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BOS is 50

Highlights from British Origami 150-159

Profile: October 1991
Minako Ishibashi

Minako started origami around 1955 when her maths teacher used it to help teach mathematics. She learnt six or seven designs, but didn't return to folding until the mid-seventies when her enthusiasm was rekindled. After her first "fish", she launched into a creative period that is still going strong. After she had created some 80 designs, she had her first origami exhibition and joined the Nipponese Origami Association in 1979.

Her preference is for simple and beautiful origami and this is also reflected in her other hobbies, painting and drawing. She lives with her mother and three cats; her mother also teaches origami to OAP'S.

Minako teaches mathematics and music at a private school for children and she also teaches origami at Kobe, Osaka and her home town. She has a regular origami series running in the newspaper Kobe Shinbun where her original work is very popular. She also ran a number of profiles of overseas folders and their work, including Vicente Palacios and Eduardo Clemente.

Minako has had a series of Kusudama (decorative modular balls) published as kits in Japan, incorporating a design, sufficient paper to make the complete kusudama and some silk braid to complete the display. She entered the French Bicentennial competition and won a prize for her three beautiful displays of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe, all composed of flat interlocking modules forming a mosaic silhouette of the subjects.

Her work is frequently modular, though not overly complicated; often requiring only 4 or six units to create a flat decorative design. One piece designs are also simple, encompassing fish, butterflies, hats, chairs and frequently flowers which she turns into attractive necklaces. The cover of BO 120 showed her "Crane Envelope'.


Clean Sheet: December 1991
Saburo Kase in England

Saburo Kase the 65 year old blind folder from Tokyo was the guest of bonour at our convention at the Beeches Management Centre in Birmingham, and of course at the Education and Therapy conference which preceded it. His visit was made possible by the assistance once again of the Japan Foundation, who have enabled us to greet several other prominent origami personalities from Japan over the last decade. Mr Kase is a masseur and acupuncturist. He has been totally blind from his youth, and apart from being an accomplished creative folder and origami teacher to the blind, and to those with and without a handicap, he is a prominent figure in various Japanese organisations for the handicapped.

Edwin Corrie and I met him and his companion, Ebi Tajima, off the plane from Tokyo on Saturday September 28th. I knew Edwin understood and spoke a few words of Japanese, and I had asked him to accompany me as I had been informed that neither Mr Kase or Ebi spoke any English. Mercifully that information was not correct, and we found that Eiji was able to hold a fluent conversation with us. Taking our visitors to their hotel in central London, we found out that both were seasoned travellers, Ebi always accompanying Mr Kase on his trips, and recording the details of all their experiences on film. Their last excursion had been to Saudi Arabia before the hostilities in the Gulf earlier this year. I asked whether it had been a holiday or business (i.e. origami), and was jokingly told, "You don't take holidays in Saudi Arabia." Apparently this had not been one of Mr Kase's most enjoyable trips!

The following day, Sunday, I joined our visitors again at their hotel at about 11.30. Rising far earlier than I had, they had taken a walk and found the Sherlock Holmes museum in Baker Street, in which they had spent a little time. Kase had purchased a Sherlock Holmes' deerstalker hat, which he proudly modelled for me, Although a slight and bald figure, of quite a different physique to the Conan Doyle character, Kase suited the hat well and he was clearly very pleased with it! While talking to Eoi about the itinerary of the next few days, and before I was really aware of any other activity in the room, I heard the rustle of folding paper, then Kase produced a spontaneously folded origami deerstalker, and a curly Holmes' pipe, designed on the spot. Kase works by touch and feel, but this highly developed sense makes up for his lack of sight, and means that origami creativity is at least no more difficult for him than for the fully sighted folder.

Kase's next assignment was to give a series of demonstrations at the Richard Wilson Arts Centre, near Caernarvon, in North Wales. There our visitors were to stay for three days. I had arranged to travel with them on the train as far as Crewe, there putting them on another train for their ultimate destination. On the train, more experimentation with the deerstalker project ensued, and I tried, rather less successfully than Kase to make my interpretation of the same subject. Kase folded a pretty circle of connected cranes as a present for my wife, Tiziana.

I next caught up with Kase and Eoi at the Beeches for our conferences. The demonstrations in Caernarvon had gone well, and they had visited several schools in the area where the pupils had enjoyed the origami work which they had been shown and which they had folded.

At the Beeches when I arrived, Kase was the star of a video tape which was being made by the trained staff at the Centre. The tape, on which he demonstrated several simple and appealing folds, was later available at the meeting. Kase's presentation at the Education and Therapy conference was clear, concise, and practically based. Assisted by the incomparable Sonoko Strong, who translated smoothly and efficiently he emphasised that when teaching the handicapped, and in particular the blind, the teacher should not be over-sympathetic with the students. They should be treated as normal persons as far as possible. To aid the recognition of parts of the square, Kase suggested the numbering of each of the corners, and thus the folding of a diagonal can easily be described as "fold corner 1 to corner 3'. Subsequent folds made can be similarly numbered. He showed us (and we all folded) a 'Hallo Fox' whose head appeared in the final move, prompting an exclamation which gave the model its name. The design of this was in fact attributed to Mitsuo Okuda. There followed a boat and a peacock, both with simple yet climactic folding sequences where the finished form emerges in the final manipulations. Although many members of the audience tried to simulate the problems of the blind by folding with closed eyes, or with paper out of sight under the table, Kase was at pains to point out that it is really impossible to assume the role of a blind person, in view of the highly developed senses which are possessed making up for lack of sight.

Later Kase taught groups of convention attendees several of his folds. All were intrigued by his skills and found that they were not put at any disadvantage despite Kase's own handicap. Periodically, he checks the correctness of the students' work by touching and handling their models. All of these sessions were a "sell-out" and many quite experienced folders reported that they were left behind by their teacher.

The days following the convention were no less hectic for our visitors than those which had gone before. I had arranged for Kase to give some demonstrations at Exhall Grange School for the Blind near Coventry. Sonoko Strong translated for him as before and showed her skills of spontaneity and sensitivity to the task. Later on Tuesday he visited two schools in London, whose children, though not handicapped came from various different backgrounds. All these demonstrations proved successful and rewarding for all concerned.

Leaving England on Wednesday 9th October, Kase and Eiji took a flight to the USSR where it had been arranged for them to spend 6 days in Moscow, and 5 in Leningrad. Contact was made with our local BOS representatives in those cities, Misha Litvinov and Sergei Afonkin respectively. On their way home, and stopping off in London on the night of 20th October, Eiji told me that this was their second visit to the USSR, and that they found things a lot more lively and energetic than on their previous visit some six years before, when they felt a much colder and restrained atmosphere. The schedule was much as before: a round of demonstrations and lectures to origami enthusiasts and the public in both cities which they visited.

We are very proud to have met Mr Kase. He showed us new horizons in origami teaching to the handicapped, and how our problems in creative origami work seem to be minimised when compared to his own approach to original designs. I'd like to thank all those who contributed to the success of the visit, in particular to Mr Yano and Sue Henny of the Japan Foundation, Sally Lewis and Kate Newnham of the Japan Festival, and Society members Sonoko Strong, Brian Goodall and Edwin Corrie.

We look forward keenly to Mr Kase's next visit to the UK.


What's in a Word?:February 1992
Nick Robinson discusses naming origami.

When you ask the average folder to assess a piece of origami, there are three main ways in which they will probably tackle it. Leaving aside the somewhat subjective criteria of good technique, the following methods remain. Looks/functionality; how closely does it represent the chosen subject, does it have most of the salient features present, or does it instead capture the spirit or essence of the subject? If a practical fold, does it serve its intended purpose? Folding quality/visual appeal; how well is it folded? Are the creases crisp, the points sharp, the layers reasonably flat? If it has been shaped, are the curves free from crumples? Is the paper suitable and/or attractive?

Whilst accepting that all art is abstract to some degree, both methods are equally appropriate to assessing representational folds, but fall flat when looking at free-form or non-representational folds. Imagine you are presented with a square of paper that has a couple of apparently random creases in it; how do you respond? The most likely question is'What is it?". Should the answer be 'Well it isn't anything really, just a fold', what else can you say? You may like it, but are unlikely to be able to articulate exactly why. Why is it that you can take a fold such as Dave Brill's "Horse'and eulogize it at length, but when presented with a free-form fold run out of words within 15 seconds?

I think the central concept behind this state of affairs is language itself, rather than the worth of the design. The Canadian writer Marshall McLuhan postulated that "The medium is the message", in other words the communication medium (in this case language) exerts such a strong influence on the communication process that it virtually controls what is communicated. From birth we are taught to recognise subjects by their shape, firstly simple recognition, then by use of adjectives to further refine our description. This is what we fall back on when looking at some origami. Firstly (for example) it is an Elephant, perhaps Indian or African. Its has a thick tail. It has little three-dimensionality. It has an open back. It has no colour change on the tusks. These are judgements based on how well the subject is represented. The paper is crinkly and grey, it is neatly folded, there are no surplus creases evident. These are aesthetic comments. Now apply the same criteria to a sheet of paper with a single pleat in it and see how far you get! Codifying beauty has caused many people to revert to verse in an attempt to capture what they truly feel. within origami, few have had the courage to use poetry, John Smith being a notable example.

The fact is, we are short on words with which to describe non-representational subjects and often fall back on cliche, ridicule or flattery. Whereas Plato discussed proportion as the source of beauty and mimesis or imitation as the primary mode of art, the French impressionists espoused "art for art's sake" and formed the avant-garde movement. Almost without exception, origamists tend to fall heavily towards the former and have little truck with anything remotely avant-garde.

It may be more helpful for us to follow the arguments of the formalist critics such as Bell and Greenberg who see significance in the elements of form (such as line, colour & composition), but contend that representational content is secondary, even distracting. Do we need training to appreciate form, or is it an innate ability? The naming of folds enhances the problem-, you create an elephant, it is likely that people will recognise it; "It's got ears and a trunk, therefore it is an elephant.". You say "It's an elephant!'and there are no problems. If you create a dish/bowl, it is still recognisable, although frequently (and demeaningly) it is likely to be described as an "ashtray". You start to have problems naming it though; is it "dish 1", "dish 2", "Daisy's Dish'? Folders of smaller modular work are plagued with the problem of names, often resorting to a thesaurus for inspiration. If you call it "4-piece modular", people may well overlook it, but if you call it "Quadra-mat', it takes on more solidity in peoples minds and they may well think more highly of it. This gives weight to Kenneway's assertion that origami is a process rather than an object. The value of a fold can never be in its name, but naming a free-form fold can make it more accessible. To call a fold "sorrow'or "anger" may allow an assessor to find a way of relating to the fold, calling it 'Tree-form 3' cannot.

If we are to further the cause of origami as "Art", we need to get round this linguistic problem, but it will make us far more complete as folders to adopt a much more open-minded approach when looking at free-form origami. It may not look like anything in particular, but to use this as justification for treating it lightly or dismissively is a philistine attitude. Origami is worthy of better!


Origami and Evolution : April 1992
Sergei Afonkin on origami in nature.

May be it sounds strange but Nature had been doing Origami during millions of years. In case of Origami the human practice only has clarified principles which lay in the basis of our World. Many times such phenomenon has occurred in the 20th century. Origami is not an exception. You may think that when you fold figures out of flat sheets of paper you do something which had not existed before human civilisation and the development of art. It's not true. Of course I mean not paper folding in a strict sense but the creation of diversity from nothing.

The Evolution of Life on our Earth has needed millions of years to improve the constructions of first living cells which looked like modern bacteria to create large, complex and multi-functional eucaryotic cells. Our body has been made up from just such cells. The Nature like a patient and not very skilful workman had been making its chess-men for very long time and then the appearance of different multicellular organisms and their evolution was like short bright chess-game when the set was ready.

The main difference between pro and eucaryotic cells consists of inner space Organisation. Cells like bacteria (procaryotes) look like single cylinders. You may construct the model by rolling a flat square of paper or making a simple box. To make cells more complicated Nature needed different biochemical processes to be separated in space. les difficult to cook, make party and to sleep in a single room. It's possible as my practice shows but not very convenient. The keeping of large amount of already packed products and stored information also needs separate "rooms" or warehouses.

Millions of years ago there was only one way to solve the problem. Partitions and walls could be made from single membrane by folding. Such complex structures as nuclear envelope, mitochondria, chloroplasts and endoplasmic reticulum were created from flat membranes by making pleats, folds and creases. The appearance of complex structures from flat surfaces has occurred many times during evolution of multicellular organisms. Our lungs are many square meters of cell surface crumpled into a compact organ. Do not forget brain's bends and many miles of blood capillaries packed up in our body.

So Origami is a method of structure's created from simple flat surfaces has been used many times during evolution of living creatures. A square sheet of paper transformed in our hands to a bird or a flower gives us a clear view of creations principle. We do not invent any original, we only follow Nature.


Report : June 1992
Akira Yoshizawa's American Seminar

Thirty origami enthusiasts attended the first ever Akira Yoshizawa Seminar in the United States at the Hudson River Inn and Conference Centre in Ossing, New York, a small town about 40 miles from New York City. A group of dedicated folders from all over the United States attended this three day event over our Columbus Day Holiday Weekend (October 12-14).

The Seminar was conceived and implemented by Mrs Emiko Kruckner, a long time student of Mr Yoshizawa. It has long been her dream to bring Mr Yoshizawa to this country to conduct a class as he does in Japan. Mrs Kruckner singlehandedly convinced the Japan Foundation to provide funding for this worthwhile event. Mr Michael Shall, President of the Friends of the Origami Centre of America generously helped her with many of the details.

Mr Yoshizawa spoke at some length about his philosophy of paper folding. I would like to share a few of his thoughts with you. It is Mr Yoshizawa's goal to create harmony and peace in the world. He feels one of the most important things a person can do is to learn to use his fingers. He said, "fingers can talk to paper; they should be like dancers moving together. He sees paper as having thickness, weight and hardness. Paper is further viewed to have its own mind and heart. He feels the procedure to create and object should be as beautiful as the finished product. People can create new things through origami and express their feelings. He went on to say that when the ideas of heart and mind match a person will feel tremendous emotion and warmth.

In the three days we created essentially two pieces of origami: the first was a sheep's head composition mounted on a shikishi board and the other a three dimensional ram. The ram was made of a very special hand made paper which we subsequently back coated. This paper was made especially for Mr Yoshizawa's exhibit in Seville, Spain.

Mr Yoshizawa extensively demonstrated his technique of wet folding. He commented on each students work and was available to answer any questions. I must not forget to mention that Mrs Yoshizawa, obviously an artist in her own right, demonstrated glue making and the making of string from handmade paper. While Mr Yoshizawa was lecturing she helped various students individually.

It was an experience of a lifetime and we are very grateful to Mrs Emiko Kruckner and the Japan Foundation.



Origamedia : August 1992
Origami sighting in film

Harvey made it... James Stewart folds and Marlene Dietrich is impressed. This is a still from a 1951 British film called 'No Highway' screened on UK TV last Easter. In the role of an eccentric professor, Stewart explains the intricacies of aerodynamics to co-passenger Dietrich while convincing her that his design of their air-liner could lead to their imminent crashing. (No denouements here. See the film).

Also viewed recently has been a period-piece pirate film starring Charlton Heston and Ray Milland. In one scene, one of our hero's swashbuckling efforts to fold a paper boat is crudely thwarted by the crushing fist of some dastardly varlet. 'Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum to anyone knowing the title of this film! And a print-shop scene from a recent repeat from America's Happy Days series thoughtfully included the wearing of the paper Printer's Hat.


Origamimagia : October 1992
Mystification or Discovery by Sergei Afonkin

Several months ago I met the head of the laboratory of information communication. His name is Leonid M Pozvin and for many years he has been working in a 'closed' (secret) Institute of Electronic Physics near Moskow. Now that our country has become more open to the rest of the world many interesting investigations are now open for discussion.

Dr L Pozvin told me that the scope of his scientific interest lies in the molecular level of information transmission and there is some process of transmission through space without the traditional ways such as cables, electromagnetic field and so on.

I am not a specialist in the subject but the result of the application of this principle to a patient's treatment looks fantastic. The main idea is that the information of drugs and medicine can be introduced into the human body without physical contacts with it! The apparatus designed in Dr Pozvin's laboratory can, he says, modify the streams of cosmic energy in a man's body and treat the patient with the drug's structure passed though space into him.

I have seen patients with terrible skin diseases and liver cancer who felt much better after several series of sitting with these devices. Maybe it is a simple example but the experiments with cell cultures and sprouting sees also gave excellent results in spite of the fact that they have no brains.

It sounds strange but what about origami? Dr Pozvin said that every structure independent of the material it was made of can modify the space around it and can be used as a transmitter or receiver or both. Origami figures can do it as well.

We performed an interesting experiment. His hands soared and flew over a sheet of paper and he made instructions where the next crease was to be made. After a while a figure I named 'Bioenergetical Rocket" appeared in my hands. I draw your attention to the fact that a man had never done any origami before and without the practice cannot make something complex and harmonious in Origami in the first sitting - but he did!

Dr Pozvin asserts that the model has some bioenergetic features and can be used in his experiments.

Maybe it is only speculation without any solid base of fact but recently I was very surprised to find that the translation of the Japanese term "Kasudama" is "a curative herb". As my Japanese friend told me, for many centuries Kasudamas were hung up in the room of a sick person. A wisp of a curative herb was tied to it: it was not eaten; not made into a tisane; it was only hung up in the room. Nevertheless it worked!

The idea seems rather crazy but maybe the structure of the drug was transmitted through the Kasudama's shape?

Several of our Centre's students made classical Kasudamas when they were ill and all of them felt better after this practice Maybe we are on the threshold of a big discovery and origami can be used not only as a psychotherapeutic remedy but as real origamimagia?


Origami Song Book : December 1992
The Origami Widower's Lament by David Bogod and Teresa Kirpilani

Sung to the tune of 'My Old Man's a Dustman'


My missus is a folder, she's joined the BOS,
my missus is a folder, my life's an awful mess.

The boss came round for dinner, I was trying to impress.
The missus cooked a coq au vin and wore a lovely dress.
But then she took the napkins, and before our startled eyes,
She made a praying mantis, a cockroach and two flies.


When she has a mini-meeting, her friends are really strange.
They dress as if they're penniless, look like they've got the mange.
They drink my favourite whisky from a hand-made paper cup,
And though they fret about the sink, won't do the washing up.


She went to a convention, I joined her for the day.
She spent two hours in the supplies, and blew my monthly pay.
At least I needn't worry about the other men;
They're just there for the folding, apart from Thoki Yenn.


I thought my luck was really in when she folded back the sheets,
But then I found, to my dismay, it was just to practice pleats.
And yesterday she asked me to join her the bath,
But all she wanted was some help to wet-fold a Lang giraffe.


So if you're getting married, here's the secret of success,
don't pick a partner who's a member of the BOS!


Guielines: February 1993
David Petty on Reviewing Origami Books

David was prompted by comments on book reviewing in BOM 155 to consider how best to provide a common standard in the reviews. 'My ultimate response was to commit to paper the mental checklist that I use during the initial roughing of a review.'

Publishing Information

Book title, author, publisher, date of publication, ISBN number, original language, cost.

Physical Description

Size (usually given in mms), number of pages, photographs (colour or black and white, including quantity), number of models, book type, (paperback, cardback, hardback, etc).


  • International diagram system used (yes/no?).
  • Level of difficulty (beginners/intermediate/advanced), are they graded through the book?
  • Quality of the models (good/bad/indifferent/ugly/beautiful/ stylised/realistic, etc).
  • Quality of the diagram steps (adequate/followable, etc).
  • Personal statements can be included here (my favourite model in the book is..., your reviewer prefers hand drawn diagrams to computer drawn, etc.... ).
  • Comment on folding sequences (novel/long winded/economical/ interesting, etc).
  • Comment on economical use of paper in the models.
  • Type of book (childrens/adults/coffee table/BOS publication etc).
  • Is it an origami book, or does origami only form part of the book?


  • Are the pages pleasing to the eye? Are the diagram steps placed in the same way throughout the book?
  • Is colour indication used and is it adequate?
  • Are the photographs high quality? Do they adequately illustrate the models/folding sequences?

Other Information

  • Comparison with earlier books from the same author (more of the same, a change of subject/style etc..).
  • Statements of previously known style/s of the creator/s should be made here.
  • Reason for issuing the book (reading the introduction can usually give the intention of the author).
  • Is there any plagiarism obvious?
  • Is the book part of a series of publications?
  • How innovative is the book/techniques?
  • Is the book privately produced? (Give details of how to obtain a copy if relevant).


Repeat the best and worst features from the earlier sections. Make recommendations (good for beginners, only for advanced students, do not touch even with a barge pole, etc).

In general there are few origami books in print throughout the world. The overall intention of the review is to draw to the attention of the reader the appearance of any new books. As such, your review should be accurate and fair. Try not to let personal preferences and prejudice intrude. As far as possible end on a positive note (unless the models are all plagiarised, the diagrams cannot be followed, and the photographs look like a black cat in a coal cellar at midnight!). Remember that it takes a lot of effort to produce a book, respect the author for at least investing his/her time in such an enterprise.


Folder's Corner: April 1993
An Elephantine Response from John Smith

I was delighted to read Paul Jackson's contribution " An Elephantine Challenge" in BOS 158. Simple models of merit are very difficult to create and yet are needed by teachers particularly where they are helping the disadvantaged, and by beginners. For my part I find something satisfying in well thought out but simple models, they have a charm all of their own. I came to the view that one way to keep models simple was to only use mountain and valley folds. In 1978 I put forward this argument and called the simplifying constraints 'Pureland".

Paul has put forward the idea of constraining the number of steps or folds or seeking to minimize them. This seems to me a fascinating and challenging concept. I think, however, that the idea of limiting the number of steps should be rejected. Thus we could require the sinking of a waterbomb base as a step, but this entails managing 8 folds simultaneously, hardly a simple step. I believe the limit should be on the actual number of folds required for the model. Thus a reverse fold will normally require 3 folds as Paul points out. The great beauty of Paul's idea of limiting the folds is that the creator must necessarily chose the simplest route.

But can we make one more simplifications. Why not chose a limit to the number of folds irrespective of the model. I would suggest 11 which leaves room for a reverse fold or squash if the creator feels this is necessary. There is something reminiscent in this of Haiku poems which are only 17 syllables long yet many have sublime beauty (so I am told).

Many thanks Paul for beginning this movement long may it prosper.


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