An engineering friend of mine thought it would be cool to create an origami model in a 3D drafting tool and then send the file to a company that has a 3D printer (A 3D printer allows people to make custom parts of all shapes and sizes. Plastics and metals can be used, and possibly other materials. The final product looks like it was molded, except there is no mold for it to have come from). The first step is to see if origami makes sense in a 3D drafting tool like SolidWorks.

My father is an experienced drafter and offered to try rendering a model in SolidWorks. He asked for something simple, where there was a minimum of paper laying directly on paper. I suggested the Spanish Pajarita, which when standing up the paper is open, and not laying on itself. He said it was a bit complicated because the digital sheets are not as flexible as live paper. He had to create each facet individually and connect them at the edges. Also, with real paper, if the planes line up in such a way as to crimp or pucker a corner, the paper simply absorbs it. In SolidWorks, the material is not forgiving, forcing the designer to make detailed edits so that the planes do not collide or fail to connect.

I will suggest another model, slightly more difficult, and we'll see how it goes!

Also, here are some interesting thoughts on the pajarita.

[The image is my own, of a traditional Spanish Pajarita]


The Crane

So, I know that this blog is devoted to origami, but for me an important part of origami is the traditional orizuru (paper crane). I am constantly in awe of the power of the symbol of the crane. It has become a symbol of peace, so much so that thousands of cranes are sent to places in distress as though the folded birds are a salve to be applied to a social wound. Maybe you recall the the Thai crane drop where millions of cranes were dropped on a region of the country devastated by violence. And so inspired I wanted to take a glimpse at the creature that inspires all this.

All crane species are strictly monogamous, have long pair bonds and a prolonged period of juvenile dependency, and are highly territorial during the breeding season.
-Paul Johnsgard in Cranes of the World, p.44
Possibly the most common symbol is of the family. Cranes are often the symbol of marriage and attentive parenting. Cranes stay with their mates, live long lives, and protect their young longer than other species. The crane is then a symbol of loyalty and longevity. Also, they are famous for their mating dances and their duets. It is common for a pair to sing a variety of songs together.

The death of Ibycus is probably the most famous of crane stories from ancient Greece. This poet of Rhegium (who lived about 550 BC.) was set upon by robbers, and before expiring looked up to see cranes flying overhead. With his dying breath he told the robbers that the cranes would avenge him. Some time later, in the market place of Corinth the robbers saw the cranes flying overhead, and one fearfully exclaimed to the others, "Behold the cranes of Ibycus." thus overheard, the men were detained and questioned by the authorities, and later confessed their crime.
-Ibid. P. 72
The crane is a common symbol in mythology. The ancient Greeks considered cranes to be intelligent, watchful, orderly, democratic. The flock works to protect the flock, rarely fighting. They band together when larger threats appear and they share the burden of cutting the wind. The mountain of Gerania (now Yerania) is named after the cranes that led a drowning city out of the flood. And cranes are credited with carrying smaller birds on their back during migration.

There is much more to be said about the crane, but what it comes down to, is that this bird seems to be one that I want to be associated with.



I think it is important that for origami to be communicated effectively, that there be a shared language. In that spirit, I wanted to let you know about the Glossary of Origami Terms and the Origami Glossary.



I've been thinking a lot about my recent adventures into the wider world of origami. I have always been The Origami Guy. I know it, I share it, I talk it. And no one else did. I was in isolation for so many years where the only other artists were limited to folding half the crane from memory, or folding a flower. I was the regional origami master as far as I knew. Intellectually, I realized that there were those who knew more than me, who could compile their works and publish them. I read their books, I saw their superior skills. But they were so far away. East-coast, west-coast, Japanese. And they were obscure enough that only I knew their names among my social circles.

But suddenly, through Origami Minnesota and attending a lecture given by Robert Lang I realize that I am something of a nobody in the origami world. My compositions are not spectacular. My philosophical observations are not particularly profound. I am not a master, not much of a teacher, not a specialist I am just a guy with knack for reading diagrammed instructions.

Do I now re-invent myself? Do I want to be the greatest composer? do I want to be a renowned teacher? Author? Does it really matter that I be great? I guess it sort of bothers me that what I was uniquely in charge of, able to share it as I wished, is now out of my grasp. At the lecture I saw the joy of children learning a new composition, but it was not related to me at all. I might as well not have existed. So very weird. I feel like a priest who leads his small congregation for years, and then suddenly is called to the Vatican and is stunned by the realization that in Rome being a priest really doesn't mean anything. But Sadako is not considered a master. She only knew a few compositions, maybe only one, yet her name carries weight.

I just don't want my love for folding to be overwhelmed and diluted by others' love. I want theirs to strengthen mine, and mine to strengthen theirs. Hopefully, that is what will happen.


From Flapping Birds to Space Telescopes

I attended a lecture hosted by the University of Minnesota Institute for Mathematics and its Applications (IMA). The speaker was Robert Lang, renowned origami master.

He talked about the basic principles of origami design from the perspective of crease patterns. He identified four rules:

1) Two-colorability. The open spaces in a pattern can be colored in using two colors and no two adjacent spaces will be the same color.
2) M-V=+/-2 At any given vertex the number of mountain folds will be exactly two more or two less than the number of valley folds.
3) Around each vertex, alternate angles will sum to a straight line.
4) No self intersections of the paper.

For more, watch one of the videos provided by TED or the IMA (for the IMA find the Videos section and click on IMA Math Matters Public Lectures).

He also talked on the modern uses of origami technique and its applications in space, cars, medicine and science. He also answered questions and signed autographs.

I asked him if he thought there was a philosophy of origami. He said that if I asked a hundred folders that question I'd get as many different answers. That every folder has their own philosophy. Lang seems to be a technician at heart. He works out the techniques and the mechanisms so that others can do the art.

The lecture was a chance to expand my origami horizons. Origami Minnesota did some recruiting, so the next meeting might be a bit more energized. I also met Eric Gjerde, author of Origami Tessellations (he is a member of Origami Minnesota, but was not there at my first meeting).


Origami Minnesota

I attended my first Origami Minnesota meeting today! We kept it simple, folding a few heart-shaped models. Unfortunately, I showed up late due to a flat tire, but the meetings are three hours long, which means I still got to spend a lot of time with the group. There is one woman who spends a lot of time crafting, and origami is one of many hobbies for her. One woman is a school teacher who holds a folding group during recess. There is the veteran who shares all her memories. And the organizer who's schedule is filling up. There were also two children with a knack for folding and their parents. There are many others who I have yet to meet!

My ego is a bit enlarged since finding out that I am a pretty good folder based on discussions of what people find challenging. But I think I can still learn a lot from this group. They can help me on the technical as well as the philosophical.

And it sounds like I will see many of them at Robert Lang's visit to the U of M on Tuesday. It is good to be with people who see origami as the fascinating hobby that it is.

[The image is a photo of the models I folded at the meeting. I do not know who to give credit to for designing these.]


Wet Folding

Wet folding is the origami technique in which a sheet of paper is kept moist throughout the folding process in order to gain better control over the paper. Akira Yoshizawa is credited with inventing the technique several decades ago. He felt that it created softer shapes that were more representative of living, breathing creatures, and unlike the hard geometric lines that are often found on models where wet folding was not used.

Paper is made up of a sheet of short fibrous strands, which when dry are hard and hold their shape. With a traditional fold, the fibers in the paper break in half creating what is commonly called a crease. This crease can be used as a hinge or as a perforation that can be teared. The more a point or line is folded, the more fibers break, and the weaker it becomes. One side-effect of a design with a lot of folding is that it often tears accidentally.

When the paper is wet, the fibers soften and become much more flexible. A properly moistened sheet, when folded, will not break the fibers, but bend them. Since the fibers are undamaged, there is no crease, only a fold. This makes the folded points and lines much stronger throughout the process and when the model is complete. It also means that shapes can be molded onto the paper while wet, and once dried it will hold the new shape.

What I have learned of wet folding comes mostly from a book by Michael G. LaFosse, who founded Origamido Studio. He creates his own paper and usually employs various wet folding techniques.


Lesson, The Third

The third lesson I have learned from origami is in regard to design. When trying to be representative with a design, it needs to balance simplicity with complexity. Many folders set as their goal to recreate some object out of paper. To make a paper fish, sandwich, house, boat or whatever. When complete, they rate the model based on how closely it resembles the chosen object. So then, a good origami fish looks like a real fish. For this to occur, a great deal of complexity is needed. Each mathematical calculation getting more and more confusing. The more fish-like, the more complex. It is like an act of alchemy, transforming the paper into something else.

But, the problem is that paper cannot be a fish. Fish are made of flesh and bone, not fibrous sheets. The fiber cannot become flesh, no matter how much it looks like it. And so subtlety can go a long way toward representing an object. The traditional crane is a good example of a model that reminds people of a crane, but not because if it's realism or detail, but because of it's simplicity and grace. By holding to more subtle techniques, there is often less paper to tuck away and hide, less thickness in that last fold.

It is awe-inspiring to see when complexity and simplicity come together. Where every inch of the paper is exactly where it needs to be. There is no bulk to hide, and no extra appendages just because there was an extra flap. The nature of paper forces the folder to think about the final arrangement of the paper in such a way that a painter or carver is unconcerned.


Akira Yoshizawa

Akira Yoshizawa (March 14, 1911 - March 14, 2005) is credited with the founding of the modern origami movement, and for that reason it is important to take a glance at his life and works.

What makes Yoshizawa so influential is that he changed origami on several levels throughout his life. He developed a method of diagramming the folding process which made it possible for folders to share models across language barriers. He invented wet-folding which softened the harsh geometric lines and allowed for more life-like models. His art was recognized by the Japanese government which awarded him the Order of the Rising Sun, and used him as a cultural ambassador all across the globe.

He was born into a humble farming family, where he was introduced to origami. Then he spent time as a factory worker beginning at the age of 13. Eventually he became a draftsman for the same company and was responsible for teaching geometry to apprentices. He used origami to demonstrate various concepts. He left the factory at 26 to devote himself full-time to origami, making some money doing odd-jobs. He studied to be a Buddhist priest for two years, but never joined a monastery. When war broke out, he joined the Japanese medical corps and worked in Hong Kong where he made origami for the patients there. When he became ill, he returned to Japan. His first great work was a set of zodiac symbols which brought him fame. He started the International Origami Center in Tokyo in 1955 and spent time traveling, teaching and folding.