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BOS is 50

Highlights from British OrigamI 180-189

Seen and Heard: October 1996
Origami at the Oscars

Tony O'Hare has sent the front page of the 23rd June edition of the Bristol Evening News' featuring an article and photo of Nick Park, the three times Academy Award winning film maker. Nick is famous for his films featuring plasticine models Wallace and Gromit. He was presented with a new floral bow tie no doubt to be worn alongside his bow ties made from paper, which he's worn at each of the three Oscar ceremonies! Tony wrote to Nick, including an example of the traditional bow tie featured in 'Paper Magic'. Apparently, Nick will be sticking with his own patented design bow ties, which certainly appear to have brought him luck at the Oscars.


Bent out of Shape: December 1996
Joanna Ortman on alternative Origami Books

As many origami books as I have, there are still some that I don't have because they are still to be written. I hear some of them are under way, so you may want to watch out for them.

I hear Reader's Digest is interested in condensing some of the popular origami books. Up to now, they have left the titles unchanged on condensed versions, but with the new truth in advertising regulations, some changes may be necessary. Eric Kenneway's Complete Origami, an A-Z of Facts and Folds will probably become Incomplete Origami, an A-B of Facts and Folds. Likewise, Robert Lang's The Complete Book of Origami will become The Partial Book of Origami, Peter Engel's Folding the Universe will become Folding the Milky Way Galaxy.

A number of authors are working on sequel to their earlier classics. Samuel Randlett is cleaning out his files prior to publishing The Worst of Origami, Toshi Takahama is working on The Duty of Origami for the Puritan audience. I wouldn't be surprised to see James Sakoda come out with Post Modern Origami. I haven't been able to get many details, but I hear Origami for the Procrastinator will be out in a few years. And I don't need to tell you the details of Origami for the Telepathic. Kunihiko Kasahara is hoping for the mass market with new books Insipid Origami, and a sequel to Origami for the Connoisseur, Origami for the Tasteless.

One of the leading folders is working on Origami Protozoa. These one-celled creatures have been grossly under-represented in origami to date. It should be possible to imitate this creatures method of reproduction by tugging sharply on two sides of an origami protozoa.


Mini-Meeting Reports: February 1997
Mini Meetings at Manchester


At the November meeting we had three folds with a Christmas connection: Servilletera con Pajaro by Rene Lucio (napkin ring with little bird). Rupert's Crown (a party hat) from one of the Rupert annuals, and a one-piece, five-pointed star from the Scouting magazine - using scissors to make just one cut!

Then Ian taught us his six-piece cube. Each face is an octagon, and the assembled cube has a dint at each corner. What you would call a frustrated cube? The assembly could be frustrating - definitely a job for two people.

We also folded Goose, by Edwin Corrie and Piranha, by Larry Hart.


One book brought to the December meeting dealt with a subject important to those of us interested in geometrical models. It was entitled 'Shapes, Space and Symmetry'. To illustrate the point, Dave Brill showed us two spherical polyhedrons. One was from Italy, made from strips of paper woven into a sort of basket-weave, and Dave taught us the other one, a ball with pentagon-shaped dimples, made from thirty units.

We folded two other 3D models: a ring-shaped flexagon, from stiff paper leaflets or flyers, folded and assembled to produce a picture repeated around the ring, and then a cube, starting with a square piece of paper folded into five-by-five squares (from Kasahara's 'Origami Omnibus').'

We also folded some cards and envelopes - English, Chinese, and traditional - and an attractive flower from an Italian book.

Kasahara's Omnibus contains lots of polyhedrons, made from flat polygons, linked together using joining tabs. It includes the 'Bucky Ball', the newly discovered Carbon 60 molecule, mentioned in December's BOS mag (in People and Places), and the subject of a TV Horizon programme, which was repeated recently.


Bent out of Shape: April 1997
Joanna Ortman on Shoes!

Sometimes I watch TV while I am folding or while I'm not folding. Sometimes commercials come on . It occurs to me that most other popular activities have their own shoes. There are running shoes, walking shoes, and maybe standing-still shoes for all I know, but as far as I know there are no folding shoes. How can we expect the public to take us seriously when we don't even have our own shoe?

What suggestions should we give to the engineers who will be designing our shoe? For starters, it should be expensive - for the same reason we need a shoe in the first place, otherwise nobody will respect us. It should probably become obsolete at least once a year. It should kave a place to keep a bit of change for the copy machine (for public domain diagrams only, of course). The sole needs to be suitable for making soft or sharp creases with minimum tearing of the paper for those occasions when you run out of table space and are folding on the floor. The FRIENDS (or even the BOS) logo should probably appear somewhere. Once we have our shoes we will no longer be turned away from all those after-meeting spots that say "No shoes, no service'. It's downright embarrassing at times.

I don't know - do you think we need a shoe phone to keep in touch with each other, or do you think our two-way wrist radios are capable of doing the job? Those who use tools may want to attach them to the shoe laces - maybe tweezers or bone folders. Beginners may want instructions for the most common bases printed on the soles. Please let me have your suggestions so we can get going on this.

(I know that explaining the joke often spoils them - but some of our out-of-US members might not get the jokes otherwise. "No shoes, no service" was and probably still is, seen in many stores and restaurants in California and other ward states. When this was written in 1990, lnternet was in its infancy so the other flights of fancy were the ones which sprang to mind first).


Maths Puzzle: June 1997
The Significance of 0.33734382176955

The challenge from Paul Jackson was to fold a sheet of paper in such a way that you can see the maximum amount of both sides of the paper at the same time. The obvious starting point is to fold over one third, leaving another third showing, but this is not the answer. Robert Lang found a better solution whose area is .337344. Other contributions came from Bemie Cosell, Roberto Morassi and Patricia Gallo, but the definitive answer (which agrees with Lang) comes from Peter-Paul Forcher, the elegant creator from Austria. As you will see from his diagrams there are two points along an arc where you can fold the paper to provide the maximum area.


York Convention: August 1997
Dave Brill on three of the guests

Akira Yoshizawa

Mr Yoshizawa is generally recognised as the foremost practitioner of origami in the world. Now in his 80's he is still surprisingly active, both physically and creatively. He was a visitor at the June convention of our American cousins, the Origami Center of America, in New York, and we are very fortunate that he is planning to be with us too.

Hs latest book 'Inochi Yutakana Origami' was published late last year and includes very fine examples of the work for which he is best known: animals, birds and human figures, all demonstrating great feeling and movement, by suggestion rather than by photograph-like representation. His style and respect for the paper is second to none and you should really see this and meet him for yourself.

Michael LaFosse

Michael is seen as one of the USA's most talented folders. A creative folder for at least 20 years, he belongs to the artistic rather than the technical school, though his designs of living creatures and flying origami are frequently challenging. He takes great pains with the finish of his work, often making his own paper just to suit the models. A great showman in his teaching of his work, Michael radiates great enthusiasm and reminds me a little of his countryman, the late Michael Shall.

Alfredo Giunta

Born in Sicily, though now living in Vicenza, Northern Italy, Alfredo is a world-class folder, and is our special guest from Europe. Like LaFosse and Yoshizawa he specialises in animals and other living creatures, with many-legged insects being a particular strength. He too prepares special paper with laminated foil and tissue to bring out the best in his designs. For me one of his most remarkable pieces is a beautiful honeycomb with attendant stripy wasps. Author of several books, Alfredo was also the winner of the Origami for Pinnochio competition held in Florence in 1983.


Tolstoy and Origami: October 1997
by Misha Litvinov and Sergei Mamin

Tolstoy and origami! What a strange juxtaposition of terms: On the one hand the Japanese art of origami, till a few years ago practically unheard of in Russia, and on the other, Count Tolstoy advocating it fervently as far back as the end of the last century.

Somewhere near the city of Tula (in the vicinity of which Tolstoy's estate in Yassnaya Polyana also stood) there is a museum dedicated to the life and works of the renowned Russian artist, Vassily Polyenov. Among the exhibits in the museum, the visitor may be puzzled by the'sight of several paper birds carefully preserved under glass. How did they land there?

One hundred years ago the artist's wife and children happened to be travelling by train to Moscow, in the same carriage as Leo Tolstoy. This is how Polyenovs ten year old son described their meeting in his diary.

'They turned out to be Leo Tolstoy and Maria (Tolstoy's Daughter).He said, 'What a jolly company!' And mama said, 'Count, you know the father of these children?' He asked,' Who would that be?' Mama said,' Polyenov.' He said, 'Jolly good. Let me show my talent now.' He took a piece of paper and began doing something to it. What came out was a bird which flapped its wings when you pulled at its tail.'

In the same year, 1896, in his famous essay 'What is Art' Tolstoy, unexpectedly mentions the art of paperfolding.

'This winter,' he writes, 'a lady of my acquaintance taught me how to make cockerels by folding and inverting paper in a certain way, so that when you pull them by their tails, they flap their wings. This invention comes from Japan. Since then I have been in the habit of making these cockerels for children. This would unfailingly amuse not only children, but all the grown-ups, who happened to be around. The servants, as well as the ladies and gentleman, would brighten up and draw together under the influence of these paper cockerels. Everyone smiled and looked happy, exclaiming, 'They're just like real birds - look how they flap their wings!'

The person who invented these cockerels must have been enchanted by his own discovery, and the joy is transferred to others. And that is why the making of a paper cockerel, strange as it may seem, is real art.

I cannot refrain from observing that this was the only new work in the sphere of paper cockerels that I have encountered during the last sixty years. At the same time, the poems, novels and musical opuses that I have read and heard during the same period run to hundreds, if not thousands. This is because cockerels do not matter, you might say, whereas poems and symphonies do. But I think that the reason lies in the fact it is much easer to write a poem, paint a picture, or compose a symphony than to invent a new cockerel.

And, strange to say, the production of a cockerel like this is not only art, but good art. At the same time I maintain, that the state in which people sit on their little settees in front of the Sistine Madonna, straining to recollect other peoples recollections about the picture, has nothing whatsoever to do with the esthetic feeling.'

The main points of Tolstoys essay may sound eccentric, at the least. Tolstoy challenges the entire concept of Art debasing that of Shakespeare, Wagner and other giants ... And what does he put up against them? The humble manual art of folding paper in order to produce a 'birdie'. (Evidently, for Tolstoy, the art of paperfolding was limited to the production of Japanese cranes).

However, it is not our aim to draw the readers attention towards the defiant opposing by Tolstoy of one kind of art to another, or to his extravagant approach to art in general.

It is, rather, to marvel at his intuition which enabled him to recognize origami as genuine art. And what is more, to realize its educational potential as a means of nurturing and developing the growing child's mind. A pity Tolstoy's words were not taken seriously at the time. We believe this to be, one more example of the 'prophetic lot' of great thinkers in the battle of ideas.


Paper Plane Olympiad: December 1997
Mick Guy describes the Event

From a small idea in the spring of '96, an event of not insignificant proportions was about to happen. With all the planning behind me, I followed this open top double decker bus bursting at the seams with paperfolders as it wandered down a lane towards the Yorkshire Air Museum. There an aircraft hangar awaited us and a chance to claim a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

It had really started the night before. As with all good sorties a briefing was required and so we all gathered after dinner to hear an explanation of the Guinness rules for the duration in the air and distance contests. Andy Chipling, Guinness scrutineer for paper planes told us what was and what wasn't allowed. I was interested in the fact that the current record for distance, 193ft (58.8m) was set in a building that was not 193ft long! So the record was somewhat dubious - even more incentive to break it. Whilst encouraging us to go for it, Andy doubted if we would get near to the duration record as he believed that the building was not high enough (40ft). The current record of 20.9 secs is jointly held by two Brits, Andy Currey and Chris Edge. Both had come to compete with us and I know that they enjoyed the welcome they received. The rest of the evening was spent comparing notes, presenting our guests with models and praying for a dry day for those who would be on top of the bus!

After an intense practising period and marking out of the hangar floor, we began the duration competition. Each competitor was allowed up to 10 attempts and early leaders were David Cohen (8.8secs) and Andy White (8.2secs). Chris Edge then threw 13.1 while Andy Currey managed to lodge one in the roof supports. It was interesting to see how on successive throws individual's times were getting better. The competitors were not short of support, every promising effort meeting with shouts and enthusiastic applause. It was lovely to see Akira Yoshizawa intently involved and clapping with the rest of us. Eventually we had to admit that the roof had beaten us but credible performances had been put up by the record holders and our own Sanny Ang (11.4sees) from Australia.

The proceedings were temporarily halted by the taxiing of a Euro human plane. Sara Giarrusso, whose idea it was, from Italy was as the front with a paper propeller spinner), Hemian Van Goubergen followed her with his arms in wing formation and Maria Sorrentino from London brought up the rear. They gave us a memorable moment.

After a good lunch in the N.A.A.F.I. we commenced the distance competition. Measuring out the world record, we just managed to get a run up distance and place the world record marker at the other end of the hangar. Children from Elvington primary school had previously been invited to compete. They had had their own competition and the four winners came along in the afternoon. As they were first to throw, Steven Handley, aged 10 finished up as British record holder with a distance of 44ft.(13.5m). As the other competitors joined in, Tony O'Hare improved the distance to 68ft. Then Robin Glynne from Essex launched a plane with quite a wide wingspan (most others were of the paper dart variety.) Whilst descending it went into a glide and leapt into the lead with 94ft. This stayed for a long time, then, Andy Currey with his final throw beat Robin's distance by a metre. Although Andy's plane had a small amount of adhesive tape attached, Guinness allows this. Andy was full of admiration for Robin's effort which was pure origami and therefore qualifies for the world origami record. Robin had worked hard the previous month developing the plane. Evidently, according to his wife Donna, her patience had been tested! So I am pleased for both of them that Robin was successful.

There was just enough time left to hold The Formula Fold competition. For this, we all folded the same plane and in one great launch about twenty about planes took fight simultaneously. Mike Dilkes (GB) was the winner with a throw of 58ft.

On reflection it was all great fun. This is the first time we have held an event of this kind so apologies to those who didn't get to compete in the competitions we had planned, but didn't have time for. Contrary to a rumour going around, the open top bus wasn't cheaper to hire! Sorry if you were a bit cold! The great atmosphere inside the hangar was due to the enthusiasm of all those there - thank you.

So what of the challenge? Well the original challenge to capture the duration record with an origami plane was achieved by Andy Currey in 1996. We didn't improve on it this time but lets continue trying. British Origami will continue to report on record attempts notified to us. Organisers please note that video footage of record claims is usually required.

Whilst not actively seeking publicity we finished up with a preview on breakfast time TV a couple of weeks before (Big Breakfast / Nick Robinson), two sets of film crews and a number of journalists and photographers on the day. Many people got to know about the event. Our guests really enjoyed their day with us and I will end with a comment from Andy Chipling as he was packing up to leave. He simply said, "I don't want to leave these people."


Folder's Corner: February 1998
To cut or not to cut? Nick Robinson soliloquizes.

Whilst browsing through Macro for post-Christmas bargains, I spotted a book called "Papercraft & Origami", by one Cheryl Owen. It was an unusual format, with the book containing a plastic case. On closer inspection, I saw this was for scissors and glue. In fact, there was only one design in the book that didn't need cutting and that one needed glue! I'm writing to the publishers to point out this misuse of our favourite word, but it's made me have a closer look at the merits (or otherwise) of cutting in origami.

Kenneway's "Complete Origami" has examples of "Kirikomi Origami", where scissors are used to make cuts into, but not remove, the paper. Bob Allen's "Spider" makes use of four cuts to create quite a refined design. Whilst the model could be made using folding alone, making it would be many degrees more difficult.

I have a fading T-shirt from America with a classic "No Scissors" logo on it, but many people seem reluctant to praise or condemn the activity. The venerable Mick Guy suggested as far back as BOM81 (April '80) that it was perhaps time the BOS officially took a stand against cutting in origami. To the best of my knowledge, the idea was never formally mooted. Could it be that our apparently indifferent attitude to cutting has made it possible for the general public to be confused about the issue?

The classic Kan no mado (1845) and Sembazuru Orikata (1797) both make extensive use of cuts and Japan has perhaps retained an acceptance of the method for longer than most other countries. Randlett's "Best of" and "Art of" included cut designs, but these seemed to act as a spur to create the same fold without the cuts, regardless of difficulty.

The case against

The very name points out that we should fold rather than cut. Where's the fun and challenge if we simply choose to cut all the fiddly bits? The limitation of "folding only" has led to major technical breakthroughs. The appeal of origami is partly due to the restrictions of its methods; you can do it any place, any time and people are impressed! They would be far less impressed if they thought scissors were involved. If we start using tools such as scissors, we might as well paint the stripes on as well. Cutting paper takes away the spiritual purity that comes from a perfect square.

The case for

Traditional Japanese origami used cuts, so why shouldn't we? The idea that everything has to be folded is imposed by people who revel in the complex techniques needed to produce solutions. I'd sooner take 20 minutes with cuts than 5 hours without. Less able folders can produce impressive results with a single cut. People have folded from rectangles, triangles and even circles - is this not bending the rules as much as using scissors would? Max Hulme has said that he wouldn't have come up with his uncut "chess board" had he not used cuts in an earlier experiment. If we rule out scissors completely, we may miss out on the pure techniques that might arise from cutting. Most people wouldn't know if a design was cut, so where's the problem?


Eric Joisel: April 1998
Gwyneth Radcliffe interviews Eric Joisel

Those of us lucky enough to be at York last September saw a wonderful display of origami in the exhibition. Of course, the piece de resistance were the models by Akira Yoshizawa, but others that caught the eye were beautiful new 'organic' models by Paul Jackson and the display of creations by the French folder Eric Joisel, a new name to many of us. Such was the interest in this exciting folder that I was asked to write this profile. Happily, Eric agreed to answer my questions in writing, and did so in such good English that I am able to print his answers as he sent them, with only minor alterations here and there to make his intentions clear. As well as these very full and thought provoking comments Eric was generous enough to send diagrams of his Rat to accompany the feature.

I am sorry that this article will be printed too late to tempt you to the Paris-Origami festival, but am sure there will be many opportunities in the future to see Eric's work and to meet him in person. I would like to thank him for giving of his time so generously when responding to my questions. Here are the questions I asked and Eric's answers.

Gwyneth Radcliffe

How did you become interested in origami?

I started origami relatively late. From the time I was about fifteen - for about ten years or so - I experimented with many different techniques - drawing, painting, sculpting wood and stone and also ceramics. But I was always looking to the past and didn't produce anything satisfying. Everything I made went into the rubbish bin!

My first contact with origami occurred when I was about 25 years old. I had organised an exhibition on Japanese traditions where a Japanese man called KIMURA Osataro - who had been living in Paris for several years - was showing some traditional models and demonstrating to children. It was a great surprise to me. All through the exhibition I pressed questions onto Kimura, asking about other models etc., To be able to make a beautiful model in a few minutes using just one sheet of paper seemed like magic.

Kimura was not a creator. Like most Japanese, he considered origami to be just an amusement for cildren, and knew only a few traditional models. He gave me addresses where I could buy origami books and I spent the next few years studying intensively by myself. Bad experiences in the past with other techniques made me lack the confidence to be creative at this time, but in 1987 another opportunity came along. Kimura had a large exhibition to organise in Paris, near the Opera district, often called the Japanese area. He asked me to help, and this stimulated me into trying to create, and also into learning how to teach origami. The exhibition was a great success, with about 5000 visitors and good coverage in the newspapers.

Which other folders have particularly influenced you?

For about 10 years I studied origami by myself from books. I didn't know of the existence of French, British or American folders, and I had never met anyone else with the same passion as mine.

The downside of this was that my progress as a folder was slower and more difficult. The good side is that with no real teacher's or influence it was easier to create my own models. I don't know if my work is of any value - but can say it is my own.

Of course, I admired the work of many Japanese creators and tried to learn from them. Yoshizawa sensei was certainly the most important. Perhaps more than his diagrams, the pictures of his marvellous models were so inspiring. I spent a long time looking at these pictures. They pushed me into trying out many different papers, often thick paper, and also wet-folding techniques, trying to obtain similar results. (This is quite impossible, of course!) Kasahara's 'Viva Origami' was also an important influence. Here 1 discovered complex technical origami, and learned the importance of studying the 'unfolding' of models. Later Kawamura's book 'Origami Animals in the New Style' taught me box-pleating and suggested many ideas. My Snail, Hedgehog and Turtle began to grow after I read this book, but it took me many years to complete the final models. Recently, I met Paul Jackson and we discussed origami for a long time. Before meeting Paul, I had never reflected on my models, origami in general, or about surface and artistic creation. This I am trying to do now.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

I don't want to produce the same kind of models all my life - so I tend to work in one way, then another. Once I made complex models using box-pleating - hedgehog, snail, turtle and pangolin - and also in the same series a seahorse which I never found time to finish. A second series has models like my rat and funny animals that look like cartoons. I have also created a bull and a rooster in the same way - using traditional methods. This could be fun with many other animals!

But my greatest interest is the human figure. For 3 or 4 years I produced and exhibited a series of masks, but these were only the first experiments. I have also made test models for a body hands and feet - but these were less satisfying. The biggest problem I had with the masks was finding the right paper. I make the first experimental models in thin kraft paper, using glue to save time. (But keep this secret please!) The results often work well because they are made quickly and are alive. But when I want to create the final model with thick paper (300 to 400 gr) and using the wet-folding technique (no glue!) the result obtained is generally the opposite - too worked, too perfect, and dead looking.

I created these faces just after finishing my turtle - which is horribly complex. I wanted my faces to be the opposite of this. The initial sheet is only changed by a few pleats - that's all. This simplicity is my deliberate choice - but it's also necessary to achieve the result I want. I cannot create a face that seems alive, when modelling the paper to create curves, if the design is too complex, containing too many layers. But when you think about the human figure you realise that this simplicity of conception is hard to achieve. You need to obtain five points for the head and limbs, and even more for 10 fingers! One possible solution could be compound figures, using 6 sheets of paper - the same idea as Yoshino's Tyrex.

What can you tell us about the state of origami in France?

I think our grandparents knew a few traditional folds, but modern interest has come later, and with more difficulty than in England. The MFPP will celebrate only its 20th birthday in 1998, with only 200 or so French members. 10 years ago you could not find an origami book written in French - except translations of the work of Robert Harbin. But origami is develping strongly today. There are now perhaps 30 or 40 books in French, either in translation, or written by Didier Boursin, and 10 or more professional folders, many are better known than I am. Jean-Claude Correia and Vincent Floderer are real sculptors, usually pleat folding and selling their work in galleries. Lionel Albertino continues to create an incredible number of models in what I call the 'American Style'. Gerard Ty Savann (of Cambridge origin) is a specialist in life size models such as horses, hippopotami and elephants - created using squares of 7 metres or more in size.

What aspects of origami do you like?

Conventions! I regret I didn't go to them earlier! The great diversity of creations and styles that we see there, and, of course, all the discussion between folders are an enormous source of inspiration and pleasure. Conventions should be obligatory - and paid for on the National Health!

I am a little afraid to make this interview ... The BOS birthday was my first convention outside France. Before last September I don't think anybody could find an interest in my cocottes en papier. So I have been shocked by the success of my models. I couldn't pass in a room without receiving compliments, questions, having photos taken ... Perhaps English folders are particularly mad?

In fact I think that all creations in origami are interesting - quickly folded or amusing models, complex models, abstract or non-abstract etc., - There is not a style, no manner of folding, that is better than another. The magic of origami is that everybody can find what he is looking for, and adapt it to his own personality.

And dislike?

The one style I would criticise if allowed is complexity just for the sake of complexity. This has often happened in recent years. I don't think it is interesting, or enjoyable, to fold a model for many hours if the result is not beautiful - bad proportions, short legs etc., Even if the method used is new it is not for me good origami - but a waste of time. Origami is an art, not a technique.

How do you see the future of origami?

When I remember all the beautiful models on the exhibition table at York, with great diversity and many new ideas, I think origami today is really healthy. If I can, though, make two wishes for the future they will be:

Regarding origami books: The greatest part of these is diagrams for learning models. I don't think it's interesting to learn more and more models. More interesting, to my mind, would be books with fewer diagrams and more text and pictures giving explanations on conception and creation, stimulating readers into creating their own models. These will be great books. Many folders I meet could create their own models, but are afraid to try.

Regarding the general public: In France origami is still relatively unknown. And I think it is the same in other countries, even if less so. This is a pity! All through the year, during exhibitions and demonstrations, I meet many schoolteachers who are interested in origami but do not know how to teach it. Origami in schools would be very interesting - particularly for children with problems, those falling behind etc., Many old people would also be interested, some as a hobby, and some to help make contact with small children. If it was better known, origami could have an important social role.


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