(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Kaleidocycles, by Doris Schattschneider and Wallace Walker (1977, Box edition 2004)
I’ve long loved M.C. Escher’s works, but very few of the people I’ve talked to here in Japan seem to have heard of him. So I was surprised to see this book on the shelves at Junkudo. I ran home and did a net search to get a price check on it, and to look at the reviews on Amazon. One person complained that the authors had stamped their names all over the cards, but otherwise most of the other comments were positive. That, and the U.S. price was $14. The Japanese sale price was 1,200 yen ($13 USD including tax), so I went back and bought a copy the next day.

(Booklet cover.)

This is actually a large boxed coffee table book set. The box contains a 58-page booklet with examples of Escher’s most famous cyclic drawings, explanations of how the authors went about making the Kaleidocycles, and a detailed discussion of how the Kaleidocycles tie into geometry. Then, there’s a stack of printed, pre-cut, pre-creased sheets that you use to make the 6 different geometric solids and 11 Kaleidocycles.

(Back of booklet, with an example solid.)

A Kaleidocycle is a chain of polygonal objects that has one of Escher’s works crawling along the outside surface. They’re designed so that the creatures or patterns in the artwork are endlessly repeating as you rotate it through the center. The objects are all papercrafts that you punch out and glue together. This is really why I wanted to get this book – I want to make more papercrafts.

(Punched-out pieces for the Cube.)

I started with one of the easiest regular solids – the Cube. It has two punched pieces in one sheet of card stock. It’s a simple task of gluing the two pieces together to make a cube.

(The Cube, Tetrahedron and Octahedron.)

Because the Cube went so quickly (only ten minutes total) I checked the assembly list to see what else I could do in one sitting. I discovered that there was also a Tetrahedron and Octahedron. The Tetra was made up of only one sheet, but because of the way the glue tabs were laid out, it was kind of hard to reach inside to press down on the inner sides of the tabs to set up the glue. The Octa used two sheets and was somewhat easier to assemble because it didn’t want to close up until the very last side was put into place. But, what I didn’t like about the Octa is that it had registration problems. The punch out lines were offset from the artwork about an 1/8″, leaving a white strip along several of the edges. The fact that the white strips are in the middle of the dark red creatures makes them stand out even more. Although that’s the way the sheets were printed, it looks to the casual observer as if I made it wrong. Not happy about that…

(Same objects, just showing different faces. The key is to look at the corners to see how each of the creatures in that image have points of rotation, and at the edges to look for reflections.)

I’ll work my way through the other objects in ascending difficulty.
What I found interesting was that the bookstore employees had taped a photo of the finished objects to the front of the box so the customers could get a feel for what’s in the package, and there was a second small sheet taped on with a short biography of Escher in Japanese, explaining who he was. And, as for the one complaint on Amazon, the co-author’s initials are printed on the punch-out sheets in a relatively small corner or edge of the patterns to discourage people from scanning the artwork and printing out free copies. It’s something you kind of have to expect, and it isn’t that obtrusive into the artwork, for the most part..

Recommended if you like making papercrafts and you like Escher.

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