Republic interviews Kyla McCallum from Foldability

Kyla McCallum working on a paper window display for Desso

High-end origami meets interior design.

Foldability is a London based design studio that creates bespoke installations, set design and interior products inspired by origami and geometry.

Founded in 2013 by Scottish designer Kyla McCallum, Foldability works with brands to bring projects from initial conception through to final production. Kyla works with a diverse team of creatives including engineers, graphic designers, art directors, photographers, architects and fabricators, on projects spanning across a broad range of disciplines.

The studio has become known for creating precision formed set design and products which are visually unique and primarily made by hand.

Kyla carved out a time from her busy schedule to tell us about her obsession with geometry, the joys of experimenting and the importance of having art in the workplace. She also shares her favourite patterns and gives us an exclusive glimpse of her sketchbook! 

Equi textiles - 3D surfaces made using high tech metal fabrics

Republic (Re): Can you start by telling us a little bit about your background? Have you always had a penchant for origami and geometry?

Kyla McCallum (KM): Ever since I was a child I loved to draw and make things by hand. My obsession with geometry began about 10 years ago in 2007 whilst studying at Cologne International School of Design. I chose a project where I was asked to design a tree house and to begin by collecting visual references that could inspire the design. During my research, I discovered some amazing people who had worked with geometry including Buckminster Fuller and his geodesic domes, the Mathematician and artist Ron Resch who explored the possibilities of 3D repeat patterns using origami forms and Magnus Wenninger, a Mathematician/Priest who created the most magnificent intricate paper sculptures of polyhedra. I was mesmerised by the design possibilities and have been hooked ever since.

Chloe pendant: exclusive origami pendant created for John Lewis

Re: Your practice puts a lot of emphasis on folding but do you also find yourself experimenting with various materials, textures and weights until you find the right one?

KM: Yes, I enjoy working with a broad range of materials and pushing the possibilities of what can be folded. Over the years I have tested paper, metal, fabric, composites, plastics, cork, Tyvek and more unusual things like sail-boat materials and technical textiles for the automotive and aviation industries. Every project requires a different material specification, so there is always initially some experimentation or digging through my material library to find the right one.

Re: What’s your favourite pattern?

KM: That would be a green and blue print on a 60s vintage dress that I bought in Cologne about a decade ago. Another one of my obsessions is vintage dresses and bright, colourful prints from the 50s – 70s.

My favourite pattern of my own [pictured below] is a diamond-shaped fold that I designed about a year ago. I’m currently working on a range of bags, cushions and clothing using this pattern.

Paper window display for Desso

Re: Your client list is impressive: Ted Baker, John Lewis, L’Oréal, H&M… Have you ever been commissioned by companies looking to uplift their offices with one of your pieces?

KM: I’m developing a bespoke wall panelling system at the moment for an office project but it’s still at the very early stages.

"[...] it would be nice if employees had more freedom to decorate or contribute to the aesthetics of their workspace.

Re: Do you think art has a place in the workplace?

KM: For me personally, the space I work in is extremely important and I would find it difficult to enjoy a space without any art or design. I think it would be nice if employees had more freedom to decorate or contribute to the aesthetics of their workspace, as I believe that enjoying your environment can really boost productivity and make people happier being at work.

Re: Can you talk us through a typical day at the studio? 

KM: To compensate for my terrible memory, I’m a meticulous planner and have every 15 mins scheduled throughout the day on my calendar. Most days include 1 – 2 hours of emailing, up to an hour on finance and preparing quotations/invoices and the rest of the time I’m designing or folding for projects and delegating tasks when I have staff in.

I can have up to 20 enquiries on-going at any one time (in addition to confirmed projects I’m working on) and at the moment receive at least 4-5 new enquiries a week, so I do spend quite a lot of time managing these and working out which projects I should invest time on.

Equi textiles - pleating collection

Re: What are you working on right now?

KM: At the moment I’m working on some set design pieces for an event in London and next, I have a project where I will create a series of folded set design pieces which will be photographed and printed on a large scale for a brands marketing campaign.

I can’t really say more about what it is or who it’s for yet but you should be able to see the project on my website by September.

Re: Will you give us a glimpse of a page in your sketchbook?

Artists like Kyla McCallum are the reason why we love collaborating with makers and artisans. If you would like to feature one of Kyla's installations or products in your next Republic project, get in touch - we'll be glad to meet over coffee.

In the meantime, go marvel at her Instagram collection of patterns and colours. You can also follow Foldability on Twitter