Sunday, December 2, 2007

One-fold Swan

One-fold Swan
Originally uploaded by origami_madness

It bugs me when people don't think as highly of minimalism as a form of expression; admittedly I'm a little obsessed with the idea, but paperfolders in particular should know better. Origami is, essentially, an art of abstraction; we must choose which details to include, and which to leave out. Paper cannot render the world around us in perfect color and detail, and we should not necessarily expect it to. Not to be contrite, but sometimes less really is more. We should use subtle folds and careful sculpting to bring out the character of the subect, something many complex folders often forget about.

That is not to say that anybody that folds something minimal has automatically created an artistic statement; quite on the contrary, most simple models I've seen are misproportioned, awkward, and vague about what the intended subject is. If the statement is effective enough, though, it can be more powerful than a more complex one.

Think about it: in a drawing class, we are told to put less detail into the background than the subject, and to keep any distracting elements out of the composition, unless they have a purpose. This is because the subject carries any meaning or connotation the artist wishes to invoke. This is equally valid in sculptural art; we take out excessive detail to let the character of the piece come through. While detail is good when used effectively, it often distracts from the subject and obscures the elegance of the model.

Another thing that I have heard thrown around a lot is that a minimalist or easy piece is folded by a person who is lazy or not technically advanced enough to do any better. But I would disagree; instead these models require more from a designer and/or folder, because the subtle nuances of the character are that much harder to bring out when you're working with such a limited set of tools, which is in a sense just a projection off of the rules we already impose upon ourselves: no cuts, no glue, and (most of the time) folding from a square.

... Now go and fold something. Until next time,


Monday, October 8, 2007

Thoughts on Pleats

I've been thinking a lot about the various visual and technical effects that can be acheived using pleats. As in box-pleating (1) and corrugations (2), we can use them to collapse our paper into different forms, really whatever we want. We can use them in tessellations to store spare paper (3), which we then pull out at later points (4) to create twist-folds, geometric patterns, and all sorts of other things. We can also use it to change the proportions of flaps and models, in the forms of grafts and pleat-sinks.

But pleats have a number of visual effects that make them important as well. We can use pleats to create full, rounded three-dimensional forms and curves (5, 6). We can also use them to add detail that would take up too much paper with points, such as hair (7) and texture (8).

But there are still other uses of pleats, that I would like to see a little more of. I have made a few pleated models, really just simple corrugations that, to my surprise, ended up implying motion (9, 10) and even feeling (11), both subjects that deserve more attention in the origami community.

But all this makes me wonder, what else can pleats do that we haven't thought of yet, or that we haven't explored?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Flower Tower Variations

I just found out that I can post to my blog from my flickr account. Hopefully this means I will update this blog more...

Anyway, I have recently made twenty-some variations on Chris Palmer's Flower Tower. This is one of them, and you can see the rest on my photostream if you like (

I started doing these right after I found out about the decreeping technique from a description of the process that Tom Hull had written ( Working from there, I modified the model by pursing the center in different ways, and then generalized the structure to a non-logarithmic form, which you see here in this picture. I also used some elias stretches and shaping folds to finish it off.

Anyway, I'm starting work on a big post about logarithmic tessellations (like this one), and I should post it in the next month or so.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

How to Solve Crease Patterns

Sorry for the Hiatus everybody, I was off on vacation in Indiana and had no internet access. I folded a lot, though, so if nothing goes wrong I’ll come out with a few posts very quickly. And before I forget, Happy Holidays to you all!

Today I tried something I’ve never really done before-- designing a model by crease pattern, using module theory. For those of you that aren’t familiar with this method, I took a tree figure for my chosen subject (in this case a bull) and made a crease pattern for it using the same triangular modules that make up most of the classic bases (the bird, frog, and fish bases). I came up with this crease pattern:

The red line on both crease patterns is for reference. On the colored version, the red are the back legs, the dark red is the tail, the brown is the torso, the purple is the front legs, the blue is the neck, the light green is the horns, and the dark green is the eyes and snout. I’m sorry about my limited paint skills, the neck and torso rivers aren’t quite shaped like that; but I don’t have the time or patience to figure out how to do it right. They aren’t too far off anyway.

But anyway, once I had this figure composed, I realized it was not very easy to fold from crease pattern, and thus the teeming masses that I hope are reading this may have trouble doing so and get stuck (but not give up, right? eh?). So I decided to blog on how to collapse crease patterns, using this as an example. For a more detailed set of directions accompanied with pictures, look in the corresponding photo set on my Flickr page. I didn't add them here because I have dial-up, and that would take too much time. First, make as many of the bigger folds as you can. Here, you fold the diagonals first, then use the reference mark (made by folding the square in half here) and bisect the area between it and the diagonals; then make the next set of folds, matching the ends of those bisectors.

One thing you want to keep an eye out for is patterns you’ve seen before; for example, on the two corners on either side of the middle section, there is the crease pattern for a half bird base; so you can pleat the center part over to the side and fold the bird base all at once.

The head and tail sections can be creased by means of a number of mountain and valley folds; then comes the tricky part of collapsing the base. Here, start with the half-bird bases on the sides; then fold the torso flap up and collapse the lines for the middle of the base. For the head, you’ll have to make the bird base on the inside in between some layers; this is no easy feat, as you must hold the layers around it flat while folding it. However, once you finish that, the base is complete.

Next comes what I think is the hardest part: shaping and finishing. This often requires a lot of vague folds that have to be estimated; but the crux of the situation is, you must make the model look like the subject using various methods from the proverbial designer’s bag of tricks. I posted a full sequence of pictures on my Flickr page; look inside the set labeled “Crease Pattern Solution: Bull” and you should find enough pictures to help you finish it off. Essentially, what I did was reverse-fold the head section upward, position the horn and eye flaps, make a nose and eyes, and curve the horns; then I positioned the legs and folded some rather mediocre-looking hooves on the leg flaps (I’ll figure out some good ones eventually, but now’s not the time), and rabbit-eared to make the tail.

A few optional things that can be done are to lock the inside layers together, to hide the folds around the tail, use wet-folding to put some nice shaping folds on the back, head, and legs, etc. Also, the nose can be turned into a lower jaw instead, a la many of Montroll’s animals.

So there you go. If you’ve been following along, and have gotten stuck or don’t like the way it turned out, remember: folding from a crease pattern is one of the hardest things to do in origami, and it takes practice. If you’ve gotten really stuck, email me or leave a comment and I’ll try to help you.

Have fun, and get to work on some more crease patterns!