Helen Friel designs with geometric theorems & a glue syringe

[Kim Rogala] “They can look a little creepy, but a glue syringe is probably the best tool I own!” says Helen Friel, the newest designer for The Luxe Project by MOO. Why would she need a glue syringe to design a business card collection?

Because Friel is not just a graphic designer, she is a paper engineer, and her designs are three dimensional.

Friel says she jumped at the chance to participate in the Luxe Project partly because she liked the idea of having 100% of proceeds go to her charity of choice—Battersea Dogs & Cats Home—and partly because MOO gave her free reign to design anything she wanted. “As a designer, hearing somebody say ‘do whatever you’d like to do’ is a very unusual opportunity! It’s really lovely to have somebody say that and mean it.”

Friel’s just-launched Luxe Project collection, titled “Here’s Looking at Euclid,” is a series of photographs of her 3D adaption of Oliver Byrne’s widely known illustrations, adaptations of Euclid’s axioms and theorems. Byrne, whose work was first published in The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid, is known for his use of color to identify geometric figures. “Byrne’s work was far ahead of its time. His book was first published in 1847, but the colors and lines look like they could have been designed today,” Friel says.

Byrne’s intent was to simplify Euclid’s theorems with color, making it easier for people to understand geometry. Regardless of one’s interest in the subject of geometry, the appeal of Byrne’s illustrations have remained over the years, and his Six Books of Euclid has been continually republished, most recently by Taschen. Byrne’s illustrations have been likened to the grid-based paintings of Piet Mondrian. Friel says she’s always found anything that simplifies things appealing, “Although my job is creative, I use as much logical progression in my work as possible.”

Friel’s passion for precision is evident in the way she works. To develop “Here’s Looking at Euclid,” she began by going through Byrne’s books and selecting the shapes that would be the most visually appealing as 3D models. She started with 10–15 shapes but narrowed it down to the five final models in the collection. Then, with a stack of colored paper, she began the arduous task of making the nets (also known as a dieline)—each taking two days to complete. Each color on the models is cut from paper…enter the glue syringe.

“Gluing some of the curved shapes can be fiddly. The syringe is incredibly precise and makes the gluing process that much easier,” Friel says. Gluing the model nets took her about two days.

Photographer Rob Wilson photographed each of the five models for the backs of the Luxe cards. Friel sees “Here’s Looking at Euclid” appealing to not only paper engineers, but those who have a similar aesthetic, people who use precision or mathematics in their work, or anyone attracted to geometry, shape or color…makers.

As with all the collections in The Luxe Project, Friel’s designs are digitally printed on Mohawk Superfine, with MOO’s Quadplex technology of fusing four sheets of paper together to create a super-thick, 32pt. business card that’s three times the thickness of standard cards. “The paper can really make or break a project. I love the finish of this paper, and the thickness of these cards makes them nice to hold,” says Friel.

The option of adding a seam of color in the center of the card is one more level of customization: The front of the cards is personalized, the seam is optional, and the backs of the cards can be made up of all of the designs in the collection or only the favorite design(s) of those ordering.

For the month that Friel is The Luxe Project featured designer, 100% of net proceeds of her collection will go to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. Friel is a Battersea volunteer. Her South London studio is minutes from Battersea Park (shown below) where the dogs are walked…in little blue coats that say, “I need a home.” Battersea has been working to re-home dogs and cats for over 150 years. An organization of over 800 volunteers now, it was the first animal welfare organization to establish a dedicated behavior unit. Battersea works to place pets and educate the public on responsible pet ownership. “I miss having dogs, so I get to enjoy spending time with the animals at Battersea. It’s wonderful that MOO let me select this charity,” says Friel.

Graphic designer turned paper engineer, Friel is drawn to the precision involved in working with paper. Her style and expertise has led her to work on some amazing projects including for Harrods. Friel designed the set for this Spring/Summer 2012 issue, as well as others.

Friel is also well known for her series of paper cut Shadow Books, a series with an unexpected edge that reveals Friel’s dark sense of humor. Each book features a surreal collection of cut-outs and captions, including dead animals and realist tea parties.

The Luxe Project has helped to raise over $20,000 for the charities of the Luxe designers: Michael Osborne for Joey’s Corner, Dan Rubin for The Harmony Foundation, Katie Barcelona for GVI and Sean Adams for The Art Center College of Design.

Helen Friel is a paper engineer living and working in London. She graduated from Central Saint Martins with a BA in Graphic Design in 2009. From tiny sets for delicate jewellery to projects exploring fortune telling with animal entrails, her work spans huge a range of subjects and often reflects a dark sense of humor. Her clients include Vogue, Vanity Fair, Time and Harrods.

Photos by Rob Wilson for MOO.

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