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Decorative folding

boxesWhen beginners begin to fold creatively, they instinctively apply the same folds in turn to each corner of a square. This usually tends to produce flowers, stars, boxes or decorations, hence their relative profusion inthe world of origami.

It has often been said that successful functional designs possess a beauty of their own, and the same is true of origami. Dishes, boxes and containers, usually based around the solving of a folding problem (how to "lock" the sides of the box together)often have a purity of design which makes them attractive in their own right. This is especially true of multi-piece folds; by using different coloured paper (or even the coloured/white sides) many fascinating and beautiful patterns can be made.

Decorative folding often makes use of extensive pre-creasing; creases are added to the paper in the first few steps but not actually used until later. This allows for particularly accurate folding, since the creases are often made through a single layer and so can be located more precisely.

tessellationsSome folders dislike precreasing, feeling that the folding sequence should flow in a positive way rather than repeatedly folding and opening again. Others enjoy the logical regime of precreasing with its inherent precision and economy of folding. Dr. Philip Shen of Hong Kong makes extensive use of precreasing in his work; the actual "assembly" of his folds being brief compared to the preparatory steps. There are certain folds however, for which precreasing is essential; particularly with three dimensional folds where it would be impractical to add new creases during the latter stages of assembly.

Unlike living subjects, decorative origami is one area where you can really experiment with different paper such as foil, day-glo or christmas wrapping paper. Having said this, you should try to be sensitive to the needs of the design; a brightly coloured paper which would suit a hanging decoration would not be appropriate for a delicate dish.

If you are making folds to display, it sometimes helps to reinforce potential weak areas with glue or sellotape; the restrictions of "pure" origami are generally relaxed a litle for display purposes.

Nick Robinson 12/6/94

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