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An interview with designer-maker Kate Colin

By Alicia.


When creating the interpretation area for our current exhibition ‘Kate Colin: The Art of the Fold’, I contacted the lovely Kate Colin herself to ensure our Manchester Craft & Design Centre visitors had as much information as possible. In the form of an interview, Kate provides us with an introduction in to her creative background in paper folding, whilst also highlighting the numerous practical aspects of using paper. Kate also gives us an insight in to her design processes, workshops and dream projects- it’s an interesting read!


1. What is your background?

I’ve always been interested in three-dimensional form and was inspired to start paper folding through my dad’s hobby of making polyhedra models. He’s a mathematician and I think I must have inherited some of his passion for geometric form, precise angles, line and shadow. Several years ago, I decided to see if I could create something similar and I soon got hooked on the art of paper folding.

I am self-taught and previously worked as a Radio Producer for the BBC. I also spent some time in London learning the craft of millinery.

2. I assume paper is your favourite material to work with – why is this?

Yes, I love working with paper. There’s nothing like the feeling of taking out a brand new, clean sheet and being faced with possibilities of what it might become once folded. It’s such a versatile material and there are some amazing varieties, colours and textures on the market at the moment.

Being relatively cheap, it’s also a perfect material for experimentation and is accessible to everyone.

Working with paper and light I never tire of seeing how the colours and textures of paper transform when lit from within – it can be really magical to see the appearance of a piece completely change when the light is switched on. The colours, folded lines and shadows take on a radically new appearance which can make it seem like an entirely different piece.

3. Is customer colour selection an important part of the design process for you? And does it affect the outcome of the piece?

Yes, I always offer customers some guidance on colour selection (if required) as some papers let through much more light than others. White and light gray are the obvious choices for a lamp which is to be the main light source in a room but if it’s a more decorative piece, then any colour or combination of colours can be used. I try to keep to a limited palette with no more than three or four colours in each piece, but the combination tends to be random. No two of my lights are the same which is part of their appeal.

I usually send customers samples of the papers they are interested in so they can feel the weight and see how it transforms when held up to light.

I look for colour inspiration from designers like Marimekko or Sonia Delaunay.

4. How did you find exhibiting with the Scotland: Craft & Design Pavilion at the London Design Fair this year?

It was a great opportunity to exhibit alongside some other fabulous Scottish designers and show my work to an international audience. Craft Scotland have been incredibly supportive and I was thrilled to be given the chance to be part of the Scottish pavilion for a second time. They curate the show, help us with press and marketing and commissioned the award winning architectural firm, GRAS, to design and build the stand.

Working by myself in my studio most of the time, I love attending shows and speaking to people. It’s great to see the work of other designers as well as get feedback on my current work.

5. You run regular workshops in venues all over Scotland and we are excited to host one here in Manchester in February. What’s your favourite thing about running workshops?

I really enjoy running workshops and introducing people to the world of paper folding. It’s such a versatile craft which anyone can have a go at. It can be a basis and inspiration for so many art forms including jewellery, textiles, architecture and ceramics. It’s great to see people’s faces when they create a beautiful three-dimensional geometric form from a flat piece of paper.

6. Throughout your career what has been the most memorable response to your work, for example a particularly satisfied customer?

Last year I was commissioned to make a series of shades for a Michelin star restaurant in London and I still get regular enquiries for customers who have admired them while enjoying their dinner.

It’s always lovely to go round to friends’ houses and see one of my lights in their hallway or bedroom. Having a good shade in a room can make all the difference to the atmosphere and I’m still flattered when people tell me how much they appreciate seeing and using my work on a daily basis.

7. What is your dream project? 

I’d love to do a large scale, site-specific installation. I’d also love to spend some time in Japan learning more about traditional paper folding and origami techniques and researching the papers and materials available.


Kate Colin’s exhibition ’The Art of the Fold’- will be open until the 3rd February 2018.