The third issue of the annual magazine that promotes know-how and technique in design, craft or industry, dedicated to folding.
We fold. Every day, we fold. We fold (or in English, we bend, depending on the context) wood, laundry, metal, cardboard, earth—even our arms and legs. Folds find their way into the hollows of our skin, the corners of our eyes, the movements of the earth… In French, the ripples on water are "folds"... Folds are everywhere.
In crafts and industry, too, folds are the basis of many technical maneuvers: bending, pleating, twisting, forming, bowing, etc. Fans, parachutes, tents, napkins, chairs… objects are unfolded and folded back up. All the time.
So, we fold. But to what end? That's what we set out to understand in the third issue of Tools magazine.
A construction worker bends sheet metal with a portable tool. A pleater pleats cardboard with nimble fingers. A bistro waiter folds cloth napkins each day while waiting for the mealtime rush. A designer uses folds to keep assembly from being too complex. An engineer calculates the weight and reach of the poles of a tent so it can be pitched with a single movement. A seamstress pleats a bed skirt precisely, so it falls just so. A legionnaire learns to iron and crease his shirt. A soldier bends sheet metal to set up prefabricated barracks as quickly as possible.
Sometimes folding is a question of life and death. Take a hastily repacked parachute, for example. It might not deploy correctly on the next jump—and we'll leave the rest to your imagination…
As we were putting issue 3 together, we realized that folding sometimes means conforming: in French, prendre le pli (literally "taking the fold") means to acquire a habit or get used to something, which can be a way of fitting in. The expression se plier aux règles means "to bend oneself to the rules." Our readers will probably encounter more soldiers in this issue of Tools than any other! Indeed, the invention of new folded, bent, and corrugated materials has sometimes stemmed from a need for temporary camps or emergency infrastructure.
In this issue, you'll also find nomadic lifestyles and folds made in contexts of urgency, like when someone pitches a tent on the sidewalk because they have nowhere else to go. Folding and unfolding can be a way to protect ourselves, to seek shelter.
You'll also get a glimpse of the immense spans of time contained in each of our folds: humans have been folding for a very long time, ever since the first tools and togas. The fold is part of our shared cultural history, for example in the form of draped garments. In modern, industrial times, the fold became the way to reconcile our increasingly urban and sedentary lives with our desire for movement, like a bridge between past and present. The fold saves room in our city apartments, helping us bring new objects into increasingly small spaces—as though we were snails carrying our homes on our backs, or would soon be tying our belongings to the roof of a car.
In a way, we could say that the fold is located on the border between two opposing forces: order and disorder. In the middle, there's a tenuous equilibrium: as long as we're folding something, we haven't broken it.
So, yes, we fold, but sometimes we stop. Either because we can't manage it anymore, or simply because we no longer want to. In this issue, there are also people who break the mold by crumpling, like the teenager who feels at home in the disorder of her own making.
We hope our readers will be as amazed as we are by the immense potential of folds to build worlds, but also that they'll realize we sometimes need an escape from folding, order, and measurements. If even Marie Kondo, the queen of organization, no longer folds her socks, then we all have the right to let go now and then…
Tools magazine is the brainchild of Clémentine Berry, who also founded the Twice art direction studio in Paris. This annual publication aims to simultaneously promote and investigate the details of manufacturing techniques and expertise used in art, design, interior architecture, industry and trade. Each issue focuses on a particular technique (moulding, folding, etc.), and the theme is used to select feature subjects and pieces, as well as the persons interviewed. Tools is crafted as a comprehensive inventory of design techniques. Weaving together past and present, it draws on history to illustrate how techniques have been handed down through the ages, paying homage to the creators behind the cult objects we use in our everyday lives, and whose work embodies the stories that lie at the very genesis of our shared human ingenuity.