Upon a Fold

A little peek into the world of paper artistry

interview with elod beregszaszi... April 10, 2011

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This week I interviewed one of my favourite paper artists, Elod Beregszaszi and today I get to share that interview with you guys – exciting! Elod truly is a paper folding/collapsing magician. He creates the most incredible paper sculptures, with creases in all the right places. They not only look amazing but they collapse and fold away for safe keeping too – a handy little feature I wish more objects in my apartment had.

I recently purchased one of Elod’s amazing pop-up cards as part of a fundraiser for Japan (I discovered it via Benja Harney’s tweet. Thanks Benj!) It was not only beautiful and affordable art, it also contributed to a great cause (read all about it at the end of this post). In an email that followed, Elod kindly mentioned that he loved my blog (ginormous compliment – thanks Elod :) and so that’s how I worked up the courage to ask him for an interview. Lucky me when he said he was more than happy to answer my questions.

I hope you enjoy reading all about Elod’s paper world. It’s fascinating and quite scientific too. I’ll confess that I actually emailed to ask him what a CP molecule was??? Um, science is not my strong point. But I do love the mingling of art and science. I think it’s a wonderful thing when different realms can strike such a beautiful balance

P.S. If you would like to give origamic architecture a go (in reference to the answer below), check out this book by Koichi Takahashi, a leading paper artist from Japan. Each project is classified into three levels of difficulty; and if you’re as keen as Elod, on your first attempt, you’ll start with the hardest one!

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When did you start creating with paper, and what sort of things did you make?
It all started about 12 years ago when I made a simple pop-up card for the new year to send to friends and family. In order to find out how to make the pull-tab mechanism work, I paid a visit to the Japan Centre in London to look for books on paper engineering/origami. I came across a book called “American Houses” by Masahiro Chatani by accident, and was hooked on the spot. It was the only book I bought that day, and the first thing I did when I got back home was to cut and fold the most challenging model “House VI”, based on a building by Peter Eisenman. I still have that first origamic architecture piece, and I remember how the geometric awesomeness of the thing blew me away, as a finally collapsed the shape!

That was my introduction to origamic architecture, and I started searching (in vain – internet was still very new back then) for more books, and began experimenting, starting with generational step designs. In the beginning I was intending to launch a range of pop-up cards, but that never really got off the ground as my real interest lay in more sculptural development. That’s the main reason why I started concentrating on making kinetic paper sculptures, leading ultimately to my concertina folds.

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Could you tell us a bit about your signature concertina folds?
I am really glad you asked about this. This series is the paper holy grail for me. Every CP molecule that pops into my head is distilled into the concertina configuration. In folding terms it’s like making a sentence out of words, and I love the way I can sculpt collapsible forms through the middle plane, between a valley and a mountain fold – or “spines” as I like to call them.

It is the combination of surface and volume expressed through the kinetic (collapsible) structure that really drives my exploration, and in my opinion is so unique to this origamic sub-genre of paper manipulation.

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Your works are incredibly intricate and precise. Can you briefly describe your creative process?
I think in terms of shapes and contours or simply lines. If I get excited about a certain shape, I will start to investigate it in as many configurations as I can, to discover its visually balanced core dynamics. I hardly ever succeed but the journey takes me to interesting places. Almost everything worth while is chanced upon by accident, because that way it’s uninhibited by desire or expectation. Therefore my process means rigorous and often repetitive experimentation, resembling a scientific empirical method.

The other less defined approach is playing. This of course is equally exciting and fun, and usually begins with a bit of paper, and is more akin to traditional origami in that it is often purely composed from folds. In particular, I love playing about with reverse folds or the pleats that they build into. On a more complex level, I am a real fan of ‘corrugations’ both in terms of the tessellated Escheresque visuals and the ‘rigid foldable’ paper reliefs constructed from them.

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Does mathematics ever get in the way of art?
Only to the extent that the proportions and geometries have to add up. Strangely I have always been a little afraid of numbers, trying to cope with their constellations through a visual understanding, but their abstracted logic has always been beyond my capabilities. That’s why my main tool is drawing and therefore visual, rather than maths which is analytical. I leave this genre to the really ‘clever’ computational origamists like Erik Demaine, who is making some amazing discoveries.

Ultimately numbers and shapes are both understood through the patterns that they produce, and my method takes the aesthetics of shape and volume as a starting point, which I then ‘resolve’ into a mechanically workable template.

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What do you love about paper? And what type of paper do you generally use?
What’s there not to love (apart from the annoying and frequent paper-cuts)? It is the noblest material of them all! It has both elastic and rigid qualities which are so crucial to kinetic modeling, it’s tactile, cheap, and so rewarding. As Ingrid Siliakus once put it so well, “I experience an ultimate satisfaction at the moment when the paper, with a silenced sigh surrenders and becomes a blade-sharp crease”. No other material to my mind has this inherent integrity and offers such an emotional connection.

I use 220 gsm superfine white cartridge paper for most of my pieces.

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Tools you can’t live without?
Steel ruler, x-acto knife and above all my Craft Robo.

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If you had to choose just one, what would it be – to cut or to fold? (Hard question, sorry!)
That’s actually an easy one. Folding has it by miles. I hardly ever cut by hand any more as over the years I developed repetitive strain injury in my left arm and cannot exert enough concentrated pressure on the paper to make a clean cut. I did a complex cutting piece for a friend artist last summer and my fingers were numb for weeks afterward.

The Craft Robo was a godsend when I got my hands on it, and it allows me to work faster and concentrate on the folding which I find a much more meditative and satisfying activity.

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Justine here! This (above) is the beautiful Japanese Tea House pop-up card, that I mentioned I bought earlier. It is something Elod has generously created to help raise money for Japan. So, you can now buy your very own hand-folded and signed piece of origamic architecture by none other than Elod himself. All proceeds go to those affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Thanks so much for your time Elod, and for inspiring us all with your paper magic!

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His work is amazing Justine! I wouldn’t know where to begin building works like these! Thanks for sharing.

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