Full size Christmas Tree by Sharon Turvey


BOS Model Library Review

 Back in June Mark Bolitho sent out an email looking for volunteers to help with the Embassy of Japan exhibition.   The brief was pretty vague, but looked like they had plans to have a Christmas tree that could be decorated with origami.

 I replied, offering to help with the exhibition and bravely suggested that I make an origami Christmas tree.  I thought it would be fun, (and it was most of the time).  Not really sure how big the exhibition space was I decided to work towards a 5-6’ traditional style tree.

I had never seen any diagrams for anything so ambitious, but I remembered having made a caterpillar designed by Darren Scott at Pauline Trew’s house.  I adapted the caterpillar to create the top section of a tree which had the sort of character I was after.  I sent a photo of this to Mark for his opinion, and he replied “It’s great!...As big as possible”.

Now, size can be a problem, the bigger the model, the more gravity will play a part in its downfall.  To get the look I wanted for the tree I searched for paper which is not too thick and not too thin.  It was going to be quite heavy though and an internal support system would be required.  This made the project seem more like structural engineering than origami. 

Now for the details.  How long will it take to make?  Will it be strong enough to serve its purpose?  How will it be easily transportable once it is made?  What overall shape will it have and how much paper will it require?  I did my sums and realised we would need a lot of paper.

The paper company didn’t have what I wanted in stock but could order it to arrive in three weeks.  (Would that leave enough time to fold the 540 units required and would it actually arrive in three weeks?)  While I was waiting for the paper I started to build a cardboard support structure. A process that involved constant problem solving!  It should be very simple and very strong. 

250 sheets of 20x30 inch green paper arrived on schedule and were cut into squares using an industrial guillotine.  (This process left a 30% wastage in off cuts, and I am planning to make some mini trees). 

In total, I worked at a leisurely pace for about two months thinking it to be a good excuse not to do any housework.  But, as the opening of the exhibition approached the pace and hours increased and the tree took shape. 

The day came to set up the exhibition and we were ready, the tree was dismantled and packed up.  My husband Les and I drove down to the Embassy for its final installation.  I had met up with Mark and Rikki Donachie a couple of weeks before and we had agreed roughly where the tree would go.  We set about building it near the window on a low table.  This made the tree stand about eight feet off the ground, which created additional problems in reaching the top.  After about five hours, we finished building the tree and put on donated decorations.  It stood a magnificent 71 inches tall (not including the table), 48 inches across and weighing in at 42 pounds. 

The Embassy seemed impressed with the tree, and they expressed an interest in keeping it beyond the exhibition.  It is now standing in the Embassy foyer covered in a growing volume of decorations as visitors are adding to the display.  I am quite happy with the final results, although there are a few little improvements I would make if I were to do the tree again.