New Diagrams!

So, here in Minnesota we got more snow than we know what to do with! I had planned to go to the Brookdale Library and teach origami, but the streets were clogged with snow and most businesses closed. I decided to call it off. The library did stay open for a while, but closed early. When I called, the woman told me that almost no staff had made it in that day, so I can assume that few customers were there either. 

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that I spent my whole day at home and inside with no schedule. I decided to spend some of that time finally diagramming a project I have wanted to record for some time now.

See, in traditional origami there are two models that only really make sense when combined together. They are Yakko San and Hakama. 

Note the torso/arms/head are one square sheet and the legs are a second sheet. I realized early on that the raw edges of the squares nearly touch when the sheets are brought together and decided that there was a way to redesign this to be from a single sheet. Indeed, I was right! Okay, so my design does not appear exactly the same, but I like the aesthetic changes that happened with the redesign.

Today, I was able to fold one slowly and draw the steps. I will add these to my Diagrams page so that they are in a central location, but for your consideration, I will put them here, too.

Let me warn you now, steps 10 & 11 are probably the toughest. They are not clean folds, but I assure you that they do work!


Origami in Role Playing Games

I only post this because I was reading about different crazy monsters in Dungeons and Dragons here

I never subscribed to Dragon Magazine, where the following monster was published (specifically issue #341), but here it is anyway. 

The paper golem:



I attended the November meeting of Origami Minnesota recently, and we talked about a new project called Cranestorm

The Brain Injury Association of Minnesota had a meeting a while back where they decided that they wanted people to "see" how many people were affected by brain injuries in Minnesota. Their estimates are that roughly 100,000 (yes, that's one-hundred-thousand) people in Minnesota (which has a population of 5,266,214) are suffering from a brain injury. 

The problem is that people cannot really understand such a large number as 100,000 unless they see 100,000 things all in a collection. To facilitate this, the BIAM is building an instillation piece in their headquarters. It will be 100,000 paper cranes hanging about the lobby. 

Now, I don't know how many of you have folded a thousand cranes (personally, I am at 0256/1000) but it is a lot of work to repeat the same model over and over. Even if you are comfortable with the process, it still takes a lot of time to fold all 1000. Now imagine doing that 99 more times!

Luckily, no single individual is going to fold all of them. They are soliciting donations of cranes from groups all over the world and have collected over 28,000 at the last count.

So, if you want to help out, go to the BIAM website and check it out!


Real Life Paper Boat!

I just wanted to share this awesome event with you.

A man made an origami boat large enough to sail in!

Check it out here.


Found Foldings

I work in a school at the moment and happen across lots of paper. Most of it is likely assignments that were never turned in (or competed). They could be random notes passed in class or whatever. 

But, some of it is genuine origami!

I will share with you some pictures:

"Crab Man The Bug"

This was not actually found, but folded by a student. They learned it from a friend back when they were going to a different school.

This is a classic from when I was in school. It is modular, taking eight sheets. This is doughnut mode.

And this is shuriken mode! Betcha didn't know doughnuts were so dangerous.

This was found on a locker along with several notes. Often when it is a student's birthday, their friends will cover their locker with various things.

Okay, so this is not, strictly speaking, origami. It is instead kirigami. And it is not spontaneous, but was an assignment for art class. Whatever, I still want to give praise for paper arts in the school.

[All photos taken by me of miscellaneous sightings folded by anonymous students.]


Scrap Paper Airplanes

Last week, at the Brookdale Library we hosted an event where we invited 3rd-6th graders to come fold and fly paper airplanes. 

A mass of airplanes that we tested.

We selected six different types of airplanes, trying to find ones that were easy to fold, flew well and were unique in some way. There were six tables, one per plane. Each table had a volunteer that was willing and able to teach the folds. There were also printed instructions so that the students could practice folding them at home. 

The students got to decorate their planes.
In an adjacent empty room, we put tape on the floor so that folders could see how far their creations flew. Some of them went all the way across the room. That's over 30 feet!

We competed for distance.
W also made personalized certificates for all the students that folded four or more different airplanes. I thought this had a nice touch, since it actually reflected what they did. Often, certificates like this overstate a participant's skills, but I honestly think that all the students who got a certificate can fold a paper airplane.
It's official, I'm a Paper Airplane Engineer!

All in all, this was an awesome event and was well attended. We had students running around for the whole time we had the tables set up. The testing room had airplanes flying constantly, too.

I think I'll suggest we repeat this event sometime in the future.


Hamdmade Paper

If you read the previous post, you'll know that I participated in a day of paper-making goodness with Origami Minnesota. We made several sheets, all by hand, and it was awesome!

I thought I would share with you some of the paper we made:

Some of the paper was thicker and some was really really thin. The one above was thick, especially because it is double layered, each layer being thick individually.


This is my favorite one out of all of them, mainly because of the color mixture. I thought it might be cool to look at close up. This is as good as my camera will do.

The one on the bottom right is an odd one. I was experimenting with shaped molds, which is how I got the star in there. To be clear, I realize it is the Star of David, but there is no intended religious symbolism in it. That one is also odd in that I used the blue fiber, which had been mulched too much. It had the consistency of snot, which made it difficult to use, both physically and mentally. When I strained it, I put it on a shelf because it took so long for the water to seem out and when I tired to lay it neatly on the yellow sheet below it, a glob flew off and landed on the black one that is above it in the photo.

The lesson is, do not over mulch your pulp!


Paper Making!

On Saturday, Origami Minnesota hosted a paper-making workshop! We took over some space at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and made ten sheets. The workshop was led by Amanda, one of the people at Cave Paper.

We had two fibers to work with: abacá and flax. Abacá is a banana plant that grows in the Philippines, Borneo and Sumatra. It also works well for paper. It does not require the harsh chemicals that would be necessary if we were using most tree fibers. That means that we only had three ingredients, all non-toxic: fiber, water, and dye. We also had a relatively small supply of flax which is grown from the Mediterranean to India. It is notably stronger than abacá, but can be thicker.

Before we got there, the fiber had been sent through a machine that tears it into bits. These bits are dyed to a preferred color and mixed into a pulp.

The pulp mixture sits in a large tub, and a mesh mold is used to scoop up the fiber.

Then the water is drained out. The amount of time this takes is variable, dependent on the fiber and how much it was shredded before mixed into the water. One pulp we made was shredded really finely and absorbed an awful lot of water, which took a long time to drain. It was also really gooey, like snot.

The mesh mold is then flipped over and pressed against a wet piece of felt.

More felt is placed on top, several layers, until it is large enough to be pressed.

Note, the press uses a car-jack. It is pumped up to 5000 PSI and then released. Then each sheet is removed from the stack and put on a rack to air dry.

I think that it is important for a folder to make paper at least once in his life. It has given me a better appreciation if the fiber and the quality of the sheets. It also makes me more aware of the fact that each sheet can be customized for the model that is folded. First there was paper-making, and then as a natural extension, there was paper folding. Now I have a better understanding of that progression that has led to my chosen craft.

I had a blast making paper! Thanks to Cave Paper and Origami MN and the MCBA!

[All pictures taken with my camera.]


Schoolyard Origami, Part 2

I realized shortly after my first Schoolyard Origami post that there was one more thing I folded as a student that was not on the list. But instead of just taking on one more thing, I thought I would also include some diagrams showing how to fold some of these schoolyard models.

---Secret Note---

The beauty of this model is that a student can write a full page note on one side of the sheet (8.5in x 11in), then fold it into a neat, manageable envelope that will not unfold accidentally. In fact, it is a little frustrating to close it up so easily, and then find it difficult to open it back up.

 I folded this in school, but have not yet seen it emerge at the school where I am working.


I have drawn up some diagrams for the paper claw, paper football and the secret note.




I have also posted them on the Diagrams Page.

[Photos taken by me of models I folded.]


Minnesota Artist

I came across an artist at a local art fair who focuses on Japanese art. She was doing calligraphy, watercolors, and origami. What I found particularly interesting was the idea of creating 2-dimensional images incorporating folding techniques and then framing them. 

I do not want to put any examples here, but instead will send you to her site where she has several examples of the art that she crates.


Schoolyard Origami, Part 1

I have been distracted by my new responsibilities in the middle school, not having as much free time to dedicate to folding or thinking about origami.   ...And then something happened. 

A student jumped out from around a corner to spook their friend. They were wearing paper claws! They had made a full set for both hands! In the action that followed, many of the claws fell to the floor and were forgotten. I collected them and put them on display in my room. Then I started thinking about all the origami that is perpetuated in schools, but is generally ignored by those who have moved on to more complicated models.

Nine paper claws. 

Here I will take some time and identify the origami projects that have been introduced to me as schoolyard origami. Three of them I folded as a kid; two I have found at the school that I work at; one I found in Picture-Perfect Origami by Nick Robinson and it is credited as a playground fold.

---Paper Claw---
The first time I came across this was while I was teaching origami at the Brookdale Library one day. One student asked me if I knew how to fold them. When I said, "no," he quickly folded a prototype for me. A month or two later, I saw them again at the school.

They are a really simple design that starts with a regular sheet of paper (8.5in x 11in). I'll try and get a diagram up on the blog for those who wish to try it. Basically, it is a hollow triangle that fits over small fingers. It comfortably fits my pinky finger, but you can imagine a smaller hand having one on every finger including thumbs. It makes for an intimidating look (until they realize that the claws are made of paper).

---Paper Football---
When I was in elementary school, we got indoor recess when the weather was bad, or sometimes there would be no work to do, so we would play a game of paper football. This is also folded from a regular sheet paper (8.5in x 11in).

The rules to the game start out simple. The football is placed flat on the table. Each player takes turns hitting the football, trying to advance it closer to the opponent's side of the table. If the football stops with some of it hanging over the edge, that counts as a touchdown for 6 points and they may attempt to kick for an extra point. If the football slides over the edge completely and falls off, that is penalized, usually by giving the opponent an opportunity to score 3 points with a field goal kick. Some players develop more complicated rules that reflect every aspect of an NFL game.

---Ninja Star---
As a student, I folded my share of these and tried to toss them so that they would actually hit accurately. Alas, these are not particularly good weapons.

This model is part of the traditional repertoire, but has been adopted by the schoolyard crowd. It is odd among the models that I have learned in that it is build not from a single square or rectangle, but from two identical rectangles with the length being double the width.

---Fortune Teller---
This is also in the traditional repertoire, but is most often folded by grade school children. They write fortunes under the flaps and have people answer arbitrary questions which ultimately lead to one of the pre-written fortunes. We had a lot of fun with them when I was in school.

The design is really simple. Take a square; blintz fold; flip; blintz fold; fold in half to form a rectangle; put a finger into each of the four pockets. Or look it up on one of many websites.

---Basketball Hoop---
This is the model that I found in a book. I never played with one in school, but I can imagine it being as popular as the paper football.

I had a lot of fun trying to capture an image of the ball as it flew toward the basket. In the picture above, the blur just above the basket is the ball. The design is essentially a waterbomb base folded out of a rectangle so that the extra paper lifts the hoop above the desk.

I never saw these in school, but at my job the students make these large enough to drape them over one shoulder and across the body, so it looks like a really thin bandoleer or sash.

This really does not fall under the jurisdiction of origami as much as kirigami, but I felt I should include it because it is a natural extension of paper culture in schools. It does not appear to be related to an art project, but simply for the fun of it just like all the other examples above. Also, I doubt that there are enough examples of kirigami in schools to justify a list of its own. Simply put, all cutting tools are closely regulated in schools, whereas simple folding is not.

Sept 25th Update: The last model is actually the result of a scientific challenge. The teachers challenged their students to find a way to pass their entire body through a single 5inch x 3inch note card. The only way to do such a thing is to think outside the box.

So, that is the list so far. If I discover more models, I will write a post on them later.

[All photos are taken by me, of models folded by me or an unknown middle schooler.]


The Strange Case Of Origami Yoda

A while back, I was wandering around the book store with my bookish friends and came across The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. I immediately found the folding instructions in the back and committed them to memory (only 15 steps, none of them complex). Then when I found my next sheet of paper I folded away. 

I don't know who designed it, so I'll just 
credit the author, Tom Angleberger.

Then, I later went back to the book store and bought the book so that I could read the story. It is a case file written by a middle schooler. Each chapter is a story about an origami Yoda and how it affects the students at the school. Each story has a bit of analysis (at 6th grade level) of what might be happening. 

Their classmate, Dwight, has folded a small puppet that looks like Yoda and begins giving out advice. Some believe that the puppet can see the future, others are skeptical. I really enjoyed it, because it reminds me of when I over analyze situations and try to find the truth, while ultimately missing the point that was right in front of me the whole time.



I was drawing with some people recently and one of them mentioned the likelihood of a art show featuring paintings and drawings of Lady Gaga. I said that there may be a way to fold a likeness of her, instead of draw it, so I got to thinking.

I began experimenting with faces, hoping to develop some skills.

This first mask is a model by Jun Maekawa that I dissected to better understand faces.

This is an attempt to create a face wearing a masquerade mask. I tried to make the eyes apparent without a color change.

This is another attempt at the masquerade, but with the added element of tiling on the mask to give it texture. The resolution of the tiling is low, so it is not all that apparent.

This is the masquerade again, but out of a much larger sheet of paper (from a presentation) and I was able to get a higher resolution on the tiling. Unfortunately, the paper was really springy and it did not have the effect I wanted.

This is an orc wearing a helmet that I designed.

I don't know what this is, but since it is blue and elongated, it reminds me of a Navi from Avatar....

This is an experiment, and I kind of really like the eyes.

This is something of a samurai with his eyes hidden. I really like this look, I think I'll make it my profile picture.


Fiber Arts Festival

On July 24th and 25th I was at the Fiber Arts Festival in West Fargo. When most people think of fiber arts, they think of wool or cotton, which is not entirely wrong. In fact, there is a strong wool contingent at the festival, including shearing sheep, carding the wool, spinning the wool, knitting, crocheting and felting the wool. There were also a variety of other fiber artists there, who taught embroidery, weaving, nålebinding (check it out!), dyeing, quilting and other things.

But what people often forget is that paper is a collection of fibers. Someday, I might be able to do a posting here about how paper is made, but suffice it to say, each sheet is made of untold millions of tiny fiber lengths. In fact, the way to form a crease is to break the fibers in a line (unless you are wet-folding, in which case the moist fiber bends instead of breaking).

At the festival, I spent a lot of time teaching people how to fold a variety of things. One thing I noticed was that a lot of the children had a really solid understanding of space and geometry. I was able to give an instruction once and it would be understood. I suspect it might have something to do with the fact that this craft comes as their third or fourth, not their first. A lot of spacial reasoning is transferable from craft to craft, even if people don't realize it right away. Also, I think that there is a cultural difference between the families in Fargo and the ones in Brooklyn Center, where I teach at the library. I suspect that children in Fargo have more opportunities to learn and are encouraged to do so. It reminds me of an organization called Learning Dreams, where the idea is that if you can get the parents and adults to get excited about learning, then the children will follow the example. I wonder if my teaching origami in the library is one small encouragement for students that seem to be struggling.
Of course, I need to be careful that I do not mix up individuals with statistics. Each student is different.

I realize now that I should have taken a lot of pictures, but simply did not. Maybe I will see about getting photos my friends took and doing a follow up posting.

Before I end, I must give mention to a woman named Caron that I met at the Fiber Arts Festival. She is an artist who is working on a memorial to honor those who have died in our current war. It is titled and still counting. She is making small colorful squares that each represent an American soldier who has died, and on each square is 212 knots or beads to represent all the Iraqi citizens that have died. It is a bit overwhelming to think about the numbers involved. I am glad that she is honoring them in this way.

[The image of paper fibers is from wikipedia; the second image is taken by me, of the models I had on display, most of them traditional designs.]