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dvd shibari origami

Some weeks ago, Dasniya and I were climbing with Rui. The sky blackened and we fled the short distance to his roof-top apartment, a view across wasteland to Potsdamer Platz while the front dragged its torrential wetness from the south-east. He played us some audio work that I think was performed in Sweden on the weekend, and also showed us the DVD packaging for the film he and Monica have been making.

Hand-made. I started thinking about the packaging for the DVD I put together for Dasniya last year. I was never so happy with using off-the-shelf DVD cases of any kind. Partly because I’m not so fond of plastic as packaging, partly because I’m not so fond of generic packaging. Feeling rather inspired (as well as dumb for not thinking of it in the first place), I wondered about origami packaging, and so, off to the internet!

It didn’t take long to find origami envelopes, though longer to find square ones. I tried three possibilities, though it was obvious immediately that the first one was the one. It’s quite simple: the four corners are folded in to the centre, but their corner-points extend past that, and are then folded back so the line of this fold is the centre. Each flap is folded in one after the other, except for the last, whose leading edge is folded under the trailing edge of the first, making an endless layering. Conveniently also, the size of a DVD sleeve, when placed at 45° to parallel of a sheet of A4 cut square gives almost perfect measurements for this.

With the idea working in theory, and with some test templates measured and drawn up, the next stage was turquoise. My idea was that the outside of the packaging would have the same turquoise wash printed on it, and on a Friday, while talking with Katrin, who knows all these things very well, I found myself wandering modulor near Moritzplatz looking for things.

The idea I had of the packaging was that it would be layered. The DVD in a thin paper sleeve to protect it somewhat from the rougher paper of the folded case, in turn in a cellophane envelope of some kind, so the colour and texture would be visible yet also have some protection.

Finding the DVD sleeves was quite simple, but from there …

I settled on some Japanese raw paper, quite thick and with a beautiful texture from the screen used to make the paper, along with irregularities and imperfections. It turned out though, this couldn’t be put through a printer. I also found some cellophane bags, but like everything in this process, they needed to be trimmed and glued; amended.

With the option of printing not likely, and having decided on the paper, I thought of the obvious: watercolour. Before I got lost in dance, the art I’d been doing was watercolour and pencil or charcoal, so the thought of pushing this sublime medium around was dead enticing. Six small cubes of blues and greens from indigo to emerald, a medium-sized brush, everything else, and I was set for the weekend.

I’ve barely once picked up a brush since starting dance, but remembering how to work with this elusive solution didn’t seem so unfamiliar. I liked watercolor because it’s somehow a play that oil and acrylic aren’t. I loved the layering of colour, each new one affecting and being affected by those below; dredging out the pigments with a blotter, applying them thin as air or thick as coal … the myriad drying rhythms.

The six covers that came from one sheet took a lazy half day, in-between reading, eating, messing around. I made around ten layers, each layer concentrating on a different pigment, or combination of, as well as three or four more where I used the brush-water to lift off and blend the previous layers, or hang the paper vertically and rotate it slowly. Once dry, I cut it into six large squares and pressed them under a meter-stack of books for a night.

When they emerged, I found myself wandering back to the table throughout the day to marvel at the depth of colour. I haven’t been able to capture it on camera, nor amend what I did capture in Photoshop to do any justice. It’s not blue, nor just turquoise; even looking from here to the table, the hues and tones are the richest thing in the room.

For the cutting and folding, I was left with some apprehension, as it would be so simple to mess things up. I made a template on a piece of paper, spending an hour or so adding, subtracting (an occasional Pythagorean theorem even), until I was at least semi-confident that I wouldn’t create a disaster.

Besides the slowness – around 15 minutes each – and some small improvements and adjustments to the process, there wasn’t much remarkable. The whole process, from watercolour to cutting and folding is quite enjoyable, though certainly labour-intensive. The last thing to solve was how the cellophane bag would be sealed. I ended up buying larger bags and trimming the bottom off, the folding and gluing – different from in the photos as it as an on-going process.

All this also gave me over to thinking about what was on the DVD, and what has been done since the original. So along with the new sleeves, I decided to add video and images from the last year or so.

What I like most thought is when I look a them all on the table, and I think, yes the design is very nice and I’m very happy with how they turned out, and also feel now Dasniya’s DVD is, as an object, something equivalent to her work … besides all of this, I think I’m happiest about this because it allows me to return to art, to watercolour and drawing and working things out with brush and pencil, paper and ruler.