FoldHaus
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FoldHaus

Rémy Pieron

Rémy Pieron

Humans of FoldHaus is a series celebrating the many, many amazing volunteers (like Rémy) who work tirelessly on their evenings and weekends to bring to life the FoldHaus Collective Art. Below is Remy’s story.

But first, a brief note:

The FoldHaus team, the art collective behind Burning Man (and Smithsonian!) favorites #ShrumenLumen and #BlumenLumen, are building our most radical installation ever, and we need your help.

A project of this scale is only possible with the support of a large community. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support RadiaLumia.

Rémy Pieron

How did you get involved in FoldHaus? Why?

“I had gone to Burning Man for two years before I got involved with FoldHaus. I’d done an art project in 2013 and it hadn’t worked very well. I knew going back in 2014 I wanted to do a better one.

I’d seen the yurt [editor’s note: before building any of the art pieces, the FoldHaus team started by building yurts and shade structures], and so when Joerg proposed the idea of working on a kinetic version of it, I was like: I’m in.

Joerg and I drove the mechanical together. It was a big learning year.

After that, I was pushing for the second piece [editor’s note: Shrumen Lumen in 2016]. I did a lot of the small scale prototyping, but I was building my van [editor’s note: Remy reconfigured a van as a full-time home for himself and his fiancé.] That enabled me to spend a year and a half driving around. But there was a lot of FOMO. I love building with a team. When you’re building by yourself you can go down rabbit holes. I missed the camaraderie of late nights with a crew of people. [editor’s note: Remy is now back in a central role at FoldHaus, devoting most of his time to RadiaLumia. As Joerg notes, ‘Remy is not working now, which allows me to work.’ Aww.]”

Burning man is supposedly life changing. Has it changed your life?

“Um, yeah. Certainly. I spend a ton of my free time doing this and that would never have happened without Burning Man. My year doesn’t necessarily revolve around Burning Man, but when we as a group decide to do a project, my life certainly gets drawn deep into that orbit. As FoldHaus continues to grow and evolve, maybe it will become a full time thing.

Doing large art pieces has also completely changed how I view Burning Man. I won’t go back unless I’m bringing an art project. The party doesn’t hold the same appeal that it once did. I enjoy watching people sit with the art piece and interact with it. That’s the draw of Burning Man for me now. The art presents on this scale unlike anywhere else in the world.”

Community is a big part of FoldHaus. What’s your experience been?

“It’s changed a lot. FoldHaus was a pretty small community the first year [editor’s note: 2014, when we created the Blumen Lumen]. It was really just the five core members. When we needed hands we reached out to the IDEO community. That community is pretty strong so we got a fair number of hands on build weekends.

Last time with the mushrooms, I was here for a couple of build weekends working on other stuff related to FoldHaus, like grants. It was crazy to see how many people were here: like 30 people doing massive folding. It was three times as big as what we ever had.

This year has been even more different because I’ve been remote [editor’s note: Remy’s cool van currently finds its home in Nevada, and he comes to the Bay Area on weekends for building]. I’ve been seeing all names on Slack but had no faces to associate with them. It’s crazy that we have this disaggregated group that’s able to accomplish something so big even though it’s not geo located. We are rarely in the same space physically. I talk to Joerg on the phone every other day (his partner says he speaks more to Joerg than her!). But I feel a little disconnected. I’m happy to be here right now [editor’s note: for a build weekend]. There’s nothing like being in the same space.”

Joerg, Remy, and Peter in the IDEO Palo Alto build space

What’s been one of the happiest moments of FoldHaus?

“Mine is the same as Joerg’s [editor’s note: really, Remy and Joerg are not life partners!]: that time when we were biking down the playa trying to see the flowers in the distance. We were exhausted. We didn’t know how to plan. We didn’t understand concept of playa brain. We forgot details. To see them pop to life one after the other was pretty surreal.

Another is going to the Smithsonian and watching the mushrooms [editor’s note: the Shrumen Lumen are on exhibit at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. until January 2019]. Seeing my grandparents’ faces. They’re in their mid-80s. Observing childlike awe on an an octogenarian’s face is pretty special. To know that you had a hand in that.

We just made for the sake of making things, but then we got to see the joy they bring people.

Do you consider yourself an artist?

“That’s a tough one. I can’t draw for shit. I don’t. Joerg is definitely the one with the vision. But this is engineering as art. And I guess I do at this point. I have trouble with the term. For some reason it comes with a higher level of visual creativity than I feel like I possess. It feels like a label that others have to place on you. But you can only have people tell you over and over that you’re an artist before you begin to believe it could be true. We’re creating something pretty ridiculous. Art for art’s sake. I guess yes.”

What’s your contribution to FoldHaus?

“I do mechanical design. And some project management. I keep a pretty solid pulse on everything. I bug every team. Part of that is because I feel very distant. But also I have so much invested in getting it done I want to make sure everyone is doing what they said they would.

I’ve done most of the mechanical design and the CAD work, with tons of input from Joerg, Jon Kaplan, Jim Yeurchenko and others. I’m the one with the time so I’m the one doing it. But I’m not doing it alone by any means.”

What do you get out of being part of FoldHaus?

“I just love making things. I like making things that move, and I generally work on things that are quite small in scale (e.g., consumer electronics). The chance to make something that is huge and has absolutely no purpose is wonderful. I’m designing for joy instead of designing for solving a problem. There are no stakeholders. People will like it or not.

We want to do it so we’re doing it. There’s something about it being completely purposeless that is really appealing. It warms my heart.

I love the process of making. There’s the secondary benefit of watching the other people enjoy it. That’s more emotional. But I have this need and energy to make.”

By day, when you’re not part of FoldHaus, who are you?

“I’m a product designer and mechanical engineer and I’m a gun for hire at the moment. I’m trying to make a living in Reno as a independent contractor. I’m an outdoor enthusiast. That is what I sacrifice when I do these builds. I don’t really get a summer to climb mountains, backpack or mountain bike. That is the sacrifice that my fiancé thus has to make as well to some extent, thanks Kirsten for indulging me!”

Thank you for reading!

If you’re curious to learn more about how we make our art happen, read about how we make the impossible possible on the IDEO blog. And, to hear more about what we’re up to, follow us on @foldhauscollective on Instagram.

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Humans of FoldHaus tells stories of the amazing volunteers behind some of the world's largest maker art, including the Shrumen Lumens, currently on display at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian. More about FoldHaus Art Collective at www.foldhaus.com

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Amy Bonsall

Amy Bonsall

I help companies weave in kindness, creativity and humanity using human-centered design. Founder of Nau (www.inthenau.com) and Creative Collisions, IDEO alumna.

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