by Cheyenne L. Black
Hedi Kyle is a German-American artist who specializes in folded book structures. Her work has become something of a mainstay in the book arts community as she has given artists such structures as the Flag Book, the Blizzard Book, the Spider Book, the Fishbone fold, and many, many more. Some have called Kyle the most influential book artist of her time.
Kyle’s generosity with her craft is perhaps the most endearing element of her work. The readiness with which she has made available instructions, offered of her time, and shared her most creative ideas is nothing short of remarkable.
In art school Kyle studied illustration and graphic design and in an interview with Alastair Johnston at the Fine Press Book Association, Kyle says that she learned book design such as covers and typography in this program but not book craft. From there, she went on to learn advertising and spent some time drawing advertisements as produced through the J. Walter Thompson agency. Her work at the time included such brands as Philadelphia cream cheese and Lux soap.
Also according to her interview with Johnson, Kyle first developed her craft and style with Laura Young in the 70’s in New York and eventually began teaching at the center for book arts in New York, a position she claims to have fallen into by accident.
Over time, she moved on to teach in the book arts program at Philadelphia Arts, but, she says to Johnson, she is prone to overwork as she gets excited about things and when she is teaching this pushes her to take on too much, frequently.
Kyle claims that giving away her work has been satisfying but she would prefer to see some more innovation as the tone in at least this interview implies she is worried for her structures becoming cliche’d.
This may be a valid concern as the Flag Book, created by Kyle in 1979, is referred to by the Guild of Book Workers as “the single most influential structure in the world of contemporary bookmaking.”
Though it may be tempting to focus on the structure of her books, to keep the folds and ingenious innovations center stage, Kyle says she doesn’t want blank books calling it a “missed opportunity.” The structure exists to support the art contained therein, and Kyle emphasizes the work of the book by using her structures to support and showcase the material contained inside.
Kyle is the cofounder of the Paper Book Intensive, the “annual working sabbatical in book arts, papermaking, and conservation” which is the largest gathering of it’s kind in the nation; a professor at the University of Arts in Philadelphia; and has lectured worldwide on her craft. Of her work, Mills College book arts professor Julie Chen says, “She is a rockstar in the book art world,” adding, “The whole book art community is indebted to her for her contributions and for what she has created.”
Hedi Kyle does not merely push the envelope. She folds it first, fills it, and gives it back to you as a book.
A few instruction sheets for her work can be found here:
More information on Kyle:
Information on the intensive mentioned herein:
The program for which Kyle teaches:
Information on ordering a catalog of an exhibit she held can be found here:
Several structures not seen here can also be seen at: