Fold/Unfold–A journey with Jule Waibel
By Purva Chawla
For a moment, I drift back to my childhood; To afternoons spent folding crisp paper into handheld fans; pleating a fresh sheet painstakingly, and then taking pleasure in unfurling it all completely, and starting again.
Never in my wildest dreams as a child, could I have imaged the results that designer Jule Waibel has shown us –all born from the acts of pleating and unfolding materials.
As an adult, looking at the German designer's work is no less fascinating, and it sets off a series of sensations and emotions.
I am intrigued, especially, when I learn that it isn't only material like paper that Jule imbues with geometric, pleated patterns; fabric, woolen felt, wood, plastic, and even acrylic are all materials that have been pleated and unfolded by Jule, yielding diverse textures, forms, and objects.
I wonder what it is that draws me most to Jule Waibel's work: Is it the three-dimensionality that she generates–via the acts of pleating and unfolding–in two-dimensional sheet materials? Or is it something deeper, that resonates with me more personally, as a designer and maker myself?
It is both, and here is why Jule's work strikes a chord with me: As designers, we move from one project to the next, testing one way of making and eventually moving on.
Jule's robust commitment to, and mastery of one way of making–pleating and unfolding– is something to be admired immensely. That laser-focus, despite at any odds, has made her a queen of sorts, to my mind; with multiple materials and methods as her happy subjects. Jules work is laudable for developing a signature process and way of making, and testing and stretching it's boundaries every day.
Another impressive aspect of Jule's 'Unfolded' works is the ability of these objects to exhibit expansion and contraction. The flexible nature of the folded structures allows objects in fabric, felt and paper to transform with the volume that they hold, and expand and contract over time.
This is seen in several fabric seats and poufs made by Jule, as well as vessels made of synthetic, waterproof papers such as Tyvek. The most alluring example of this expansion and contraction are wafery, geometric dresses made by Jule. The collections Entfaltung(in Tyvek) and Raised (in fabric) comprise of dresses that change their shape according to the movement of the body, and are made of made of pleated material.
In all of Jule's creations, there is a celebration of the beauty found between geometry, transformation, and play. In this way, she creates design objects, interior, fashion, installations and is an ' Unfolded material specialist.'
Recently we spoke with Jules, just before the London Design Festival, where her newest works–Unfolded Rugs and Unfolded Vases– can be seen at Form&Seek's POP-up Shop in BOXPARK, Shoreditch. Jule has a longstanding relationship with this talented collective of designers and has been exhibiting her work with them since the collective began.
Read on to learn about the materiality and process behind Jule Waibel's work!
MD: Jule, which of your works will you be showing at the London Design Festival this year? What is the guiding concept behind them?
Jule: My mission is to unfold the universe. Any materials and objects, everything, is
possible to fold. This year I am launching two new pleated products -The 'Unfolded Rugs' and 'Unfolded Vases.' The material is different for the two, but the principle of making in both is the same. The rugs are made from felt and pleated using hot steam, and the vases are made from Acrylic, also shaped in a folded mold through heat.
MD: What are the techniques you employed to create these products?
Jule: The method I use is folding/pleating, and it is all handmade. No machine can replace that. Maybe somewhere in the future, robots may be able to do this.
But today, I appreciate and like that it is all handmade. In the age of machines and mass
production, it makes this process and its products more valuable.
MD: Tell us just a little bit about your experimentation with various materials, and the pleating process.
Jule: I work with many different kinds of materials. I try to fold everything.
I have worked a lot with paper (Tyvek paper–which is synthetic paper), felt, silk organza, leather, ceramics, acrylic and the latest material I have tried to unfold is wood. The attempt was successful, and I am now zeroing in on an application for it.
That is how I always work: first the material; exploring which technique I have to use to unfold it and then the application/ product/ object emerges.
MD: Where do you think –geographically–do the conceptual and material inspirations for your work come from?
Jule: I live and work in London and Berlin. So it might be a mix of the German
influence of the Bauhaus and the simplicity and geometric that comes from the open-minded style of London.
All of this (my work with unfolded materials) began during my studies at the Royal College of Art. I studied Product Design, graduating in 2013, and my tutor was Tord Bontje, which had an extremely inspiring influence on me.
MD: What reaction to your design are you anticipating (and hoping for) from viewers at the London Design Festival?
Jule: I want to inspire people with the beauty and aesthetic of a pleated universe; to
surprise and show them where folded objects could live –even in your living
room under your table, like a rug.
MD: Tell us about your involvement with Form&Seek–this unique platform and collective of designers.
Jule: I've been involved with Form&Seek since it was founded. During the first two years, I worked closely with them on all the graphics for the group. To me, Form&Seek embodies the 'power of a group.' It´s been amazing to see the development of Form&Seek since 2013.
MD: Thank you for speaking with us Jule!
We can't wait to see what and how you unfold materials and objects next. We will always be following your incredible design!
Readers: Jule Waibel's new works can be seen at Form&Seek's Pop-Up Shop at BOXPARK, in Shoreditch, from 20-25 September 2016!