How to Start with Tessellations

Posted by Madonna Yoder on

Many folders would like to start learning tessellations, but aren't sure where to start.

In this video I introduced the four major grid types that every tessellation folder needs to know and clarified the distinction between twist-based tessellations, corrugations, and tessellations that require an all-at-once collapse.

You see, there are easier and harder ways to fold tessellations and when many folders see a crease pattern for the first time they think that they need to precrease everything and then collapse all at once.

That's actually the hardest way to learn tessellations - you have more work at the beginning, more work to get the collapse, you're liable to unfold as much as you fold, and the paper is often uncooperative.

It's much easier to start from a grid, then put in one twist at a time in a secure way that doesn't unfold as you work on the next one!

It's also easier to start with a guide, and you can find my free Tessellation Foundations series here.


Tessellation Curriculum

I break the knowledge needed to fold tessellations down into three main categories: folding skills, building blocks, and structures.


Folding skills are most important in the beginning - you'll need to be able to translate your intentions into actions in order to fold any tessellations at all!

My Tessellation Foundations series is aimed at building these skills of gridding, folding pleat intersections, reordering pleat overlaps, and starting to recognize these elements in broader structures, including in crease patterns.

These folding skills are the How of tessellations and at this level you'll be able to follow along with workshops.


Building blocks are next up - you'll need to identify what you're folding so you can remember and repeat it later.

I teach the 8 twists every tessellation folder needs to know in Basic Twists Bootcamp, with 10 workshops focusing on a progressively advancing series of tessellations with challenges to use these basic twists in other arrangements too (join the waitlist here).

These building blocks are the What of tesselations and when you recognize them you'll be able to fold from crease patterns and start reverse engineering from photos.


Structures are the final step - you'll need to know how things fit together if you want to create your own tessellations.

This includes tilings and symmetries, which were the main focus of my recent FoldFest talk, where I explained the most common structures and introduced a few more exotic ones.

It's also the focus of my Tessellations by Tiles course that I run each year, which teaches 20 tilings over 24 weeks (join the waitlist here).

These structures are the Why of tessellations and when you learn them you'll be able to create your own variations and designs.


Of course, you can't completely divorce structures from building blocks or building blocks from folding skills - we use all of these categories of information in every tessellation we fold - but it's useful to think of these three categories as progressive focus areas so you don't get overwhelmed with all the things to learn.

And there's always more to learn - there's no end to the advanced techniques in all three categories from rotated grids to hybrid twists to advanced tilings.


Next Up

My next few live videos will focus on helping you start folding tessellations, especially from crease patterns.

First up is how to fold your first tessellation using only grid lines on a triangle grid.

Next is how to read a crease pattern, and finally I'll teach how to fold from a crease pattern - without the tough collapse!

Head on over to my YouTube channel and subscribe so you don't miss them - I'll be going live on Tuesdays at 2pm NY time.

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