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Most Hated Origami Remarks: June 1993
Collected during the Birmingham Convention
  • 1 Ooh! my kids would love that.
  • 2 Oh what pretty papers.
  • 3 Ooh! Lots of those would look good on my Christmas tree.
  • 4 Yes, I used to do origami when I was a kid.
  • 5 That's nice .... what is it?
  • 6 Gosh I bet you're a black belt.
  • 7 I though the origami society had folded.
  • 8 Sheffield Wednesday 2, Sheffield United 1
  • 9 You could make a mobile out of those.
  • 10 Yes I remember Philip Harbin on the telly. (For overseas members Philip Harpen was a television cook!)
  • 11 Yes I once had an origami book at home.
  • 12 What? Do you mean you sit around folding paper
  • 13 What do you do at conventions?
  • 14 Do you fold recycled paper.
  • 15 Can you do that Waterbomb thing?
  • 16 I couldn't do that I haven't the patience!
  • 17 Isn't that something you put on a pizza?
  • 18 (Looking at Max Hulme's Stevenson's Rocket Ooh, that's a nice armadillo/cat with tail in the air.
  • 19 (Having just finished a 900 unit construction) How long does it take to do one of those?
  • 20 It's time for the AGM.
  • 21 That is a nice box, what are you going to put in it?
  • 22 Have you ordered your group photograph?
  • 23 Sheffield Wednesday 2, Sheffield United 1
  • 24 Well, it says in the Constitution ...
  • 25 Time for the group photograph everyone!!


Thoughts on Origami and Creativity: August 1993
Phil Shepherd

Attempting to describe or explain creativity is not an easy thing to do, in fact it is very difficult. Some may say it is a pointless exercise even to attempt it because some things are beyond explanation and our own comprehension. This is true to some extent, but I think there is much to be learnt from examining the different ways that people create, partly because it may help others to start and partly because like all explorations of the psyche it is of great interest. Creativity is a very individual thing. Everyone has their own style, their own methods and their own aims and limitations. What works well for one person, may not work at all for another and so it is important to find one's own path to glory. Once this has been achieved, it becomes much easier to create, more a matter of time, patience and perseverance than anything else.

Most folders (including myself have difficulties at the start and go down many blind alleys and make many wrong turns before they develop their own style, but once on the right road, improvement is fast. The best way to spark creativity is to fold as many folds by different designers as possible because it introduces you to the different techniques, bases and styles that exist in Origami and should eventually leave you some idea of what area of Origami interests you and what you would like to design. It is then really a question of perseverance and your own limitations (after all not everyone can be a Philip Shen).

To my mind there are two main methods for creating new designs which makes Origami unusual. They are not wholly distinct, and many folds will involve a combination of the two methods, but separating them is I think worthwhile. Some folders specifically design folds by setting themselves a challenge or target and then attempting to reach it using all the techniques they know. This is done by trying different bases and approaches, employing techniques from other sources and ultimately by improving and refining until the target is reached (or not as the case may be). Designing this way requires an understanding of how to get from point A to point B with a sheet of paper and to think what you are doing. Like many other creators, I have never been able to design in this way and do not really understand how it is done or where to begin. All of my own "successes" have come from doodling.

Doodling is a term that has become part of "Origami - speak" and means the unconscious manipulations of paper to achieve a result. This may not be a finished design but will have reached a part where by simple or well known procedures the fold can be turned into a recognisable object. The more experienced the folder becomes the better he or she will be at spotting the potential of certain situations. Doodling tends to produce folds with interesting folding sequences as opposed to the rather long and mechanical sequences of the designer, but at the cost of realism. But what makes it so popular a style and why does it work?

Neil Maclean in his article in BOM 159 put the success of doodling down to communication with the subconscious. By shutting out the conscious he is able to tap the subconscious and so co-create with his higher self; all of which can be enhanced by the use of meditation. There is much we do not understand about the mind and much we are never likely to be able to explain but in my view there are other reasons that account for this success. Certainly trial and error plays a role, for if enough different combinations are tried, the chances are in our favour that something will eventually result.

But that does not explain everything. Usually when I doodle I do so at the same time as some other activity, for instance while watching the TV or listening to music. My mind tends to switch between the two and to some extent I am not really aware of what I am folding. There is no conscious plan, I just fold the paper this way and that until either a result is achieved or I lose interest. Because the conscious mind is switched off, I am no longer hindered by the range of my imagination and I can create outside of my imagination. This is important because it is not possible to imagine many of the more complex moves in Origami, they can only be found by the physical folding of the paper. By switching off the conscious, the barriers to creativity are removed, the nagging doubts, the preconceptions, the range of our conscious imagination.

Of course the mind is not totally disengaged otherwise we would never know when a result has been reached; what is important is that thoughts do not get in the way of creativity. My own style of doodling, adds an extra dimension to this by using well creased pieces of paper with unknown crease patterns on them which I then attempt to collapse-fold into a finished design. I therefore have no idea what particular creases I am using when I fold, helping to remove preconceptions and conscious thought about what I am doing. Doodling is also not totally without direction because most folders have some idea where they are going when they doodle even if it is a very broad area such as a geometric fold or an animal fold.

Whatever method of designing is used, creativity comes and goes like all things. There are quiet times when the corner of the room fills with screwed up balls of paper and purple patches where everything touched turns to gold (well, a finished design anyway). The best way to spark creativity is to fold as much as time permits and eventually inspiration will strike usually through someone else's design and the creative juices will start to flow again.

Origami is an enjoyable and fascinating pastime; creating new folds is very exciting. But it must be remembered that Origami is not a means to an end. What is important is how we get to our objective as much as what results. I do Origami because I enjoy folding paper, not to fill my room with paper objects (though this is the result). To try and elevate it to an art-form second to none is I think fallacious in the extreme and rather pointless because Origami cannot hope to reach this ideal. This is not in any way trivialising paper-folding. Origami has many levels; indeed some folds can be very profound, even poetic but it is too mechanical, too easily reproduced to be an art-form. Some of the best folds in Origami result in fairly uninteresting forms which would never be considered artistic; Fujimoto's cube, surely one of the greatest folds we have seen so far, is a good example of this.

To quote Eric Kenneway "a proper perception of Origami can only be achieved by doing it". Some forms of paperfolding can be artistic, the wet-folded sculptured designs we so often see displayed in the magazine are in my view art. They are beautiful reproductions of animals and objects that anybody would be impressed by. But then we must ask ourselves the question whether this is truly Origami or paper sculpture. Origami is a unique activity available to all, which can be enjoyed on all levels from children folding paper animals to those who enjoy the complexities of design and geometries. Let us not try to make it into something it is not.


Some Thoughts on Minimal Folding: October 1993
John Smith

I have discussed in previous papers the ideas of seeking constraints and then seeing what happened if these were broken. In general constraints are of two kinds.

  • Those which are beyond our control: for example, the fact that a node of straight folds must follow certain conditions to be able to flatten it.
  • Those which we choose to follow: for example - not cutting the paper, or in the case of Pureland not requiring more than one fold to be created or manipulated at a time.

The adoption of a new set of constraints necessarily leads to a new approach and possibly a rich new harvest of technical and artistic possibilities. This has certainly happened many times in painting for example, and indeed in music.

The idea of seeking the minimum number of folds to achieve a representation of a given form has a remarkable impact on one's thinking and technique and the way in which other people may be encouraged to try origami. I have found the following to be of particular importance.

  • Since the folds are to minimised, every fold needs to play its full part. This means getting the most out of a move, for example, by folding off centre one can suggest 4 legs straight away. This need to think about every move has been a revelation to me.
  • In many cases the folds cannot be located easily by reference to equal divisions of an edge or crease line. At first glance this seems to mean that it will be very hard for children to fold a particular model, but in fact I think the reverse is true. Every minimal fold of this type is a unique event, in fact it is almost impossible to fold exactly the same model. But why try to follow exactly what the first creator has done. In many cases, with faces and animals, the variations possible are enormous and can encourage a creative approach. With regard to folding faces a very slight change in the angle of a fold can lead to a remarkable change in appearance or expression. For children this should provide endless opportunities for creativity (and amusement).
  • Where folds can be located exactly then the models are usually simpler than the normal classical material as there are fewer folds and each fold is very simple.
  • Since the result we are trying to secure in Minimal folding will not employ complex folding to obtain the right number of legs, etc., it must achieve its results by suggesting the final form in a powerful way. It requires the appreciation of the very essence of structure and form.
  • Simplicity seems to be a highly desirable goal in paper folding. I think minimal folding is an important help in seeing our art in a new light.

To sum up: the adoption of minimal folding opens up a rich and important field in Paper Folding. It may in due time add a great deal to the more usual approach of achieving an effect irrespective of the sheer number of moves required and the complexity.


What is Origami?: December 1993
Neal Maclean

No doubt people fold paper for all sorts of reasons. For some it may be an amusing pastime, a calming diversion. It may be to produce models for a decoration or discussion. Or to some it may be a wholly analytical affair for those who like to solve puzzles. So in all probability it's quite likely that there are as many interpretations of what Origami is as there are paperfolders. Japanese Zen Buddhists have a walking.moving meditation called 'Kinhin'. I am of the belief that Origami also can be used as a Zen technique; which can be used not only for creating sequences of folds or beautiful models - but also as a 'way' that can lead one to enlightenment (or Nirvana in Buddhist terminology),

Is Origami an Art-form? And if there is a sliding scale of 'low art to high art' then where does Origami fit in? One opinion has already been voiced on this matter - but it would be interesting to hear others - so that a fuller picture can evolve. does the BOS committee have a'unified voice' and if so what is its opinion? Is Origami and art or a non-art? Does art have to be soft and fluffy, curvilinear or complex as one gentleman hinted at? Or can it be hard and gritty built up with straight lines and planes? Maybe it isn't even a means to an end. Will someone please stand up and define 'Art'. What constitutes a work of art, do we have any hard and fast rules? Maybe my opinions may be fallacious in the extreme as has been suggested. But one thing is very sure, art and aesthetics is quite a jungle - a complex subject of some magnitude! On the other hand my worldng methods are very sure - and no amount of criticism will move me from what 'I know to be correct. Maybe the diversity and output of my work will verify that fact: actions speak louder than words!

Folding paper blindly whilst being distracted with no goal or focus of mind is no doubt exceptionally frustrating - if you seek creative output. You have no control over what it is you are trying to do or make. It also runs contrary to the meditational approach. To be specific you need to be focused and mindful' not distracted. Having said that if we become mindful doodlers it will make things more relaxed and can complement the more formal or specific way. Mindful doodling does add spontaneity to Origami - the trouble is the incidence of re-discoveries can be high.

One thing about Origami is the amount of mistakes that are made - usually by trying too hard. With the passing of time and the gaining of experience all these mistakes are all too well visible. The best form of criticism I find is self-critticism; by being open and honest about your work and looking at it as an unbiased observer. It is then quite easy to see where the mighty ego has had it wrong from the start and it's simply been a case of redefining a Turkey! It's a form of internal knowing, a feeling of rightness and no amount of intellectual gymnastics will appease your conscience. It's a habit worth cultivating. Mistakes are most important to learning - in fact you could say the more mistakes the better. Maybe the point is: we should look at ourselves first and rectify our faults rather than tell others about theirs. Attack and counter attack are pointless and really lead nowhere - a happy medium has to be found - lively and constructive debate would probably be much more fruitful.

As I mentioned earlier there will probably be as many interpretations of Origami as there are folders. What is right for one maybe wholly wrong for another. But what is important is that all these ideas can be pooled thereby adding to the richness of Origami.

If Origami can be used as a tool to help some people discover their true nature and to bring meaning and cohesion into life (which the ego can't) then surely it is of some importance.

Is Origami just a piece of folded paper, or is it a way to spiritual unfoldment?


Origami Detectives come to London: February 1994
Edwin Corrie meets members of the Tanteidan

The Japanese group known as the Origami Detectives (Origami Tanteidan) was formed about three years ago and has been the focus of considerable attention in Origami circles recently. A few examples of work by its members have filtered through to us in England, including the Tyrannosaurus Rex Skeleton, the King Dragon and various dinosaurs that were on display at the last BOS conventon in Nottingham. But who are the Detectives? What do the creators of such extraordinary folds look like? Unfortunately we do no have any photos to print here, but after some hurried last- minute arranging it was possible for a group of BOS members to meet two of them - lsseo Yoshino and Nobuyoshi Enomoto - on October 30th as they passed through London en route back to Japan.

Mr Yoshino, a computer programmer by profession, is the designer of the Tyrannosaurus Rex Skeleton as well as various other highly I challenging models of amazing ingenuity. Mr Enomoto has numerous creations to his credit (proving that the Detectves do not always confine themselves to super-complex models), and as a Kindergarten teacher he finds these particularly useful for his work. London was the last stopover for them as they returned to Japan after a mini Origami teaching tour of parts of the Middle East and Africa. Despite haang only a few hours with them we were able to chat and even fold a couple of models - a simple Cat by Yoshino and a clever Santa with a Sack in Front of a House by Enomoto.

The meeting was at the Whitehall Hotel (near the British Museum), which has already proved a good venue for recent visits from the Momotanis and Philip Shen. Our thanks go to Mr Yoshino and Mr Enomoto for taking time out to see us, and also to Gwyneth Radcliffe for the delicious chocolate cake and for booking the room at such short notice.



The Man who made Paper:April 1994
From Legends of the Forefathers of 72 Trades

An important contribution to civilisation, the science of papermaking has been ranked among the top four Chinese inventions. The originator of paper making is thought to be Cai Lun, who has been revered by Chinese paper makers for centuries. Born to a poor family during the Eastern Han dynasty (AD 25-220), Cai Lun was bright and ambitious. He became a clerical official in the palace at a young age and was much trusted by the emperor. Being circumspect but candid, Cai enjoyed high esteem among those in and out of the palace. He was, however, not sociable and was thought of as an eccentric.

One day, he was given a stack of documents to process at home by the emperor. Carved on bamboo slips, these documents took several men to carry onto a bull cart. Unfortunatey, the bull slipped and fell under the wheels halfway through the journey. The bamboo slips also fell to the ground. Cai had to arrange for another bull cart to deliver the slips. Meanwhile, he had time to think and concluded that the slips were simply too cumbersome. The bamboo slips were indeed a burden to scholars. During the Warring States Period, one unfortunate scholar had to carry his 'books' on five bull carts, while travelling. The documents that the Emperor Qin Shi Huang read each day was said to have weighed more than 500kg.

During the Han dynasty, Dong Fangshuo had written on more than 3,ODO bamboo slips in response to an imperial recruitment advertisement. It took several people to deliver this letter to the palace. Just how much energy and effort had gone to waste in order to handle the cumbersome bamboo slips! Was there not a way out? What about replacing them with something lighter? If so, with what? Cai thought hard but no solution came to mind. He took a stroll outside to relax. He found several servants busy pulling hemp out of a pond in his backyard, pounding and beating it into gunny.

Cai ambled past them deep in thought. Suddenly a hemp stalk whizzed by and struck his head. Holding the stalk, he saw that it had been skinned, but a fine layer of hemp fibre was still visible. 'It could be useful,' he thought, and examined the stalk. By then, the servants realised their carelessness and knelt before their master to apologise for the flying stalk. Cai, however, was engrossed in examining the plant and paid no attention to their pleas.

He carefully removed one layer after another of the fibres from the hemp stalk, wondering if they could be written on. They were far too coarse, he concluded. He walked further while pondering possible solutions to his problem. This time he stepped on something slippery and fell flat on the ground. When he looked around, he saw a piece of white silk wool on the ground. 'What is it?' he wondered. It was silklike and feathery. At that moment two maids rushed out from the house towards him. They were shocked to see their master sitting on the ground and came to his help.

Cai showed them the wool. 'Look at this! What is this?' he asked. 'Sir, it is the wadding of the silkworm cocoons that we have pounded,' replied one of the maids. 'Wonderful! Wonderful!' murmured Cai deep in thought. Suddenly he yelled out loud. He had it! He ran around seeking help for his experiment His servants gathered bark, hemp, old silk, fishing nets and cloth. They chopped the ingredients finely before cooking them.

The result was then pounded to a starchy mixture and dissolved in water before adding another type of starch. When this new mixture was lifted out of the water, it had separated into many fine layers of fabric. Dried, they became sheets of paper. The emperor was elated, and issued a decree to have the whole country adopt this new writing material. All the scholars were exhilarated and appreciative of Cai's inventon. As he had been honoured with the title 'of Marquis of Dragon Pavilion, the paper he made as called Marquis Cai Paper.The trade of paper making thus began, and Cai has since been worshipped as the originator.



Folders' Corner: June 1994
Pentagon Puzzle

Last issues challenge to find the largest possible pentagon from within a square has produced four results (so far). All agree that the largest possible pentagon lies symmetrical about a diagonal of the square. The length of side of a vertically based pentagon is 0.618 units, that of a diagonal based pentagon 0.625. The illustrations make it clear: the dotted chord in pentagon A is the side of the square, but the dotted chord in B is evidently longer than a side. John Sharp (Watford) is an experienced geometer and points out that the side of 0.618 units represents the Golden Section. He sent a method of folding the vertical design. Professor Roberto Morassi from Italy delivered a paper entitled 'The elusive pentagon' at the International Science and Technology meeting (Ferrera 89) in which he explored the subject and offered a mathmeatcally precise folding sequence. Hans Birkeland (anyone tried his '81 point Sea Urchin' yet?) offers a similar design as does Anthony Mosquera from Chester. lack of space prevents full diagrams but if anyone wants a copy of all methods, send me an SAE My thanks to all folders for their solutions.


The Woven Polyhedra of Vladimir Michalkinski: August 1994
Paul Jackson revisits St. Petersburg

In May this year I returned to St Petersburg to revisit Sergei Afonkin and his family, founders of the St Petersburg Origami Centre (see BOM 163 for a lengthy account of my first trip). My visit was timed to coincide with a major origami exhibition at the famous Kunstcamera, The Museum of World Ethnography, but I also taught in a school, a public library and on the weekly origami course run by the Afonkins. The visit confirmed my impression formed last year, that origami is rapidly establishing itself in a new society and in particular, that it is capturing the imagination of teachers and education policy makers' I must thank the Afonkins for once again making my visit so enjoyable and inspiring. Their achievements, I am now convinced, are some of the most remarkable anywhere in the origami world.

During my stay, Sergei introduced me to the astonishing woven creations of Vladimir Michalkinski, some of which are photographed here. Vladimir is aged about 25 and has been folding only since 1992 when he was first introduced to origami. He lives in a small village in southern Russia, where he works as a film projectionist in the local cinema.

His technique is to create 3D geometric forms by interweaving numerous creased strips. Each strip is pre-creased according to a pre-determined sequence of measurements, then interwoven with others in a 360 degree closed loop - closed because the ends of each loop are glued together. Depending upon the specific track taken by each strip, the placement of the creases can differ from strip to strip. Thus the construction is not - strictly speaking - modular: that is, the strips are not all identical. Sergei has on several occasions tried to find out from Vladimir how he designs and makes his constructions, but cannot understand the instructions he has received ( which is why there are none with this article).

Some of the polyhedra are fantastically complex and resemble the baskets woven from grasses and leaves by many ethnic cultures around the world. Others are much simpler, resembling engineering structures. Sergei told me that Vladimir is diligently researching 3D geometry, molecular and other structures, and that his constructions are not made intuitively. Some constructions are not creased, creating spheres: others are made from linear materials such as wire and nylon thread.

His work may not be origami in the narrow definition of the work, but it is certainly a very close relative and deserves our full attention. Indeed, it is some of the most impressive, beautiful and original folded paper work that I have seen.

If you would like to contact Vladimir Michalkinski his address is below. However, he neither speaks or writes any language other than Russian and the cost of posting a letter from Russia to another country can be prohibitively expensive for an ordinary Russian, so you may not receive a reply. Nevertheless, he would appreciate receiving some folded geometric/modular models and/or related literature, both to help him with his research and to make him feel connected to a worldwide family.


Soapbox: October 1994
Nick Robinson on Teaching Origami

Further to Rick's diatribe in BOM 166, 1 think the underlying ethos responsible for "crowd noise" has been an unwritten rule of origami for many, many years, one which I would like to see an end of. The ethos of which I speak is often termed "monkey see, monkey do". The typical scenario is of a teacher stood up at one end of a (preferably long) table, exercising complete control over all present and delivering the definitive rendition of his/her/someone's design. No sooner is it finished than the next design is embarked upon, with the consideration of quantity outweighing quality. Comments/ questions/suggestions are generally stifled and the aim is to finish.

Rick mentions "nit picking" and "song & dance"; yes, I've seen plenty of both, but to avoid any interplay between teacher and student is to kill off the art of teaching. I'd sooner substitute the words "discussion" and "debate". A recurrent theme in current educational philosophy is "ownership of knowledge", in other words, does the student take knowledge away with them after a class? Have they absorbed the spirit of the message or simply memorised it?

I think there is far too much memorising and far too little thinking in much of origami at conventions (and generally). Students should have the confidence to make suggestions if they can see a clearer method, tutors should have the humility to accept that they may not have a monopoly on the best way of approaching any design. If we do not encourage debate and discussion, how are we to inspire the latent creative talent of those at the folding table? How are we to show them that the best method may not be the most obvious or the quickest? How shall we imbue them with a balanced viewpoint? Certainly, inexperienced tutors should be treated with respect and patience and old hack folders should either leave the table or shut up, but classes should (I contend) be an exchange of knowledge and ideas, not a one-way process. Instead of saying "now fold like this", ask "what fold could come next?" and perhaps follow that with "why?".

The onus should be on the experienced teachers to show that they can be wrong and that they don't know everything. This will in turn reduce the pressure on newer teachers to be perfect. So what if someone makes a mistake? I've forgotten how to fold most of my own designs & freely admit to needing the diagrams.

Teaching origami is often an opportunity for the ego to arise ("I can do this, so you listen to me!"). Whilst a class of novice folders will probably need a great deal of assistance, we should try to draw the knowledge out of them, not force it into them. The current "watch/listen to me" philosophy also undervalues the potential of students to contribute in a positive way. Even with classes of advanced folders, the learn by rote model is still in common use; half a dozen folders beavering away for three hours with hardly a word escaping their lips.

Me, I'm a radical. I like to look at why I'm folding as well as what I am folding. I encourage heckling, on the basis that it brings students out and draws the group together. I will happily stop teaching for half an hour to discuss the ethics of wet-folding or scenic routes. Whilst this is certainly not a style that will suit all, it does encourage thought and makes the learning experience a multi-faceted experience. The experience is the important thing, not simply fulfilling the typical master/student role that seems to be expected. Encouragement yes, but servility, a definite no.


Origami Fox/Crane Story: December 1994
Pam Brown retells Floating Eagle Feather's story

I mentioned that I had been enchanted by the storytellers in New York who made use of origami when telling their tales Pam Brown has sent me a couple. It would be nice to hear some British stoytellers at the next conventon.

There one was a powerful magician who could do all kinds of strange and wonderful magic. One day he made a wishing kite and whenever he felt particularly kind and generous, he would climb to the topmost tower of his castle and fly his wishing kite. Anyone who was lucky enough to make a wish while the wishing kite was in the air would have that wish granted. In a nearby kingdom there lived a poor fox who was always lonely and unhappy. He had never been happy being a fix and often wished he could be something else. Unfortunately, he was never lucky enough to wish while the kite was in the air.

One day the magician climbed to the top of the castle to fly his wishing kite and a great gust of wind came up and pulled at the kite. The magician tried to reel it in but the wind pulled harder and harder until the string snapped and the kite was carried higher and higher, over the hills and valley and over the next kingdom.

Suddenly the wind stopped and the kite plummeted to earth breading into a thousand pieces and each of these pieces was a diamond. All but one fell into a river and were carried out to the sea never to be seen again. But one diamond lodged in the heart of an apple. There it stayed all summer and in the fall, when the apples dropped on the ground, this one fell too. Who should be coming along but the fox still as lonely and hungry as ever. He began to gobble down apples and he ate the one with the diamond inside.

When the diamond got inside his stomach its sharp edges cut at the fox and he howled in pain. Nearby there were Indians camped in their teepees and when they heard the fox's howls they rant o help him because they loved all animals. They carried him back to the teepee and the medicine man laid healing hands on the fox and drew out the diamond.

'Ah, Fox, you are so lucky. This is a wishing diamond and you can make one wish. You could wish to be king and wear a crown."

'No, I do not wish to be king. I wish...'

And as the Indians watched in amazement, the fox's fur turned whiter and whiter, softer and softer until he became a beautiful white crane. The crane flapped its wings. The Indians watched with delight as the crane slowly circled over them and flew away.


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