Part 1, Stages 2&3, Project 2, Exercise 5 – Creating flaps

21 September 2016

Project 2, Exercise 5 – Creating flaps

I consider this exercise to be a natural extension of exercise 4 (cutting holes), because to make flaps, it is necessary to cut holes in certain positions, so the compositional element is common with both.

When considering how to go about this exercise, it occurred to me that flaps arranged in vertical lines and opened one way or another could be used to give an effect of tonal difference. Flaps could also be partially opened, half opened or fully opened, giving different effects and shadows. The ability to achieve these subtleties would depend very much on the stiffness and thickness of the material being used.

For inspiration, I referred to “Folding architecture” (Vyzoviti, 2012: 44-47), the exhibition catelogue of “Slash: paper under the knife” (Revere McFadden, 2009:256) and the work of architect Oscar Nieymeyer (Hess, 2009) including a themed sketchbook which I had produced for Textiles 1: Exploring ideas, project 2.


Some basic samples:

SAMPLE 1: Printer paper, square flaps horizontal and vertical

I put flaps opening in different directions on the same sample, because I wanted to contrast the shadows. The flaps were uniform 2cm x 2 cm squares cut from A4 printer paper.

 It was a sunny day and the best shadows were to be found outdoors, which is where I photographed the sample (see below)

From such a simple idea, I was really surprised by the textural effects of the flaps, which reminded me so what of an animals fur, growing in different directions.

SAMPLE 2: Printer paper chaotic rectangular flaps

Without too much thought, I cut different sized rectangular flaps in different directions and without alignment. I also photographed this sample outdoors on the patio table.


Another surprise – I realised that the shadows actually made new shapes related to the cut-outs, and that they were visually very strong. I particularly like the effect of long vertical flap bottom right.

I chose to sketch this sample because I love the trickery that it plays on the eye, with the viewer being not sure whether the paper is in fact a 3-D shape. The different size and angles of the flaps serve to confuse and confound; we expect them to be similar heights, similar sizes, similar directions. They are not. My sketch is shown below:

On this occasion I did work from the photo rather than the sample, because I could not recreate the different shadow tones in natural daylight (the time of day when I was working). I am pleased that the sketch manages to recreate the questions raised by the sample. The exercise was valuable because It illustrated just how many different shadows and subtle tones there were and how important these are to be able to ‘read’ the image.


SAMPLE 3: Rows of long thin flaps, vertically displaced

Still using the A4 printer paper, I made a slightly staggered rows of long thin flaps. I got very confused when mark-ing up and cutting, but got there in the end!

By this point there was no sunshine, so I had to wait until darkness to get the proper shadow effect from photographing the sample under artificial light. The photograph was taken from above, under an angle-poise daylight bulb with the sample resisting flat on a table.


Photographed in this way, the sample reminds me of the keys on a piano. When darkness fell, I photographed the sample again pinned up vertically in my “photograph box” (a 3-sided cardboard box lined with white paper)

I much prefer the sample against a white background and the shadows are amazing (what a difference the correct lighting makes). Because the printer paper was thin, it was difficult to fold the flaps back the same amount. However I rather like the effect of them being at different angles – it adds to the textural effect.

The photo below is taken looking from the side:

I then turned the sample around, so that the flaps touched the back of my photography box; really dramatic results and a completely different effect – it looked like a cage:

And finally, securing sample vertically in the photography box so that the flaps opened to one side (using Blu-tack to make sure it didn’t sit flat and to give it an undulating shape):

I then thought about making the sample into a cylinder, by joining the long ends (se below). I love the way that the flaps are large enough to form a very open structure. The shadows are really effective.


I then changed the angle of view, so that the sample was lit from behind:

I love contrast in tone between the flaps which are in shadow and those which are lit (in this respect the thinness of the paper is important in partially allowing light to diffuse through the solid area of the flaps). There are beautiful, soft diffuse shadows at the foreground which cross the flaps. This is my favourite view of the sample. 

I then changed the configuration of the sample by securing the short sides together to make wider, shorter tube. The photo below is of the cylinder laying on it’s side:

Then I stood the sample on one end (below):


………. and yet a different effect can be achieved just by turning the sample over and standing it on it’s other end (below)!

My final photo is of the sample in the same configuration as the previous one, but viewed looking down from above. Perspective means the whole of the inside of the structure is visible, and the shadows create amazing effects!

I was so completely surprised that such a simple sample could be configured to give such wonderful results.


SAMPLE 4: 220gsm paper, graduated flaps

I used an A4 sized sheet of 220gsm paper to create this sample. No measuring this time – I just worked freely and intuitively to create a series of rectangular flaps which were slightly overlapping moving from smallest at the bottom to the largest at the top. I had intended to see if I could control the amount that the flaps were lifted by scoring the fold. In the end I liked the sample so much as it was, I left it without bending the flaps open at all.

The photo below shows the sample as I’d finished cutting it, laying flat on the table:

Just by curving the paper slightly, I found that the flaps would naturally stick out from the paper surface, with this effect being more pronounced for the smaller than larger flaps. I did not bend the flaps back manually, instead letting them follow the line of the cut paper.

I stood this sample up on it’s end and photographed first the convex surface (below). It looks as if it is being lit from the inside, but the lighting in from an angle-poise lamp situated above and to the right of the sample.

I then photographed the concave surface (below):

And finally in this configuration, the photo below shows the concave surface viewed from above. The perspective makes the flaps look narrower and they feel more sharply defined.

I then joined just two of the corners with a paper clip, leaving the opposite edge open. I then stood the sample up on the open curve (see below). I had generated an interesting shape with a fabulous textural surface.

Next, I closed the other corners of paper with a clip as well to make a narrow cylinder. This encouraged the flaps to stick out more. The small flaps make tooth shaped shadows. The strengths of this configuration are the tonal variations and disrupted surface.

Standing the sample on it’s end so that the longer flaps are facing towards me (see below):

There is a quite different effect when the short flaps are nearest (see photo below):

Finally, this is a view looking down into the cylinder:


SAMPLE 5: 220gsm paper flaps opening different amounts

For my subject I made parallel flaps which were inspired by the sun blinds on high rise buildings in Brazil – e.g. the Juscelino Kubitschek apartments and hotel designed by Oscar Nieymeyer (Hess, 2009:69). It would appear that these exterior vertical blinds can be slanted varying degrees depending on the position of the sun to obstruct it’s rays. I find them visually fascinating; some windows appear more solid, or a darker shade than others depending on how the blinds are angleg and whether they face into the sun or form shadows.

My first photo is taken with the sample pinned up against the back of the photographic box and lit with the angle-poise lamp (below):

Depending on how far they are open, and whether they are being lit or are in shadow, there are interesting shapes and tonal variations in this sample. It is perhaps a little understated compared with the drama of samples 4 and 3, but I feel that it is an idea which is beautiful in its simplicity.

I decided to make a sketch of this view. It seemed as if it would be quite straight forward to make a tonal sketch, but it was more difficult than I thought! The exercise certainly concentrated my mind on just how many different tones this view/lighting configuration has. I also had to pay attention to which edges were crisp, and which were diffuse. I made the drawing using a background of 6B graphite sick. I used elastomer erasers for the lightest areas, graphite pencils of different softnesses, 2B charcoal pencil, Conte Pierre Noir “B” and for the very darkest areas, watercolour pencil (see below).


The view in the photo below is the back of the sample (i.e. with flaps opening away from us). The whole of the surface in view is in shadow and so I find this view less interesting. Because I wedged the sample in the corner of the photographic box rather than Blu-tacking it to the back, there are some small areas of light getting through the flaps and being projected into the foreground.

SAMPLE 6: Lettering

A friend who is organising an art display asked me to think about how I might depict text. The gallery space is a entrance hall corridor with no windows. Being entirely lit artificially made me think of utilising the effect of shadows, which prompted the ideas for this sample. 

Wanting to keep things simple, I used the letters “OCA”. I chose different hinge points for each letter because I wanted to explore the effect of shadows in different directions, and how this would affect the impression of the lettering being 3D. However, I could have hinged all the letters from the top (similar to “O”) and this would have given a different effect. I used a paper piercer to score my fold lines which gave a crisp finish.


Making the letters hinged certainly adds dynamics to the text and I love the effect.


SAMPLE 7: Dictionary paper, curled flaps

I was inspired to use books in my sample by Carole P. Kunstadt’s “Sacred poem series” (2006-2009), in which she cut flaps into pages from 1844 Parish Psalmody (Revere McFadden, 2009: 153-155). She also used gold leaf and stitching in this series to great effect.

I wanted to make my sample clean and simple. I thought about using dictionary paper because I wanted to experiment with curling the flaps (using a scissor blade, similar to how I might curl wrapping ribbon on a parcel). As well as curling the flaps, I also hinged them back to make the flaps stand upright. The dictionary paper was both light enough to curl, but stiff enough to hold a crease.

Laying the sample on a flat surface and lighting with the angle-poise lamp and daylight bulb gave interesting shadows (see below)

I tried viewing the sample from different directions and took more photos. I particularly like these:

I made a conscious decision to cut the flaps parallel with the lines of text. I cut some flaps from left to right and some from right to left and curled in different directions for added interest. I left the torn edge, rather than cutting kit straight because it contrasts with the very precise flaps and curls.

The combination of text and flaps feels almost as if some areas of the book are being removed, possibly defaced. This reminded me of “Between the lines” (2007) by Ariana Boussard-Reifel (Revere McFadden, 2009: 69). In this piece she has purposely cut out every single word of a White supreme sits text which she finds offensive.  

An alternative view of my sample is that the page has been embellished by the cutting/curling (although whether you see it is this way might depend upon context, as well as your point of view).


SAMPLE 8: Acetate, triangular flaps

This sample is a follow on from sample 4, using acetate instead of paper and triangular flaps instead of rectangular ones. To simplify the sample, all the triangles are approximately the same size. 

I was pleasantly surprised by the subtlety of this sample (see below)

Viewed from the side under the angle-poise/daylight bulb lighting the flaps appear to be just as subtle as the shadows.

Turning the acetate around so that the points face me makes the acetate flaps difficult to discern (see above).

The photos above show the acetate fixed to a vertical side of the box with Blue-tack. The points of the triangle are facing downwards. The shadows in this configuration appear more complex and diffuse.

The final photo is of the acetate positioned vertically with the points facing upwards (see below). 

This is my favourite configuration. The shadows are so diffuse that the piece has taken on a calming, angelic quality. The points of the triangles Remind me of the symbolic representation of church spires.

SAMPLE 9: Screen printed design photographed and inkjet printed onto acetate

The idea was to use printed acetate with a pattern, that would hopefully be projected as coloured shadows. I hoped that the flaps would enhance rather than confuse the image. I started with a screen print design which I had produced for Textiles 1: Exploring ideas, Assignment 2 – Screen printing. The image was originally printed using two different coloured screens with masking tape as a resist. A photograph of the screen printed fabric is shown below:

I then photographed and printed this image onto acetate (overhead projector transparency film). With regards to cutting the flaps, I wasn’t sure whether to cut across the shapes or with them. After consideration, I decided to cut with the shapes because I felt to do otherwise would have caused visual confusion (see below):


I then made a cylinder shape with the acetate and photographed it in my white lined box, lit by an angle-poise lamp with daylight bulb:

I do find the sample attractive (particularly the coloured shadows), however, I prefer the simplicity of plain paper samples (see sample 4 as a comparison).

SAMPLE 10: Printed acetate of paper laminate sample, flaps to add accents

I had previously made an interesting paper laminate using polyester voile, acrylic matte medium and an image of the Union flag which I had painted. I had based it on the technique of paper lamination which I had learnt in Textiles 1:Exploring ideas, Assignment 3, stage 2, workshop 9. Because I wanted the resulting image to be appear fragmented, I scrunched the voile before I applied the matte medium to make sure I did not get an even coverage. The result is shown below:

I then photographed this sample and inkjet printed it onto acetate. My idea was to emphasise the English component of the flag by cutting out flaps in the area of the St Georges cross. I then bet the flaps back to open them, and also folded within the flaps to make triangular shapes (see below)

The photograph of the paper laminate sample transferred really well when printed onto the acetate. I am very happy with the fragmented image and the tonal variations of the blue. It was exactly the effect I had wanted. However, I’m not sure about the flaps; because they reveal the white paper underneath, I feel that they confuse rather than strengthen the image of the St George’s cross. Overall, I don’t feel that the image is enhanced by the cut-outs. 


Hess, A. (2009) Oscar Niemeyer buildings. New York. Rizzoli.
Revere McFadden, D. (2009) Slash: Paper under the knife. New York:Museum of Arts and Design.
Vyzoviti, S. (2012) Folding architecture: Spatial, structural and organisational diagrams. Amsterdam. BIS publishers.

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