to the base of the cup and make deep impressions.

The first photo shows the “right side” of the tissue, the second, the underneath:


I love both these views. Looking at them together they form an interesting pair with their contrasting surface textures; one being shiny and reflecting light, the other being matt and absorbing it. The fact that the impressions are the same shapes but reversed, gives a sense of unity and cohesion to the pair. Definitely an idea to take forward to my own practice.

SAMPLE 11: Pink tissue, espresso cup, deep impressions

After the success of sample 10, I thought I would repeat it with pink tissue to see if I could replicate the dramatic results.

However, because of the dull tissue surface the results were not fantastic, so I didn’t bother photographing the sample underneath.

SAMPLE 12: Glassine paper, espresso cup, deep impressions

The same sample as 10 and 11 gain but using glassine paper.

Again disappointing results. It was also during making this sample that I accidentally broke a hole through the surface of the paper. It had been used much less than the pink tissue, which highlighted that glassine is a more fragile medium, and that extra care would be needed if choosing to use it in future.


SAMPLE 13: Brown paper, parallel ribs

I wanted to investigate the use of different material, so chose brown paper. The paper was of the type used for parcel-wrapping (i.e. crisp and shiny on one side), as opposed to the softer, more matt paper used for fruit and vegetable bags. As you can see from the photo below, the results were disappointing.  

The ribs formed well, but the paper in between didn’t retain the creases/crumple, and unlike tissue, it was not very elastic.


SAMPLE 14: Plastic bag, miniature wine bottle, deep impressions

I chose my plastic bag carefully, selecting a crisp thin one in preference to the soft 5p supermarket carriers. I didn’t have high expectations for this sample, but it has turned out to be one of my favourites. 

As I was photographing my sample, I noticed a huge difference between whether the lighting was artificial (multiple spotlights) or natural (in front of patio doors). 

The photographs below illustrate this. The first photo shows the “front” of the sculpture under spotlights, the second, the same view under in natural light.


Note that the creases and folds in the plastic are much more pronounced under spotlights, the negative space being more prominent under natural lighting. I like both effects – I guess the choice it would depend on the rest of the installation and which parts of the sculpture you wanted to emphasis.

Next, I turned the sample over and photographed it again under the spotlights. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the image. It took on a new life with the light shining through the plastic. 




Progressively more impressive results were obtained as I moved the viewing box nearer towards me and the position of the lighting relative to the sample changed. Below is the final image. It reminds me of creased butterfly wings unfolding and the insect emerged from the chrysalis, poised to take off in flight. There are lovely subtle variations in tone in the background, shadows and the creases and folds of the plastic.

The only downside of this sample, is that it is an extremely fragile structure. Even when I was moving it to different positions for photographing, it was tending to loose form. I can’t imagine posting it off for assessment! Perhaps the image could be used by printing it onto fabric or paper instead of using the sample directly in a textile piece?

I decided to made a sketch of this sample using gold and black gel ink pens. By this point, the sample had been moved several times and had changed shape (opened out) somewhat from the configuration I had photographed. 

Having drawn several of my samples already, I was very free with this sketch, and not overly worried about making a faithful or photorealistic representation. I resisted the temptation to add lots of detail and was pleased that I was able to make some interesting marks, and focus on the main areas of creasing and shadow. Gel pens are a particular favourite of mine for sketching.


A note on scale:

I considered making small and large scale samples for this exercise, but considered it was not particularly practical. For a large scale sample I would have needed an absolutely massive piece of paper/material to start with (which I did not have). A tiny sample would have been extremely difficult to form around objects.


Jackson, P. (2011) Folding techniques for designers: from sheet to form. London. Lawrence King.



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