The Art of the Fold by Hedi Kyle and Ulla Warchol

Like the ballet notation of a master choreographer or the film of a principal dancer, the new book, The Art of the Fold: How to Make Innovative Books and Paper Structures by Hedi Kyle and her daughter Ulla Warchol is the much-awaited document of a master. Hedi Kyle is an internationally known artist-inventor, teacher, and considered the mother, grandmother, or godmother of creative book structures taught around the world, such as the Flag Book, Piano Hinge, Fishbone Fold, Blizzard, Crown, and more. She has inspired countless book artists and makers to push our own practice. So when I got an email from the publisher, Laurence King Publishing (distributed by Chronicle Books), asking if I would like an advance review copy, I was thrilled. Was I a fan? Yes!

The Art of the Fold is both a teaching tool and a choreographer's notebook. Here, the dance (if we can run with this metaphor) is for the fingers. The press release quotes Hedi: "The accordion fold as an independent component is our focus point in this book." The five chapters, which stretch to encompass a wide range of accordion-folded projects are: The Accordion, Blizzards, One-sheet Books, Albums, and Enclosures. In the 36 projects, all levels can satisfy their fingers, from the Simple Accordion to the more complex Piano Hinge and the more complicated Blizzard variations. Paper is the primary material, with a little archival double-sided tape here, just two sewn structures there: one sewn album is called the Spider and allows for photos or low-relief objects. The Sling Book is an intriguing sculptural book that can also fold flat. Movable parts like the pivoting panels in the Panorama book, and pop-ups, interlocking cubes, pockets and flags are all included as well.

Paging through the book, one roll-up box caught my attention (maybe because the photo showed it holding feathers). I prepared my materials and worked through the instructions, substituting PVA for the archival double-stick tape. As with all instructions and recipes, I recommend reading through a couple of times to get both the overview and anything you might need to know in advance. I found there was a call for two more small pieces that hadn't been listed up front, but it was easy to cut them on the spot. 

Another tip for the reader is to stay present. Don't try to anticipate or remember a step. It's all there for you! But sometimes previous experience helps. Since I used a thicker paper, I needed to cut the slits in a different way to yield the right results. Improvisation is also part of Hedi's process, and she encourages other people to do the same; study well, and use what you need, changing it if you like. Precision in folding is also helpful.

Here is my model for the Star Box. I used Stonehenge printmaking paper that I had painted with watch parts for a previous project. It didn't take long to make. And it is such an elegant structure.

The four triangles meet to form the squares at the ends.

All warmed up, I took on the collapsible Blizzard Box. For this I used Velin Arches (Arches Text Wove) that I had painted previously (a paste paper frottage using pearlescent colors). If you use one-sided paper, you might want to test it out so you see which side the patterns ends up on.

It has a nice snap as the boxes pop open into place.

I found that the box, when fully extended, can be stabilized once objects are placed within it. You could also glue the center flat sides together. A picture for Project 14: Blizzard Box shows the box with accordions inside, each of the valley folds holding colorful "soap ends" or slivers. You could also make several of these and use them as instant dividers to line a box, either another folded one or a box  made of book board (not featured in this book).

On a technical note, this instructional book has clear, spare, and elegant instructions and comments. The lovely drawings show every stage of the processes and have plenty of space around them to make them easy to follow. I particularly appreciate that they give the dimensions of the models and papers in both metric and inches; the two dimensions are not meant to be exact replicas of one another, but rounded up or down and proportionally similar. Clean and simple. 

Each chapter tends to be grouped as a structure family; the most basic one is first, progressing to the more complex. Many times the cover is integrated seamlessly as part of the book block. Also interesting is how much of the folding is based on what you are working on, not on measuring with a ruler. There are very nice charts throughout that show families of related books and what happens with different sizes of paper and the function of proportions, particularly notable in Chapter 2: Blizzards. 

More details: full bleed photos across page openings delineate the numbered chapters, a full bleed photo on either recto or verso delineates a numbered project. Photographs by Paul Warchol. The tone overall is encouraging and calm.

The beauty of The Art of the Fold lies in its possibilities. This is a book to be savored: the more time you spend with it, the more inspired you will be. Hedi is generous and writes graciously: "To everyone who has ever engaged with one of our structures…This book is dedicated to you." And so it is. For you, and you, and you.

[I see that the book may be pre-ordered now. Publication date is October 2018. More information will be available at, which Ulla is working on as of this writing. Addendum 8.20.18: website is now live and features their bios and images of their works. Ulla writes, "Hopefully this fall we will be posting short tutorials on techniques and starting a blog ourselves." Stay Tuned!]

As a wonderful supplement, the 2004 The Penland Book of Handmade Books: Master Classes in Bookmaking Techniques shows more of Hedi's art and personal process, which is important to her. It also tells of her inspiration from packaging, working intuitively and spontaneously with models and how she is a collector of ephemera, particularly "debris and scraps" (119).

More of her art may be seen in the 2016 catalogue for her exhibition at San Francisco Center for the Book, The World of Hedi Kyle: Codex Curios and Bibli'objets. It is filled with images, with an introduction by Denise Carbone. Addendum: 8.28.18: I forgot I had written about her and her show in this post.

And a tribute exhibition was held in her honor at 23 Sandy Gallery in  2015 called, Hello Hedi. It featured artists working in response to her structures. Lots of info at the link and an online exhibition catalogue there as well.


Lovely review Alisa! I took a few classes, have crossed paths with Hedi, and have featured some of her projects in my own books over the years. I am looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of this book.
Alisa said…
Thanks for reading, Helen! Hedi is a treasure. And although I haven't met her, her daughter is amazing, too.
Riverlark said…
I used to stalk Hedi :) when she was doing more teaching and never tired of just being in her presence. I've been waiting for this book since forever....partially for me, but also so that the rest of the world can see what she did for all of us. Thank you for the preview!
Alisa said…
You're welcome, Riverlark! I can see why. Hedi carries with her so much creative energy.
Mary Jo Koranda said…
Thank you for your review. I had a Barnes and Noble gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket. As soon as I saw this posted on the Book Arts discussion list, I pre-ordered a copy and now your review tells me my hasty purchase was not irrational
Alisa said…
Sounds like an excellent way to put out the fire in your pocket, Mary Jo! There's always more to learn.
Este libro está en venta ahora?
Hay copias?

sería hermoso tenerlo! gracias
Alisa said…
The book will be available in October.
Yes, it is beautiful!
mark said…
Alisa - what a WONDERFUL review!
I have known Hedi for over 20 years and got to work with her at the University of the Arts for 5 years in the MFA Book Arts & Printmaking program... She is an incredible inspiration! I taught many of her structures to my high school and adult students and created some variations of my own. I love that you have included how much she enjoys making variations and encourages others to do the same in their own way!
As a teacher and mentor she was beyond compare! She hosted my students on 3 separate occasions and gave them thoughtful and caring feedback on their excellent book works. She shared new structures with me and often gave me models when I showed interest in making my own models.
THANK YOU for encouraging the artists of the world to take a look at this Master at work!
Alisa said…
Mark, Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. It makes the book come alive even more!