I live in a small village which is blessed with not one but three – three – second-hand bookshops. Amongst the shelves of nearly-new thrillers and bodice-rippers, travel guides and cookbooks there is a large, open-fronted cupboard marked ‘Ephemera: Misc’. It’s here I gravitate towards and where I’ve found a myriad of wild and wonderful books, maps, charts and music scores over the years which have steadily formed a small paper drift in my studio, waiting for inspiration to strike.
One of my recent buys was this Collins Graphic Atlas; I’ve no idea of the age but it was certainly pre-decimalisation, given the princely sum of 5 shillings…
It had pages and pages of beautiful old maps and charts of the constellations in each hemisphere (I think I’ll frame these two as a set; I can’t bear to cut them up..)
Inspired by amazing paper dresses like these, I decided to have a go at making a piece of art for my friend’s newborn daughter to hang in her nursery. Armed with scissors, a bone folder and - of course – a nutritional glass of wine, I set about playing with ideas and choosing the loveliest and most interesting maps.
The hardest bit was working out how to create a pleated dress shape. It took me several false starts to think it through (use rough paper till you get the hang of it), but eventually; ta-da!! the perfect concertina box pleat;
To save you the brain strain I experienced, here’s a guide below for how to make a box fold. Essentially, you need to measure out and mark up your map or paper with alternate widths of 2cm/1cm, and then score them lightly using a bone folder to make folding easier. The grey dotted lines below indicate where you fold the paper inwards to make an inverted fold; the red lines show where you fold away from you to build up the raised pleat areas. Once you have made your box pleats, flatten the top end and gently spread out the bottom edges to create a fan effect like in the picture above. Give it a whirl..
Once the dress shape is made, the rest is fun and just needs imagination and a bit of playing around. I made lapels for the dress using the edges of a map, folding carefully to match the borders, and using a punch to cut out a large decorative button (this can also cover a multitude of sins when you’re sticking it all together)
As you see above, I made little puffed cap sleeves by cutting semi-circles and lightly gathering and glueing them – but then decided later not to use them.
I assembled the dress together and then glued each part in place onto a sheet of white watercolour paper, layering it up, piece by piece. It needed one final touch, for a tiny but determined person with the world at her feet and a life full of adventure ahead…
And here it is!
Good luck if you decide to give this a whirl; although I used my book of maps, any gift wrap, patterned or even plain paper would look good. And do let me know how you get on…