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Hedi Kyle: The Art of the Fold

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday August 26, 2020

“The common perception of the book today is fairly straightforward: a series of pages organized around a spine and protected on either side by two covers. This format allows for easy access, storage and retrieval of information. Yetwhat happens when the book is stripped away of centuries of preconceptions and is allowed to reveal something else: playfulness, utility, invention?” 

With this provocative question, the legendary Hedi Kyle entices readers of her book, Art of the Fold: How to Make Innovative Books and Paper Structures (Lawrence King Publishing), to engage in the magic of structural artist books. In this book, which she wrote with her daughter, Ulla Warchol, an architect, she expands the notion of what is an artist book. She reveals the tactile, sculptural forms achieved primarily through inventive folding methods, through which content can be considered in new and unconventional ways.

This book is, in a way, the capstone of Hedi Kyle’s long career as an inventor, a conservator, an educator, and an inspiration for thousands of artists who work in the 3D. In the preface, she gives a capsule version of her own experience: “My range in this medium has always been broad. In part this is due to my introduction to the world of bookbinding and some chance encounters. In the 1970s in New York City, the art and craft of hand bookbinding and papermaking were experiencing an unprecedented revival.

"I was fortunate to arrive in the city at just this moment," she continues. "With an art-school background and an impulse to make things, I was naturally drawn to pursue this new opportunity. The Center for Book Arts, the famous forerunner of so many centers yet to come, was located in a small storefront just down the street from where I lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Under the direction of founder Richard Minsky, it had a radical mission: to push concept, materials, printing and making of artist books in a new direction. When Richard dared me to teach at the Center one evening a week, I was hooked.”

Ms. Kyle’s influence continues to be felt—and furthered—at the many centers for book arts that have flourished in the wake of The Center for Book Arts (of which I am an Artist Member and Volunteer). So If this page spikes your interest, you can find exceptional online classes and workshops to get you started—or to keep you going. Info

Art of the Fold: How to Make Innovative Books and Paper Structures by Hedi Kyle and Ulla Warchol; photography by Paul Warchol. (Lawrence King 2018) is available in bookstores and online. The Center for Book Arts will reopen to the public on October 9th with its Fall Exhibition Programs. Info. Online Classes continue on a Pay-As-You-Wish basis. Info Arrangements can also be made for Online Group Classes. Info Go here for a list of book arts centers worldwide. These are university based programs, community programs, galleries, and museum collections, which focus on books arts, including bookbinding, book design, and the artistic medium known as artists books, all as distinct from the writing or publishing of books.

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