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Sunday, July 21, 2013


Russian Peacock, 2012, Denierim (no scissors allowed)
This past spring, my granddaughter (along with my airman son and her mother) returned from a three-year stint in Japan. Being the exceedingly bright twelve-year-old she is, while in the land of the rising sun, she picked up far more than the rudiments of the ancient Japanese art of paper folding they call origami. (She's also into duct tape art, but we won't hold that against her). I've never been much of a sculptor and I'm doing good to fold napkins so they'll stand on their own, so she didn't even try to teach me even the simplest complexities of the art form. Suffice to say, her grandmother and I found her creations (and watching her create them) endlessly fascinating.
Wet-folded origami.
Origami is said to have originated in its earliest, simplest form around a thousand years ago, though it wasn't until the 17th century that the really good stuff like animals, flowers, and figures evolved. And to my surprise, there are actually a half-dozen distinctly different types of origami, including action origami, modular origami, wet-fold origami, Pureland origami, and Kirigami (which allows cutting of the paper). A few days ago I wrote on Mathematical art (07-17-13). It will undoubtedly come as no surprise to those adept at paper folding that the two are closely related. And, like mathematical art, the computer has intruded into the ancient art of origami design as well, eliminating much of the trial and error approach of the ancient innovators.
Origami for rich Republicans (impress your friends, use large denominations)
The starting point in origami is not the first fold, but the paper itself. Virtually any flat material capable of holding a crease may be used with varying degrees of success (money works well). However, traditional origami usually relies on a thin, tough, paper, cut to form a square, and usually colored on one or both sides. Size is irrelevant. Wet-fold origami requires a heavier paper with natural starches. This allows for curves, rather than the standard, angular folds. Often more than one sheet of paper, folded to interlock together, are used in the more extravagant constructions. Pure origami allows neither scissors nor glue, though some modern practitioners cheat a little on the glue restrictions.

It doesn't get much simpler than this.

For starters...
The ubiquitous crane (left, the bird, not the construction type) is often the first instructional piece. Directions (as seen above) almost always rely on drawings, and anyone with a modicum of eye-hand coordination usually achieves success. After that, it all comes down to patience, manual dexterity, and the ability to endure no small amount of frustration. Given enough paper and enough time, there is virtually no limit as to subject matter, even works inspired by M.C. Escher (a natural choice) and Vincent van Gogh (not so natural a choice). So far, I've not seen any origami portraits, but it might be fun to try. I'll mention it to my granddaughter the next time I see her.

Origami fashions, Bare Rose. They can only be worn once and are highly
restrictive of movement. (Heavy breathing causes tears and tears.)


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