Part 1, Stages 2&3, Project 5, Exercise 1 – Pucturing

27 September 2016


Project 5, Exercise 1 – Puncturing

My first task was to assemble a range of puncturing tools (see below)

I purposely chose a variety of tools including:

  • Different diameter implements
  • Some which punched out material, others which pushed it aside
  • Different shaped points – some which would produce regular puncturing, some irregular 


As I pondered how I would approach my first sample, I got thinking about puncturing and what it means. The dictionary definition is “to penetrate, pierce or rupture” (, 2016). I could see an overlap with Project 2, Exercise 4, Cutting Holes; hole punches produce regular cut-outs (albeit smaller than those which could be cut with a scalpel). They remove material rather than pushing it aside.
I could recall several artists who used cutting or puncturing to make holes (Revere McFadden, 2009), but puncturing in the sense of rupturing a surface was more difficult. I thought about Francoise Tellier-Loumagne (Tellier-Loumagne, 2006:58-60) and her use of stitched paper (after all, the process of stitching punctures paper to produce holes). What appeals to me about the idea of using paper is that stitching it is a one off activity; once a hole is made with the needle it cannot be undone or changed. Mistakes (if you want to call them that) are visible. The finished item demonstrates the irregularity inherent in something which is handmade and it cannot be disguised. An analogy in music is the way that a real human drummer will hit the instrument slightly earlier or slightly later each beat, in a way which adds warmth and intimacy. For me, the same can be said of stitching.  
As suggested, I used paper for my first sample. I decided to test a number of similar tools initially, with puncturing evenly spread out but without a particular geometry/pattern.
SAMPLE 1: 180gsm paper, implements which push the material aside

For this sample I investigated the holes made by a screwdriver, scissors, paper piercer, pin and various needles. The sample was photographed in natural daylight against black card (see below)
In each case I pushed the implement through the paper from back to front, resulting in the displaced material being pushed through and forming a relief (rough texture) on the surface of the paper. Touching the surface of the paper reminded me of Braille. I could imaging the possibility of taking a rubbing from the surface.
I generally had good control of the implements with the exception of the paper piercer and screwdriver. These two tools (being relatively blunt) occasionally slipped and resulted in a tear.
In general, there was very little difference in the resulting holes regardless of the speed, direction and pressure with which I tried to puncture the paper (although with the screwdriver and paper piercer, there was more likely to be a loss of control if the hole was made with a fast action). The exception to this was the scissor blades. A higher pressure resulted in a greater length of the blade penetrating the paper and a larger hole. 
Because the paper has been punctured, light can pass through the holes unhindered. The photograph below shows the sample Blu-tacked up against a window:
Looking at the sample in this way shifts the viewers attention away from the surface and texture of the paper, and focuses on the holes (negative space)
SAMPLE 2: 180gsm paper, implements which cut out material

In hindsight the leather marking wheel should have been included in sample 1, because it is an implement which pushes material aside. The other implements included on this sample are the office hole punch, screw punch and leather hole punch. The sample was photographed in the same way as sample 1 (see below)

The position of holes made by the office hole punch was difficult to control, meaning that some overlapped or were spaced closely, and some further apart. This is actually rather interesting – particularly those holes which go off the edge of the page.
Similarly, to the office hole punch, I could only make holes with the leather hole punch close to the edge of the paper. Most of the punched out holes were clean, although the largest punch did not cut through the paper properly (it should have done – the hole punch was new). This lead to some torn edges, some embossed circles and some deformed circle shapes.
I used most of the different attachments of the screw punch to experiment with cutting holes in the centre of the page. I also found that if I kept the screw punch vertical, this helped to ensure a clean cut. However, regardless, I noticed that it was easier to cut cleanly with the smaller attachments, whereas the larger punches tended to shift sideways as they cut, resulting in an incomplete circle. 
The leather marking wheel gave evenly spaced rows of tiny pin-sized holes which gave a subtle surface and texture to the paper.

As with sample 1, I also photographed this sample against a window to highlight the holes (negative space)

In particular, the screw punched holes which were not fully cut through are interesting. The holes are crescent-shaped, which adds to the appeal of the surface. I can imagine that some of these punched holes would work very well in combination with folding.

SAMPLE 3: 180gsm paper, exploring spacing, crewel needle

Next, I looked at different spacings and patterns with the crewel needle. I chose the crewel needle because it was easy to use and give consistent, clean punctures. Below is a photograph of the sample taken in natural daylight.

Top right, I compared the effect of placing the punctures close together, then progressively spacing them apart, the further the distance from the top right hand corner. It gives the impression of dispersal (say seeds, grains of sand, stars?)

Top left, I started to try and make parallel rows with alternate narrow and wide spaces in between. It soon became apparent that I was not going to be able to achieve this by eye, and I allowed my rows to form wavy, unkempt lines. I actually quite like this less rigid approach.

Bottom left was my final pattern. I drew pencil lines on the reverse of the paper with a ruler and followed them with the piercer (crewel needle). I changed the spacing of the puncturing to see what effect this would have on the line. Where the punctured holes are close together the line appears “darker” or better defined. Further apart holes mean you have to use imagination or interpretation to decide whether they are describing a line or not. This could be used in a sample or finished project to add an element of intrigue.

Next, I photographed the sample against a window (see below)

It shows up very well with this sample that viewing in this way emphasises the pattern. The wavy rows of lines in particular are lovely.

SAMPLE 4: 10gsm paper, Punching out the Union flag
Throughout these exercises I haven’t been sure whether I should be focusing on simple, exploratory samples, or whether it is OK to let my imagination run wild and develop the techniques as they present themselves to me. Sample 4 has been one such example.
Whilst I was researching artists who use punching in their work, I came across Anne-Karin Furunes. She uses approximately 30 different sized punches to make holes in canvass or paper to create images (Revere McFadden, 2009:116). In this technique, which Furunes developed herself, the different sized but regularly spaced holes give the impression of tonal differences. The website of Galerie De Bellefeuille gives examples of the portraits Furunes has produced using her method (Galerie De Bellefeuille, 2015)
I wanted to establish whether I could also use the puncturing patterns to create tonal differences in a sample. I chose the simple image of the Union flag. It is a motif that I have used before (Project 2, Exercise 5, sample 10), because I am developing a themed sketchbook on the subject of identity, and have already carried out some sampling with the flag.
I used only the embroidery scissors and the pin to outline the main blocks and create different tonal areas (see below, photographed in natural daylight)
The shape of the image can be easily discerned, however the sample really comes to life when viewed against a window, which allows light to shine through the holes:
I am quite pleased with this image, although I think that a more sophisticated image (e.g. a flag fluttering in the wind) could be produced if the paper was larger, and a greater variety of puncturing implements. Even this relatively small and simple A4 sized sample tool about an hour to produce.
SAMPLE 5: 180gsm paper, sewing machine
One puncturing tool which I hadn’t considered until now was my sewing machine! I have stitched paper before, but never used just the needle as a puncturing tool. 
I used a straight stitch with the feed dog down, controlling the interval between punches and placement of holes by the speed with which I moved the paper under the needle. Here are the results:
The photograph was taken lit from a daylight bulb. The sample appears rather nondescript. However, this next photo was taken with the sample held up against the daylight bulb (darkness had fallen, so holding it against the window was not an option). 
All of a sudden it is much more exciting; the pattern is clear and this sample starts to look more appealing. It suggests that punctured designs such as this would work very well as a lampshade.
An advantage of using the sewing machine is that it is very quick to produce the holes and, with practice, the needle can be controlled to draw intricate patterns. All holes are identical, so there is a uniformity about work produced in this way (which may or may not be desirable).
SAMPLE 6: Corrugated card, a variety of implements
I have to admit, I was expecting this sample to be rather boring, but I found some unusual corrugated card which, instead of being a corrugated piece of paper sandwiched between two flat pieces, consisted of a corrugated piece of paper mounted onto a flat one, so that one side was flat, one ridged.
I used a variety of tools puncturing tools  – the results are shown below (the flat side of the card is uppermost)
I think the ridged side also gives interesting results (see below). The screw punch cut the card cleanly, and the paper piercer was also very controllable, whereas the screw driver and knitters’ sewing needle left ragged edges. 
Holding the card up to the light allows the holes to be seen more clearly (see below). The combination of the shadows formed by the ridges contrasted with the pin-pricks of light is appealing. I think that the irregular shaped holes (screw driver and knitters’ needle) are especially interesting, and I like the way that the pin holes traverse both peaks and troughs in the card. I also like the way that some of the screw punched holes follow the ridges of the corrugation. I’m sure it would be possible to write text using any of the puncturing tools, which would add the dimension of meaning to the sample.
SAMPLE 7: Polystyrene tray, spirals and zig zags
The tray was small, so I only had space to try three different implements. I chose the paper piercer (left), the pin (top right) and the embroidery scissors (bottom right). The polystyrene allowed very definite, well defined holes to be made with all the implements. 
It looks dull and uninspiring when viewed under a daylight bulb, but how it comes to life when illuminated with the same light from behind (see below). As a material, I don’t much care for polystyrene, but I have to admit, this sample works very well due to it’s colour.
The polystyrene allows some light to pass through it, so appears to almost glow. The paper pieces and scissor holes allow light to pass through very easily, whereas the pin holes are barely discernible and don’t work well with this thickness of material.
SAMPLE 8: Acetate, concentric circles pattern
I started by testing out the implements and soon discovered that the acetate was so tough that only the really sharp tools could be used to pierce it. The photo is poor because of reflections, but you might just be able to make out on the left of the sample the area where I tested the different tools. The leather punch was unreliable at making clean cuts and it hurt my hand to use. The paper piercer was too blunt and didn’t make clean cuts. This left me with the crewel needle and the pin.
To the right of the photo below you might just be able to make out that I have punctured a pattern of concentric circles alternating between the crewel needle and the pin. The photo shows visible depressions and rippling in the acetate due to the action of creating the holes.
I had hoped that I would get some lovely shadows with this sample, but it proved very difficult to see them, being only visible when the acetate was almost touching the paper (see below)
I would like to bet that if I placed this acetate on an overhead projector I would get a lovely projection of the pattern of the concentric circles. Unfortunately I don’t have one to try.
SAMPLE 9: Japanese tissue, office hole punch
I wanted to use a different kind of paper and Japanese tissue seemed an interesting choice. My experience of using it is that it is tough and difficult to tear, so I chose the sharp precise office hole punch for this sample. Because the hole punch can only make holes near the edge, it meant that I had to concertina the tissue and punch through multiple layers to cover the whole sheet. Of course this gave an interesting symmetrical and repeating pattern of holes reminiscent of lace (see below)
The sample looks pretty both opened up and with one edge pinned together in the style of a fan. I wanted to see if I could get shadows when I viewed the sample with the angle-poise daylight bulb, however because of the softness of the tissue and it’s inability to hold creases, I found that I could only really place the sample flat (see below). There are some shadows which do enhance the sample.
Looking at the sample from the edge gave an interesting perspective (see below)
I like the drama of this view, seeing the folds vanish towards a point in the distance. Photographing it at this angle makes it look bigger than it is. It made me think about making a huge sample which was big enough to walk underneath the apex of the concertinas. It is, or course, a project too large for an OCA student, and a supporting structure would be needed to make it safe, but it’s an interesting concept.
I can also imagine this sample incorporated into clothing, the obvious choice being a skirt. In fact, Jum Nakao (as Japanese Brazilian designer), already makes paper couture which has been shown on the catwalk and for the MOMU Fashion Museum, Antwerp (Mansur, 2011). He uses laser technology to cut his paper lace fabrics, which are made from vegetable fibre paper, chosen for it’s subtle transparency (Sandu Cultural Media, 2014:36-37) 
I decided that I would attempt a sketch of this sample. I realised before too long that it would be difficult – the punched out holes do not appear circular when viewed in perspective, and capturing them correctly is key to making the drawing look properly 3-dimensional. My sketch is shown below:
I sketched from the object, not a photograph and I an rather pleased with the result. It was viewed in natural light, placed on a black card surface, so there are minimal shadows.
SAMPLE 10: 0.8mm Balsa wood sheet,
Balsa is an interesting material; fragile, soft, lightweight, yet it can be used to build reasonably strong models/structures. I started by testing out some of the implements on the edge of the sample (see below left)
The hole punch produced good clean punctures, but because the balsa is brittle and cannot be folded without splitting, it meant I could only puncture the edges of the sheet.
The paper piercer, crewel needle and pin all caused the wood to split along it’s length (grain), so I did not choose to use them. To the right are some examples of holes punched with the screw push. This implement worked very well. It was easy to use on the soft balsa and made clean cuts without splitting the grain.
I continued to make a pattern of randomly spaced punched holes using two sizes of punch (see below). 
I hoped the pattern would produce some interesting shadows when viewed under the angle-poise lamp and daylight bulb, which it did. However because the balsa sheet could not be bent and shapes, it was difficult to photograph the shadows to best effect. I can imagine that if the sheet could have been cut and glued into (say) an open-sided box to produce interesting shadows projecting from different angles.
Below are a series of photos of the shadows which I was able to obtain in my studio with the flat sheet of wood:
By holding the balsa sample up against the light it is possible to see that it is thin enough for some light to penetrate through, illuminating the wood grain. 
SAMPLE 11: Plastic bag
I used a piece of red plastic cut from a carrier bag. From the feel of the bag, I assumed it to be biodegradable. I was not especially concerned about longevity for this sample, although the choice of materials raises important questions about whether art is to be a transient or enduring piece and whether attempts should be made to preserve it in it’s original state or whether it should be left to degrade naturally (Healy, 2012, 89-98)
I wanted to move away from just making random punctures in the material with different implements and my experience told me that the paper piercer was the tool I wanted to use. I made a pattern of two rows of 5 puncture holes, spaced across the surface. I wanted to use the puncturing to build up a surface texture, and although the feel of the surface of the plastic was very textured, visually is did not have much impact (see below)
I changed implements to a much bunter, more brutal tool, the screwdriver. The result is certainly more interesting (see below)

The displacement of plastic needed to make the punctures is visibly present, as is the stretching and pulling of the plastic around the hole. I actually prefer the reverse (white) side of the plastic, with the pinkish-red showing through and giving a ‘glow’ to the surface (see below)

I zoomed in and got a close-up of the holes (see below)

This interests me much more – it looks like puckered skin and the physical action of punching through the holes is apparent in the wavy stretched edges. It seems as if the material would like to self-anneal but because of the stretching which has taken place, the edges of the puncture no longer fit back into the profile of the hole.

Plastic is a material that I really don’t like to work with (with the added complexity of biodegradation), so rather than using the physical sample, I can imagine using the image of the close up, or patterns from it’s surface in one of my textile pieces.

I thought it would be fun (and easy) to sketch a close-up of the holes, but it was much more difficult than I had expected (see below)

I used coloured pencils and tried to capture the subtleties of shadow and highlights in the plastic. However, I am disappointed with the result. It looks as if I have sketched a pattern rather than a 3-dimensional surface. The grey of the shadows are too strong and all the tonal changes are just not subtle enough. I sketched from life, but perhaps I would have been better sketching from my photograph on this occasion? It really irritates me that this sketch is so bad. 

P.S. At the end of the project, I had time to repeat the sketch in acrylic paint (see below). It is better, but I am still not happy that it represents the sample properly. I used a cocktail stick to apply paint around the areas representing puncture holes. I still don’t think it looks like a 3-dimensional surface (probably because I haven’t correctly captured the detail of areas around the holes). It is one of the most difficult objects I have ever tried to draw!

SAMPLE 12: Waxy leaf
I chose large, waxy Ivy leaves for this experiment. I wanted a material which was robust and would puncture without disintegrating.
I started my experimentation with the paper piercer. The holes I made looked as if they had closed up, and the act of puncturing tended to tear the leaf. I then tried the leather punch. It made clean cuts and was ideal, because the leaf could be rolled so that all parts could be reached. The photo below compares the punctured holes produced by these two implements (right middle, between the two areas of leather punched holes, you might just be able to make out the holes produced by the paper piercer). 
I decided to punch out another leaf using just the leather punch with different sized holes. I let some of the holes coincide, so that ‘figure of eight’ shapes were made.
What I like so much about using a leaf is that although you might expect to see holes in it (from caterpillars and other nibbling insects), the act of make regular holes or holes which are present only in certain areas raises doubts as to whether they were made naturally and about their purpose and meaning. I like the idea of “cutting lace” into a leaf, and although the holes are simple, they make beautiful patterns and shadows (see below)
I also found that by placing one leaf on top of the other, I was able to create shadows on the surface of the leaf underneath (see below).
This suggests how several leaves might be used in a larger sample to finished piece. However, it is worth noting that at this moment I do not know how the leaves will behave when they start to wilt and dry. One approach might be to preserve them by pressing (similar to “pressed flowers”), however the character of the material will inevitably change.
Whilst I was watching all the different sized circles of leaf punch-outs fall onto the floor, it reminded me of the work of Danish author and artist Peter Callesen (Sandu Cultural Media, 2014:94-99) and his effective use of the material he cut from used alongside the pieces he cut out. The example of “Holding onto myself” (2006) (Artstack, n.d.) is probably the best way to illustrate the concept. Whilst I haven’t pursued this approach in my sample, it is a powerful concept to remember of my future practice. Using the cut-outs brings harmony and raises wider questions about negative space, missing objects and the parts we throw away in the course of manufacturing.
Whilst I was looking through textiles magazines at the Norwich University of the Arts library, I chanced upon an image which reminded me of this sample. Within an advert/feature spread in Marie Claire Maison (Feuilles 2016), was a picture of a fig leaf, with some of its surface covered in blue dots (which could be interpreted as punched holes with a blue material underneath). It turned out that the image was part of the “Wonderplant 8” series of prints by Berlin designer Sarah Illenberger (Illenberger, S., 2015). It made me consider the diversity of applications for my sampling – an example being the use of an image or an idea from sampling as a modern print for the home. 

Artstack (n.d.) “Holding onto myself” Peter Callesen. At: (Accessed 28 September 2016) (2016) ‘Puncture’ definition [online] At: (Accessed 27 September 2016)

Feuilles (2016) [Advertising] In: Marie Claire Maison No.485, May-June 2016 

Galerie De Bellefeuille (2015) FURUNES, Anne-Karin. At: (Accessed 27 September 
Healy, R. (2012) ‘The Parody of the Motley Cadaver: Displaying the Funeral of Fashion’. In: Hemmings, J. (Ed.) The Textile Reader. London. Berg. pp.89-98.
Illenberger, S. (2015) Wonderplants At: (Accessed 10 October 2016)
Mansur, R. (2011) Jum Nakao’s Paper Couture. At: (Accessed 28 September 2016)
Revere McFadden, D. (2009) Slash: Paper under the knife. New York:Museum of Arts and Design.
Sandu Cultural Media (2014) Paper works. Berkeley. Ginkgo Press. 
Tellier-Loumagne, F. (2006) The Art of Embroidery: Inspirational stitches, textures and surfaces. London. Thames & Hudson.

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