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I grew up in China in the Seventies when resources were extremely scarce. Most of the Chinese children at that time didn’t have toys – we played with simple things we made with our hands. We played games with shuttlecocks made of feathers and bottle caps, slingshots made of rubber bands and wooden sticks, and of course, airplanes and balloons made of paper. Indeed, we made all sorts of objects from paper: balls, baskets, dollhouses, bird figurines, and other objects. Paper was a common commodity, but it was not abundant and cheap during that time. We would fold and make objects using all kinds of paper from old newspapers, old magazines and used notebooks. Since I was a child, I have always been fascinated by the art and the science of the folding paper. Paper folding seems to always start from a simple geometric pattern and then it evolves into a complex piece of art through the hands of an artist/designer.
During my first year in the College of Architecture and Urban Design and Planning in Tongji University in Shanghai, I was asked to design a structure from a single piece of paper – the rule was that you could fold or score the paper, but the paper needed to stay as one piece. The paper exercise was a classic of design school training, originally found in Joseph Albers’ preliminary design studio at the Bauhaus. The aim of the paper exercise was to introduce constructivism to the beginning design students: good design was characterized by economy of organization and construction, and the material we used, in this case, paper, needed to be treated in ways that were inherently true and honest. For example, a flat piece of paper doesn’t have any stiffness. But once it is folded, its stiffness increases tremendously. I was in awe of the complexity of geometry and the simplicity of material application in the paper folding exercise, and I fell in love with art and design.
After I graduated from Tongji’s College of Architecture and Urban Design and Planning, I continued graduate studies in art and design in the United States, and I finished a MS in Interior Design and a MFA in graphic design. I am trained in and I have practiced design across a wide range of disciplines—interior design, architecture, urban planning, web design, interaction design, and graphic design. In all of these, I am interested in understanding how elements and principles of design come into play through creative and constructive techniques toward transcending boundaries between these different disciplines.