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Envelopes, Letterfolds, Tato and ELFA
On 4th October Monica Ballard wrote: "I wish there was a book on different kinds of tatos and envelopes". Ann Lavin responded by putting foreword "Wrapping Orgami" ("Densyou tsutsami o ikasu"), a book in Japanese by the versatile Yoshihide Momotani, published in 1993.
This is indeed a wonderful book and the tragedy is that it has not been better known in the West. It contains tatos in the original Japanese sense of containers for bits and pieces, more elaborate polyhedral tatos of the kind folded by Mishio Uchiyama in the latter years of his life, Ocho and Mecho Butterflies, (to which Momotani gives the delightful name "Classical Papilionaceous Noshi"), formal tsutsumi (such as pleated wrappers for wrapping flowers of different kinds, formal wrappers for gifts of money) and more informal "decorative" wrappers (also used for gifts of money). So far as I can see from a quick glance, however, there are none of the ancient Japanese formal letter folds). I enthusiastically endorse this book, which has beautifully clear diagrams and can only hope that it is still in print (ISBN 4-416-89320-5).
Julia Palffy also refers to another book in Japanese named "Koten Origami", which means "Classical Origami.") This book, is a window on the "adult" style of folding of the 19th century in Japan, which usually involves considerable cutting. "Koten origamai" was originally written in 1981 by Yaejo Sakuma who was bon in 1890 and a member of an older generation of Japanese folders. (Michio Uchiyama was born in 1878 and Isao Honda in 1985.) It begins with a section of folds from Kayaragusa (also known as Kan no mado, the hand-written encyclopaedia of 1845). It includes dolls folded I multiple lays of paper of different colours used to make the clothing of the "dolls" resemble the elaborate costumes of the Heian era. (This is known as "Kasane Origami". There is a section of the polygonal tatos in the style of Michio Uchiyama, which are also folded from multiple layers of paper. A somewhat amended version of "Koten Origami" was prepared by Itsuko Sakuma and published in either 1990 or 1995 in somewhat larger A4 format.
An advanced Japanese book of Tatos and Tsutsumi Is "Nippon no Origami Shu" (a Collection of Japanese Folded Shapes") by Makio Araki, who is the leading Japanese expert on Japanese wrappers. It was published by Tankou sha in 1995. ISBN, 4-473-01389-8).
A much more accessible and colourful book by Makio Araki is his "Oru Tsuitsu Mu" (literally, "Making Shapes"), published by Tan Ko Sha and which has gone into at least three editions (ISBN 4-473-01134-8). Extensively illustrated in colour, it includes a wide variety of Japanese wrappers and envelopes of many kinds. I haven't the date, but it was around 1995. I highly recommend this as an introduction to this fascinating aspect of folding.
Isao Honda wrote "Noshi, Classic origami in Japan" in 1964. Unfortunately it is now virtually unobtainable. It covers formal and informal wrappers and envelopes, but I find it a somewhat confused and misleading book.
Michio Uchiyama died in 1967. A book of Michio Uchiyama's elaborate, and colourful "tatos" was published by Sori Yenagi in 1988. It is mainly in Japanese, but it has a short introduction in English and the back cover has the title in English: "Origami Flower Papers; World of Uchiyama". Very interestingly at this time of PCOC and the Origami Exhibition at the Mingei Museum in San Diego, it is described as "Mingei Series Volume 3", although I don't think that this title has any connection with the museum.
So anyone interested in Japanese envelopes, wrappers and "tatos" (which take a variety of forms) has plenty of resources to go at, even if he or she may find considerable difficulty in obtaining the books. (Take my tip: Whenever you come across an interesting book BUY It, even if you have to walk home and if necessary on an empty stomach! And DON'T wait for a book to be remaindered: the one you want never will be!.
In comparison, Westerners are acutely deprived of sustenance. There are many brief references to Japanese wrappers and envelopes scattered though many books and magazines and polyhedral "tatos" of one sort or another have been popular, but it is difficult to direct anyone interested to anything like a comprehensive source.
The one shining beacon is The Envelope and Letter Folding Association (ELFA), which was founded by John Cunliffe of London. He was interested in the byways of Origami and first wrote a booklet on Napkin Folding for the BOS. Then he turned his attention to Envelope and Letter Folds, for which he compiled booklet no 25 for the BOS in 1988. He decided there was sufficient scope in the subject to found a separate organisation and ELFA was the result. ELFA is based on the old BOS idea of a postal portfolio and members were either Full Members who received the portfolios or associate members, who merely received periodical reports on the contents of the portfolios and could ask for information and copies. Later John decided to appoint regional organisers in different countries.
The results of the investigations by ELFA resulted in the accumulation of many more old and new envelope and letter folds. John produced a second edition of his original BOS booklet which he published himself in 1991. He himself drew all the diagrams and gave distinctive names to all of the folds. Subsequently further "editions" of Envelope and Letter Folding were issued by ELFA, although these were not so much "editions" in the ordinary sense, as wholly separate booklets with entirely different content.
Date: Sun 05 Oct 2003 12:01:10 -0400
Subject: Envelopes. Letterfolds, Tato, Noshi and ELFA part Two
The seven "editions" are as follows:
1st Edition. Published by BOS Booklet no. 25, September, 1988.
2nd Edition. Published by ELFA April, 1991. A revised issue of the 1st Edition.
3rd edition: Dutch Emphasis. (1991). Dutch members of ELFA, and especially Elsje van der Ploeg) were particularly active and much of the material for this booklet came from them.
4th Edition: West - East. (1995) This contains a number of Japanese Tsutsumi and envelopes as well as Western letterfolds.
5th Edition: Enveloppes et Lettres Pliees (French Emphasis) 1998.. Genevieve de Gouvion St. Cyr and Michel Grand helped to edit this.It contains a great amount of French material.
6th edition. American Emphasis (2001) A number of items in this booklet came from folders in the United States, among them Gay Merrill Gross, Laura Kruskal, Marcia Mau, Jeremy Shafer, Tricia Tait and Florence Temko.
7th Edition. Novelties and Procedures (2000). The 7th edition preceded the 6th in time. John Cuniffe is also something of a magician and he includes a small collection of conjuring tricks related to envelope and letter folds.
Copies of the editions of "Envelope and Letter Folding", where they are still in print can be obtained from John Cunliffe. Unfortunately he doesn't own a computer (sensible man!) and doesn't have an e-mail address, but he does give the following street address:
For those of you living in the United States, I understand that John is looking for a new American organiser. I'm sure he would be delighted to hear from anyone who might be interested.
I have searched the Web, but there is no dedicated ELFA Web site.
Gerard Hughes has a section on envelope and letter folding at << http://www.ghh.com/elf/>> It includes a collection of folds and was compiled with the co-operation and approval of John Cunliffe.
There is also a new group on the Internet called "ELFA-e", which is organised by Elsje van der Ploeg of Holland. However, it is not primarily about ordinary envelope and letter folding, but about the application of decorative ideas to electronic mail, much as ordinary envelope and letter folding applies decorative ides and ingenuity to paper letters and envelopes.
Envelope and letter folding continues to grow with constant new ideas. I am particularly attracted to the ides of Heinz Strobl of Germany, who has used the geometry of the silver rectangle to design some very interesting letter folds.
Then there is a letterfold called the "Fern" letterfold by a Spaniard called Fernandez (I'm sorry, I don't remember the rest of his name), so-named by John Cunliffe. A few months ago I received a letter in the form of a letterfold from Philip Shen, who now lives in California. I found the letterfold he used intriguing and after searching the ELFA Booklets I found that it resembled the Fern letterfold. But by a few deft moves it had been made much more attractive and more secure. I still don't know whether Philip designed it himself or derived it from elsewhere. It has been well-received whenever I have taught it.
Well, that has kept me busy on a sunny, but bitterly cold Sunday morning. I originally intended to write a piece on the Star of David - not so much about the origami star, but about the derivation of the name and the modern uses of it as a symbol. If there is still sufficient interest I suppose I could still do this. Let me know. But should I precede it with the symbol [NO]? I wonder in fact, how many subscribers automatically delete everything with this prefix without bothering to see what it is about!
05 Oct 2003
Still at Grimsby, England.
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