Creative duo Angela Fung and Ashley Bedford are best known for challenging conventions and pushing the possibilities of fibre and paper. Between them, they create exceptionally beautiful, large-scale architectural origami sculptures and installations.
Combining a knowledge of architecture and origami folding techniques, Fung + Bedford (who have been Design-Nation members since 2014) have been commissioned to create a piece at Collect to respond to the Stamp Stairs, the spectacular five-storey period staircase at Somerset House that links the floors of the fair together.
Made by hand with exquisite skill and precision, Gathering is a new departure for the artists to create a more abstract and fluid way of manipulating paper. Each individual component is shaped, pinched and gathered, drawing on Angela and Ashley’s acquired professional skills as jewellers. The unit is then multiplied to form a bigger gathering to create a wall of cascading gold units, over ten metres high.
The piece is suspended in the beautiful Grade I listed stairwell, which created its own difficulties. Ashley Bedford said, “This was the most challenging and most complex installation we’ve ever done. Basically we were installing 135 separate pieces of origami in thin air, in an environment where one is technically not allowed to touch anything, due to its Grade I listed status. Being in a five-storey stairwell in such a vast void, installing scaffolding would have been complex, intrusive (and frankly a massive financial haemorrhage).
“But we wanted to work with the grand scale of the building and the height of the Stamp Staircase without the time-consuming business of continually going up and down ladders or stairs as much as possible. Also we needed to restrict our installation set-up area – the stairs are also a public area and Somerset House is open seven days a week. So after many sleepless nights and ongoing thinking – I thought pulleys! It was a great light bulb moment and the rest of our plan was built around this central idea.”
This installation could not have been possible without the championship of the Crafts Council’s Collect team, who took Angela and Ashley’s beautiful concept to heart and negotiated with Somerset House for the necessary permissions, included final inspection by a structural engineer (not what one normally thinks of with origami).
Thanks to Fung +Bedford’s meticulous planning the installation last Sunday went very smoothly indeed, if not quietly. Angela remarked, “Somerset House was of course open to the public and they have an ongoing and popular Beano exhibition. It was a wet windy half term Sunday – so there were many running kids about. Yet I sat comfortably at the bottom of the stairwell folding our ‘tortellini’ to create Gathering. It’s funny – amongst all the chaos that day I really enjoyed this process.” Watch Angela at work here.
An interior designer’s dream – Fung + Bedford are proud to add this latest piece to their portfolio of works. Their talents as makers and project managers are impressive, and that’s not all they’ve achieved in their creative lives. Angela trained as a classical pianist and Ashley in architecture, before both turned to jewellery and more recently to “architectural origami”. Read more about their other big projects and major commissions here.
Design-Nation and Fung + Bedford are grateful to Somerset House for supporting this project and to the Crafts Council for making it happen. We’d particularly like to thank Isobel Dennis, Daniella Wells and Nico Pianet.