Cabinet of Curiosity are textile/costume artist Caroline Collinge & architect Edmond Salter.
They work with paper materials & techniques to make exhibitions, installations & participatory arts activities for commissions with heritage sites, arts organisations, museums & the community.


Monday, 17 October 2016

MoDA: Katagami in Practice: Project Launch

Caroline has commenced a research project with the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, based at Middlesex University and has just participated in an introductory session where she was able to meet her fellow participants and find out more about the project from  

Participants in the Katagami in Practice project met together yesterday at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture for the first time. It was great to see everyone buzzing with ideas and thinking about how their different approaches might work together.
Our intention is that the five participants work both individually and collaboratively to produce a range of outcomes over the next year. We'll also be documenting and reflecting on the process of research itself, through a series of short video interviews with participants. 

We've got a great team, each bringing a range of backgrounds and experience.  Caroline Collinge is a designer maker who comes from a costume and performance background. She has a long interest in Japanese crafts of origami, and in the way in which fabrics move when worn on the body. She is intending to create garments informed by close analysis of the katagami in MoDA's collection, and then to develop these into costumes to be worn for a dance performance. We're hoping to find some way of collaborating with the dance department here at Middlesex University for this aspect of the project.  

Caroline's work chimes nicely with the ideas put forward by Mamiko Markham. Mamiko was born in Kyoto and grew up making katagami from a young age. She has a deep knowledge of the symbolism of the motifs used in katagami design and in the techniques used to make them. Her work for this project will include analysis of images of the katagami created using an infrared camera. This will reveal marks such as stamps and signatures which are not visible to the naked eye, which should enable Mamiko to accurately determine the dates, geographical origins and makers of each specific stencil. It's even possible that she might find we have the work of her great grandfather, who was a katagami maker!

Dr Alice Humphrey's interest in katagami stencils is from a rather different angle. Her PhD at Leeds University looked at the analysis of spirals in decorative designs, and her interest in this project is in using mathematical modelling to determine how the effects of light and shade are created in the stencils using only varying thicknesses of line. She has developed an online tool for manipulating designs using this method, and she hopes to develop this further.  Alice works closely with ULITA at Leeds University, which has a collection of katagami stencils similar to MoDA's. We hope to be able to work together more closely with ULITA through this project, sharing knowledge and developing joint resources.

Dr Sarah Desmarais began her career as a fine artist but found herself always drawn to textiles in particular. Her practice as a textile designer-maker has developed into an interest in the slow and manual processes of making; the interrelationship of digital and manual craft cultures, the meditative and repetitive nature of making things by hand and the deep engagement with the material world that this entails.  Her plan is to engage in the process of making katagami herself - no doubt aided by Mamiko's expertise - and to observe and reflect on that process.
The title of this project refers to "Japanese stencils in the Art School", and part of the aim is to consider how these stencils have been used in art and design teaching both historically, since the nineteenth century, and in a contemporary setting. Katagami stencils exist in many other museum collections across Europe, particularly those which evolved from schools of art or technical colleges.  We want to look at how katagami stencils can engage students' creative practice today in a deeper way than simply inspiring them to reach for the laser cutter.  To this end, Sarah intends to devise workshops for students that will consider katagami as ‘taskmasters’, ‘ambassadors’ and ‘networkers’, in human-material interweavings across time and space.   There will no doubt be many other ways in which this project can support teaching both at Middlesex University and elsewhere.  
All of the participants bring a wealth of experience and expertise from entirely different - yet strangely complementary - fields of research.  Several common themes are emerging already, including perhaps the relationship between the manual and the digital in cultures of making.  This project continues until Spring 2018, and there will be a variety of outputs along the way, not all of which are decided yet.  We’re also interested in documenting the process of research, and we’ll be helped in this by Jack Adams, an historian and filmmaker, who will be recording video interviews with the participants along the way as they reflect on their research, refine their ideas and share their progress. 
This project is supported by Designation Development Funding from the Arts Council England

Wednesday, 14 September 2016


Thu 1 – Fri 30 Sep 2016 / Free event

City Hall, The Queen's Walk, London, SE1 2AA

Our work with partner schools and the Thames Festival Trust for this year's Rivers of the World Festival is currently on exhibition in London.
London Nautical School: River city buildings in proximity to the River Kelani in Sri Lanka inspired the research for the workshops. The traditional use of Prussian Blue ink for building 'blue prints' were adapted to create three-dimensional objects resembling the river city buildings for the workshops. The pupils created a blue-print paper metropolis in homage to the spectacular architecture, new and old, of Sri Lanka. 
Plumstead Manor School: Pupils designed and made paper shadow puppets within a theatrical scene that drew inspiration from photographic portraits of the traditional Sri Lankan rural trades that existed along the river. The shadow shows were then illuminated for filming the puppets in action and the individual sequences edited together to create a short animation film.
UCL Academy: Joseph Bazelgette's Victorian garden and urban designs along the Thames embankment were re-interpreted through a series of perspective boxes that created a series of internal and external perspectival scenes using paper collage and paper engineering techniques.
Wren Academy: Joseph Bazelgette's Victorian engineering projects for the London sewer system that cleaned the polluted River Thames inspired the research for the workshops. The building masterpieces that celebrated engineering and architecture by expressive decorative ironwork of Victorian pumping stations such as Crossness inspired the techniques of the workshops. Elaborate designs produced in the same period by the craftsman William Morris directed each scene produce by the pupils to create a decorative display of views within an imaginary Victorian pumping station.
Rivers of The World is an international arts education programme that works in schools across the world and young people aged 12 to 14 to help inspire, educate and connect them to their local river and waterfront.
Working with professional artists, participants explore environmental, social, ecological and cultural aspects of their river and communities. They then create immense artworks inspired by their findings which help share their stories, ideas and hopes. This year’s exhibition can be seen at City Hall and outside along the South Bank, Bankside, National Theatre, More London.
This year’s partner schools come from Addis Ababa, Debre Zayit & Bahir Dar in Ethiopia, Chittagong in Bangladesh, Colombo in Sri Lanka, Hanoi in Vietnam, Kafua in Zambia, Manila in Philippines, London, Lincolnshire, Monmouth, Gloucestershire, Thurrock and Southend-on-Sea in the UK.
Rivers of The World’s lead artist is Shona Watt and our fellow partner artists include Martha Hardy (Ethiopia), Chulu Zenzele (Zambia), Nguyen Hoang Giang (Vietnam), Richard Crooks (Bangladesh), Lalith Senanayake (Sri Lanka) and John M Atienza (Philippines).

Monday, 11 July 2016


We've been working with the Thames Festival Trust on their Rivers of the World project, exploring the cultural heritage and stories of rivers with Secondary schools across London. This is a short animation that we made during one of our workshops that focused on creating paper shadow shows about the traditional trades in Sri Lanka. Pupils worked with photographic portraits of Sri Lankan workers from 1900, many of which were women working in rural economies, and used these as inspiration for their characters within their paper cut environments.
We then used lighting to back project onto a screen made of tracing paper against which the pupils created a series of animated sequences that we have edited together to create an audio visual journey through Sri Lanka's past.

Monday, 13 June 2016


Paper prototype of a chameleon on a small scale
Laser cut cardboard lemurs and lizards prior to assembly
Laser cut chameleon tails and body parts
Laser cut lemur heads painted in gold and blue
Assembled chameleon and lemur installed in tree
Yellow lizard in tree
Lemurs were assembled like a jumping jack toy so that the body parts had movement
Red chameleon suspended from tree
 We've just completed a commission for the Forest of Imagination Festival in Bath that involved designing and making lemurs, pigeons and lizards to connect with the theme of 'Eyes of the Forest'. Birds view the world through a broader UV spectrum than humans and this determined the bright colours within our cardboard installation. Our 'Paper Menagerie' accompanied a soundscape created by Martyn Ware that was played through speakers hung within the same tree as our installation.

We began the process of making the work by creating a series of small scale animals that enabled us to work out the body parts that would form each of the creatures. We wanted the final installation to have a three dimensional look so we incorporated paper engineering techniques to make the chameleons and puppetry for the lemurs.

Once the creatures had been worked out on a small scale we then scaled up our prototypes, creating a series of drawings that would enable us to use a laser cutting machine to cut out the patterns from cardboard. The cardboard was painted and collaged onto to create exotic textiles that included incorporating coloured acetates within the cut out surface design that gave a stained glass effect. We then assembled the cardboard sculptures using glue and string to bond the parts together.

The piece drew a very positive response from the public and transformed a public square in Bath into an exotic forest for the duration of the festival.

Friday, 4 March 2016


We're nearing the end of our residency at Guildford Cathedral and have been focusing on creating hand painted textiles for origami forms and a series of paper cuts.
We hope to use the paper cuts to create a series of products that include a pictorial alphabet book of Guildford Cathedral and an architectural kit of parts of the building. We have created an initial prototype of the architectural kit of parts, based on the tower with the Guildford angel. This was recently tested within an art workshop for children, held at the Cathedral, who made their own paper tower that they then customised (top image). The idea for this originated from research we undertook into paper architectural models at the V & A Museum of Childhood. We discovered that there is a tradition within Spanish cultures for celebrating the building of a Cathedral or religious building with a paper toy model for people to make. It seemed fitting to bring this tradition to Guildford Cathedral since our residency is coinciding with new building works supported by the Heritage Lottery.
The paper cuts of the angel and the stag are the starting point for the alphabet book of the Cathedral. We hope to turn these paper cuts into screen printed images and experiment with using geometric patterns we have found within the Cathedral architecture and interior to create a series of decorative illustrations.

Friday, 8 January 2016


We have been working on a range of paper textiles and folded forms that have been directed by our residency within Guildford Cathedral. Our work has taken on a new direction as we have introduced painting techniques and a vibrant colour palette to create geometric patterns within the origami crease patterns of our paper models. These new techniques have been directly influenced by our exposure to the design motifs and colour scheme - Guildford blue and gold - that are used throughout the Cathedral.

The folds used within our models are 'waterbomb' folds. This is a traditional Japanese origami base fold that can be used to create very complex folded models. The architecture of the waterbomb folds is very reminiscent of the folded ceiling within the main Cathedral that gives the interior space a powerful presence.

The title of our blog post 'Heavenly Mansions' is taken from an influentual book by the British architectural historian John Summerson published in 1963, following the completion of Guildford Cathedral. Summerson's book interprets architecture as a reflection of the age in which it flowers. The book traces the alternating themes of fantasy and functionalism exemplified in the  various styles and works of a number of influential architects.  

We have identified that many of Edward Maufe's inspirations embedded in his design outlook were possibly instilled during his formative years. Maufe spent the early part of his life living in the Red House, a purpose designed house completed in 1860 for William Morris, designed by the architect Philip Webb, as a Victorian re-interpetation of the English Gothic mansion. Edward Maufe worked in close partnership with his wife Prudence Maufe who oversaw many of the Cathedral's interior design elements such as the kneelers and rugs.

The interior design aesthetic within the Cathedral seems to have been influenced by Prudence's career as an interior designer and director for Heal's department store. Heal’s company design philosophy was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement established by the iconoclastic Victorian designer and maker William Morris. One of the founding directors of Heal's department store was Ambrose Heal. Heal joined the company in 1893 having completed an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker. Ambrose Heal believed in modernity and combined this functional aestheticism with a conviction that affordable furniture produced in large-scale workshops could still be of a good quality. Heal also firmly believed in the dictum advocated by William Morris, that everyone should,

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

The creative partnership between Edward and Prudence Maufe has proved to be a very inspiring theme within this residency. On a personal level we can identify with their working relationship, as it mirrors our own practice within architecture and textiles. As professional designers we can appreciate that their complimentary design skills transform the Cathedral into a total work of art.

 Edward and Prudence Maufe