When I started folding in high school, I was basically the only person interested. A classmate had been somewhat excited about origami as a subset of Japanese culture (which was a passion of his), and another student knew a handful of models, but had no interest in learning more. My only interaction with professional origami artists was via their books and websites. Many of my books were gifts given to me by friends who mysteriously had an origami book, but had no interest in folding. Origami was associated with generosity, both in giving of books and in teaching through those books. Also, many people put their diagrams online with no expectation of reward for their work. 

I had in my mind this idea that origami was a force for peace. Sadako Sasaki gave the crane new meaning and millions of people across the world have folded cranes with a hope for peace, tolerance and unity. The act of folding is a slow, calm process. If you fold too quickly, you may rip the paper or fail to line up two edges or fail to set a crease correctly. Patience and attention are the keys to a successful folding project. It also helps if one is gentle. So you can imagine how one can quickly construct an idea that origami is a pathway to inner peace and eventually social peace. 

My first introduction to animosity in folding was when I started to learn about copyright battles. Akira Yoshizawa accused his Japanese contemporaries of stealing his ideas and publishing them. Robert Lang, John Montroll, Michael LaFossse and others tend to spend much of their time developing content for books and presentations and rely on royalties. Those who share their diagrams via books can be very protective because it is often their only income. No one likes working on a huge project, expecting to get paid and then find out that others stole their ideas. I recognize that this is an acceptable and necessary form of animosity in our competitive, capitalist economy. I can see the financial pressures that cause people to be angry. There is, of course, also the anger from someone stealing your idea without even giving credit. I grudgingly acknowledged that this was a symptom of or economy, not of the art form.

Then I attended an origami event (organized independently of Origami MN or OrigamiUSA). I showed up and folded. People were having difficulty, so I helped them out. People asked me questions, so I answered them, and next thing I know, I realize that I am a much better teacher and better informed than the woman running the event. She went to get a drink of water, and a few minutes later, another woman is trying to explain to me that this event belongs to the first woman. Essentially, I was unwelcome and the woman running it did not have the courage to even figure out what my name was. So, I left.

It shook me, though. I never realized that my folding skill might be intimidating to others, that this knowledge was power. Folding had always opened doors, never closing them. I had only seen folding as a way to cheer people up, make things better. 

Recently, I was talking to a fellow folder at Origami MN and we discussed animosity in origami. It seems that people can become prideful in their skills and refuse to mingle with the lesser folders. That for them the art is measurement of worth and everyone is ranked, with the highest rank imbued with some sort of authority. It is elitism, just like everywhere else. I had always hoped that origami was more democratic because the medium (paper) is universally accessible and I had encountered so much in the way of free diagrams. 

Peace, democracy, origami. 
How can anger be a part of this?

[The picture is one I took of the Spirit of Peace]


  1. you upstaged her. this was her show and you came and stole her show. of course she is mad. you don't go to another person's event and make it your event. that's just bad form.
    just a thought.
    better luck next time.

  2. Yeah... I guess I just never realized that I was upstaging her until it was too late. It's something I have to watch out for in the future.