The art of napkin folding

napkin folding


Bringing people together is always at the core of what we do at The Collective, and we’re always discovering new, creative ways to do that. Who knew that napkin folding or ‘napery,’ could be one of those art forms? Kate Colin, an artist by trade, tells us about the deeper joys of folding napkins as a way to liven up a dinner setting and show your guests how special they are, ahead of her workshop with us tonight at The Collective.

How did you get into napkin folding?

Kate: As an artist who works with fold and colour, I’m always on the lookout for ways to apply my skills in new contexts. My interest in napkin folding came about when I found an old book in a charity shop and realised what an exciting art form the tradition of ‘napery’ can be. The infinite number of designs and techniques felt like a natural progression which would utilise and develop my existing skills and allow me to experiment with different types of paper and fabrics.  I really enjoy bringing this traditional craft up to date and am now completely hooked! 

What does it mean to you?

A beautifully folded napkin is simple and effective way of enhancing and bringing joy to a table setting, and also makes a wonderful first impression. People feel special when they sit down with a napkin that someone has taken the time to fold for them.  It is a fantastic hobby, easy to learn, accessible to everyone and has dozens of possibilities. I am passionate about folding and the three dimensional forms which can be created using just a few simple folds.  Working with napkins is an accessible way to pass this interest on to other people, so that they too can discover the joy and sense of accomplishment achieved when folding something for the first time.

People feel special when they sit down with a napkin that someone has taken the time to fold for them. A beautifully folded napkin is simple and effective way of enhancing and bringing joy to a table setting.

Tell us about the skill of napkin folding. Does it have any links to origami and the Japanese art of folding?

Surprisingly, napkin folding isn’t directly connected to origami and it came from Europe rather than China or Japan. Individual napkins were first used in the French royal courts around 1400, having originated in the city of Reims, France which was known for its fine cloth. Dining customs and etiquette were set by the Italian and French courts, but their practices quickly spread to northern Europe and Britain.  By the 1770s, napkins were commonly used at the table and by the late 1800s. With the Victorians’ love of ornate decoration, the art of folding napkins was widely used to enhance the look of place settings has become a fashion that is still highly valued today.

napkin folding

How does it feel to share your interest by teaching others, in workshops like ours?

I love folding as an art form, as well as teaching and sharing folding skills with others. In today’s climate of computer screens and mobile phones, I think it’s really important to introduce people to new skills which enable them to create something with their hands.

A simple folded napkin can be immensely satisfying to make and it’s always so worthwhile to take an hour or so to learn a new skill which you can leave with and continue at home for years to come. It’s great fun to learn in a group setting, meet new people and try something completely different!

What can members of The Collective expect from your workshop?

The workshop will be a fun and contemporary introduction to the art of napkin folding. Members of The Collective will learn some basic folding skills and create several impressive pieces to take away with them at the end of the evening. I will bring along a wide range of folded sample designs and will demonstrate, step by step, how they are created. As a group, we work through the process of folding several piece starting with various classic ‘flat folds’ and moving on to more advanced models such as the ‘Artichoke’. Participants will have the opportunity to practise with an unlimited number of coloured paper napkins before moving on to experiment with high quality fabric napkins.

Participants will leave with 3 folded napkins, equipped with the skills and knowledge to to experiment and create their own variations at home.

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