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BOS is 50

Highlights from British OrigamI 170-170

Mathematical Papers: February 1995
John Smith at the 2nd International Meeting of Origami Science

Of the 50 papers given at the meeting no less than 30 were primarily concerned with mathematical ideas. Obviously I cannot do more in these notes than give a flavour of the subjects covered. For those who are interested, the full papers are to be published in due course, in the meantime abstracts are available. Compared with the first Origami Science convention in Ferrara in 1989, IM main emphasis in Japan was on 3D structures, rather than flat Origami. For convenience I will divide my commentaries up into four main headings

1. The mathematics of Origami.

In these papers the main emphasis is on developing the mathematics of folding itself. So the direction is from folding to mathematics. Only one paper by Jaques Justin attempted a very broad treatment of paper folding looking at the topological and combinatorial elements as well as the geometric. It was in fact an update of his summary but definitive account published in 1976 in the BOS magazine.

Toshikazu Kawasaki and Hideaki Azuma dealt with the mathematics of flat folding, and its extension to 3D.

Humiaki Huzita considered curved structures developed from straight line concepts. I was very taken with the ideas of Kazuo Haga who finds in simple folding wonderful mathematical properties. For example . mark a point somewhere within a square. Now fold each of the 4 corners to ibis point. Now how many sides has the resulting polygon?. It can be 4,5 or 6, but where are the points which generate the different sided polygons?. The area of these points makes very attractive shapes. Naturally these ideas have possible applications in education and these are being studied.

Fumiaki Kawahata explored a fascinating area. If you know the number of points you need in the final model and their length etc., how can a base be designed to give what is needed? Kawahata examines the mathematical concepts involved in a solution.

Jun Maekawa developed the ideas of similarities in Origami and showed some incredible self similar fractals. I particularly liked his 'Surf'.

Kenzo Takei also dealt with fractals this time using cutting and perforations of folds. Heinz Strobl showed his work with paper tape in the study of knotting and symmetry.

2. Mathematical ideas explored by Origami.

Here the emphasis is on the mathematics using Origami as a way of exploring or developing those ideas.

Koji Miyazaki looked at the ways of using Origami to show 4 dimensional structures. I must confess I was soon lost, I don't seem any more able to visualise four dimensions than before, but I am sure the fault is mine. Thomas Hull showed something of his work on planar graphs and the way in which Origami can be used to examine ideas and suggest new approaches.

3. Origami and its links to other fields.

In many ways this was the most interesting area for me of all of the mathematical papers. The ideas took real life problems in other fields and then used Origami as a model for development and perhaps suggest ways of improving structures. Interestingly enough three of the papers dealt with the crushing or buckling of thin sheets either from the flat form or from some form of tube. A well illustrated talk was given by Biruta Kresling showing her work which uses the shapes and relationships well known in Origami to model and explore buckling problems.

Koryo Miura famous for his map fold showed his work on the crushing patterns in thin materials. Kunio Suzuki talked about snowflakes and related organic structures, and how these could be represented in Origami. He went on to describe new ways of generating snow type patterns and used an organic method of classification.

I must also mention Peter Engels who explored the ideas of breaking symmetry and showed how many organic structures are asymmetric. He then showed how this might impact and be demonstrated in paper folding.

4. Origami and Education.

Here the focus is on using Origami to make clear mathematical ideas. Nearly all of the papers were concerned with 3D structures, a fascinating change from the work of Sundara Row and his demonstrations of flat geometry by folding. The enormously influential and inventive Shuzo Fujimoto showed his ideas for building platonic solids from modules which he uses as a chemistry teacher to make clear molecular structures etc.

Toshinori Tanaka showed how Origami is used to get over the analysis of 3D structures such as boxes. Great emphasis is placed on children learning by experiencing rather than by discussion. The superiority of paper as a material for such teaching is well brought out. I felt this was a most important paper dealing with the benefits in a thoroughly practical way.

David Masunaga also stressed the value of 'hands-on' devices in teaching major geometric concepts in the USA. He focused on the use of unit Origami as a medium to enhance three dimensional spatial visualisation. The emphasis on experiencing in an interesting way by folding and arranging symmetry groups was illustrated by Junko Nitta. A start is made with the balloon (waterbomb). This is used for hands-on experiencing of symmetrical elements. The translation concept was explored using patterns on an endless strip.

I have selected a number of papers which illustrate what I felt was the main thrust of the ideas at the meeting. I have probably omitted ones that I should have included, but ( can only say I am sorry about this and do urge anyone interested to get a copy of both the abstract and the proceedings.


Traditional and Technical: April 1995
Dave Brill on bases.

I have felt increasing dissatisfaction with the continued reliance on traditional origami geometry by modern creative folders. It seems to me that there are so many interesting and alternative ways of working which do not employ the familiar kite and diamond shapes which go hand in had with these familiar procedures. I would like to remind you of some landmarks on the journey which creative origami has followed to date, including some important references in origami literature. Let us compare the advantages and disadvantages of classic styles, and then perhaps I can suggest some new directions, which deliberately avoid these old ways, which you may like to explore. En route we will take in some surprises (which may not necessarily strengthen my arguments), but my aim is that you will in future question your tried and trusted methods of working, and perhaps you may even feel a little guilty when you next start to bisect the corner of a square to form the familiar 45/22.5 degree shapes, which in turn form the classic kite or diamond shapes of the fish, bird and frog bases.


I do not profess to be 'qualified" as a historian of origami, but like most devotees I have a healthy interest in the achievement of the past, and I acknowledge a profound debt to the folders of former times, known and unknown, who have helped formulate the alphabet and language of origami.

I am constantly amazed by the complexity and ingenuity of the Senbazuru Orikata originally published in 1797, where the basic, classic crane design is manipulated to staggering degree. How many lessons can a potential creator learn from this historic work? For example note how a smaller crane is connected to a larger parent bird by the simple means of blintzing the square which forms the smaller bird. Look too at the extraordinarily analytical creative achievement of the system of cutting the paper for the final tour-de-force design of mother and 96 baby cranes from a single sheet.

In the West we are more familiar with the variation of the crane known as the flapping bird. Incorporated in the symbol of the British Origami Society, the flapping bird was my introduction to origami when I was six years old, and of course I have a particular affection for it.

The Japanese crane and the Western flapping bird share the same starting shape or base - the Bird base - which has been the genesis for so many traditional and modern masterpieces. My colleague, John Smith, has examined the history and methods of folding the bird base in the British Origami Society publication, 'In Praise of the Bird Base'.

Of course the bird base is the best known traditional starting pint. bin it is not the simplest. if we return to the square we can see that it is quite natural to fold it in half diagonally, then to bisect the angles so formed. This gives rise to the simplest of the classic bases, the Kite base.

The related shapes of the Diamond base, the Fish base and the Frog base follow naturally and share the same geometry. The technique known as the Blintz, where the four corners of the square are taken to its centre point, has enabled creative paper- folders to develop and multiply the traditional forms, effectively doubling the possibilities of the square.

An article by Gershon Legman entitled "Secrets of the Blintz" published by Dokuohtei Nakano in 1972, traces the history of this technique, as well as demonstrating the relationship between fish, bird and frog bases by a blintzing technique.

Categorization of the bases has been a preoccupation of origami authors past and present, and I draw your attention to the important examples by Akira Yoshizawa (Origami Dokuhon, volumes I & II); Samuel Randlett (The Art of Origami and The Best of Origami). Uchiyama (Pure Origami); Dokuotei Nakano (Correspondence Course); and more recently Peter Engel (Folding the Universe).

Enough of history, the importance of the legacies of these traditional ideas is evident to us all.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Let us now continue by looking at some of the strengths and weaknesses of using these traditional ideas as a creative tool.


  • They are a convenient means for creating new designs
  • They are well tried and tested
  • They are reliable
  • They make use of the natural geometry of the square
  • A potential creator can draw on the experience of past creators
  • They contain 'good moves" such as the petal fold
  • Certain folders still can use them to achieve masterpieces.


  • It is not truly creative to start from a traditional shape
  • Their shapes frequently dictate the form of the finished model
  • They are 'too safe'
  • They lead to repetition and duplication of designs
  • You can often recognize the starting point in a completed model.

I am personally bored of using these overworked ideas. I am disappointed with myself when I automatically employ 45' of 22.5' geometry at any stage of a design, and I feel sad when I see others resorting to the same ideas when there are so many unexplored ideas to try. Sometimes I am pleased that a design may begin in an original way, but I frequently find that the same traditional ideas emerge later on in the sequence. What a shame!

My call to modern creators is this:- resist the temptation to fold the side of a square to its diagonal. avoid this traditional geometry at all costs. The benefits will be that you will push the limits of creative origami further away and you will have no need to retrace the steps trodden by your predecessors. Furthermore you will be working in a truly creative spirit, not limited or influenced by techniques and prejudices of the past

I would like to cite an example of my own experience. Deeply impressed by the Elephant of George Rhodes, published in "The Best of Origami" by Samuel Randlett, I saw the blintzed bird base as a fascinating, door-opening device which seemed to be the solution to so many technical problems in origami. I created a range of animals using this starting point.

Later I watched a television programme on Australian wildlife. and was struck by the bounding stride of a group of kangaroos. I realized that this movement had never really been captured in an origami kangaroo, which had generally been portrayed as a static. seated animal. Turning to my beloved blintzed bird base, I began to work on this subject with the aim of incorporating as much movement as possible into the finished result. The flaps and points of the base I found too wide, and in an attempt to alter the underlying geometry of the base, I experimented with the trisection of the angles to produce more slender graceful limbs. The problem that I then experienced was that the already thick base became even thicker, and furthermore when I analysed the crease pattern of the design, I found that two of the blintz flaps were unreleased. Although the finished form and poise of my kangaroo was reasonable, I was not prepared to accept the terrible compromises which it held.

Taking the concept of the revised geometry of 60' and 30' which seemed to provide the shapes and forms that I wanted, I then applied the same blintzing principles to an equilateral triangle, which would avoid the wastefulness of the original attempt, and make use of all the paper rather than hiding a quarter of it away as before. The revised animal which I subsequently obtained had all the strength of form of the first attempt, but more importantly it showed me that the shapes I was using were far more interesting than in the traditional 45', 22.5' kite and diamond shapes which I had previously held so dear. This starting point led me on to further animals and my creative energies were renewed by this discovery.

In response to purist criticisms that only squares should be used, I would argue that the equilateral triangle presents an even more challenging point of departure than the square, as it possesses fewer corners to manipulate. The culmination of this research was the Horse design with which you may be familiar: this took its present form after a development period of about 3 years. I believe it owes its success to the new shapes from which it is formed, which are such a change from the familiar forms which are so over-used.

I accept the comment that the ideas used are merely modifications of traditional ideas, translated onto a different starting shape, but the lessons I learned from this experience are important because I realized that the new shapes I had obtained were sufficiently different from, and far more attractive than, the old basic forms. I found great inspiration from this research.

New Directions

Since then, I have examined other non-traditional geometries which have given me further inspiration, both experimentally and in achieving finished designs. I would like to share some of these ideas with you.

A logical step from the 30/60 degree style on the triangle is to apply the same thinking to one corner of a square. This corner is thus trisected to form a kite shape with different proportions. Obviously shapes similar to those in the equilateral triangle can be seen. I have obtained a passable Goose (heavily influenced by a Swan by Akira Yoshizawa) using the trisected corner square technique.

In common with many other folders I acknowledge a huge debt to Akira Yoshizawa. whose work and 'feel" for paper I aspire towards. Yoshizawa, in his published work makes it clear that his mastery of technique and familiarity with the capabilities of the paper overcome the need for complex or radical new bases. He seems to be able to achieve everything he wants from traditional bases. However Akira Yoshizawa does not exclusively use the well-known basic forms. His books 'Origami Dokuhon I' and 'Origami Dokuhon II' carry messages important to my arguments.

'Origami Dokuhon I" gives folding instructions for a Chick from a bird base. In the same volume, there is a photograph of a Pelican which is decribed in folding instructions in 'Origami Dokuhon II.' It's clear that the chick and the pelican are closely related, the same folding method being applied to different starting shapes: a square and a rhombus formed from two equilateral triangles. You can see that quite different, though equally effective, results are obtained. As a further example of this trend, look at 'Origami Dokuhon II' page 15, where three dogs can be seen in a photograph. These are variations of a basic design, but each folded from a different starting shape. The results are dramatically different

The International paper size known in the UK as the Silver Rectangle carries many seldom explored possibilities. If it is "blintzed' by connecting the centre points of each side, the resultant rhombus is the shape required to build the beautiful Rhombic Dodecahedron, a solid which I know carries many new possibilities. Half of this rhombus can be used to form a neat skeletal cube, and a less accurate skeletal icosahedron. My Britsh colleague, David Mitchell, has made an excellent origami version of the 6 piece wooden block puzzle, which uses the first stellation of the Rhombic Dodecahedron as its basis. Silver rectangles are used to form each piece of Mitchell's design. This work was in fact the inspiration behind my own Double Star Flexicube, a 64-piece modular puzzle.

The diagonal of the Silver Rectangle provides the basis for many interesting Pentagonal shapes. Shuzo Fujimoto's pentangle, and David Collier's simple pentagon provide openings for this area of research. It is possible to make an effective regular dodecahedron with 12 pentagons thus formed. If a silver rectangle is cut into 6 strips which are then each divided into small silver rectangles, and the diagonals are zigzagged onto the strip, it is possible for these to be woven into a pierced dodecahedron. This construction has great strength and solidity as well as making very effective use of all of the sheet.

Very recently I have experimented with diagonals of other rectangles, notably a 2xl, to form other woven solids, and a curious flexagon which I have called 'Jacob's Rung,' in recognition of its similarity to the well-known toy, Jacob's Ladder.

Finally you may consider that the Free-Folding approach is the one which repays most study. In this style no reference points exist at all, and the folder is required to use his eye to judge the correct position of the folds which he is making. Eric Kenneway's notebooks of his own designs, which the Britsh Origami Society is lucky enough to possess, are evidence of the finest examples of this style, perhaps by definition the most taxing of all. Kenneway's Reclining Nude and Art-Deco Girl are examples of origami translated into draughtsmanship. Here, Kenneway is literally drawing with the edges and layers of paper. These designs are almost impossible to reproduce to the creator's standard. In Kenneway's masterpiece volume "Folding Faces" another example of free-folding exists, though here tidied up and given reference points for the benefit of readers who wish to get a good result. This is the Young Woman profile.

As an afterthought, I feel it appropriate to look at one or two examples of contemporary designs where established bases and techniques are used to produce radical, unusual or surprising results. These few examples are, I believe, masterpieces because the folder will see a completely new development stemming from an unoriginal starting point.

I am particularly fond of the "Box with Diagonal Division" by Yoshihide Momotani for these reasons: this starts from a blintzed fish base, surely the most unlikely basis for a box! Another design in similar mould is Jun Maekawa's Box with four divisions,' this from a simple bird base.

I also place the moving-joint Lizard by Tomoko Fuse in this category: this doesn't use a traditional base, but the joint mechanism relies on kite shapes and 22.5' angles.


My message to creative folders, present and future, is as follows: Leave your traditional prejudices behind. It is your responsibility to push the boundaries of creative origami further and further away. By staying with traditional geometry which have served us so well in the past, you are not even opening the door of your house, let alone venturing into exciting , untrodden pastures.

I repeat, I now feel sad or even a little guilty when I find myself laying the edge of a square onto its diagonal, either at the outset of my design or later on in the folding sequence. It is my hope that you may begin to feel the same way.


Seen and Heard: June 1995
Edwin Corrie watches 'The X-Files'.

A recent edition (February, I think) of the US Science Fiction series, 'The X-Files', which features two FBI Agents who investigate supernatural occurrences, featured a character who was into origami. In fact, origami was the vital clue that linked a dead man to a young girl, who had been involved in a series of strange incidents. it turned out that he had actually been 're-born' in her (yikes!), and was trying to avenge his own murder. What gave him/her away was that they were both into origami. A couple of brief shots were shown of a table full of folded animals, a Giraffe and a sort of flying bird, which may have been referred to as a Hawk. The views were quick, so perhaps someone has videoed the programme, or possibly one of our American friends was actually involved. More details would be welcome.


Seen and Heard: August 1995
Men Folding Badly.

The 8th June 1995 UK BBC l TV edition of 'Men Behaving Badly', a situation comedy about the lives and loves of two men (I think boys would be more appropriate!), featured a reference to Origami. Trying to get a dinner party together, the conversation went like this:

'Do you know how to make roses out of paper towels?'


'I'll do airplanes then'


A Bavarian Interlude: October 1995
David and Lyn Mitchell in Munich

In July Lyn and I were lucky enough to be invited to attend, exhibit and teach at the 4th International Paperfolding Congress held at the Gastheis cultural centre in Munich -much akin to the central buildings of London's Barbican Centre with it philharmonia, music school, theatres and sculpture courts. We are met at the airport by the Congress organiser, Rene Lucio, who is the leading light in Origami Munchen. The plane is late and he has to waft for us. This is about the only time all weekend that Rene stands still, or that we know exactly where he is. From now on he rushes around doing about forty things at once, like a man spinning plates on sticks.

The Congress is well-advertised and is open to anyone who cares to walk in off the street. Many people do just that. We can surely learn from this. Origami shouldn't be a private clique or a closed club. Lyn teaches more or less continuously throughout the weekend, in the free-folding room, in the corridors, in the lifts, in the cafeteria, anywhere in fact. So does Vicente Palacios of Spain. He goes everywhere with two bags and a briefcase packed full of models, producing and demonstrating them on every conceivable occasion.

I am particularly pleased to have the chance to explain my work on the sculptural possibilities of macro-modules to such a receptive audience. Despite my lack of talent as a teacher, some of the attendees manage to produce some quite astounding results, particularly one Berliner who duplicates some of my most difficult exhibition pieces and solves all the folding and construction puzzles I set her. Not good for the ego this. However my ego is quickly restored. One of my fellow 'origami artists' -Vincent Floderer of France achieves his first modular fold. I have equal success with one of his marvellous masks.

Star billing on the publicity quite rightly goes to BOS member Masatsagu Tsutsumi from Japan, also a member of the NOA chapter in Kyushu. 'Magu' happily admits to being influenced by the ideas and work of Frobel and his designs have a concise simplicity that makes them a joy to fold. He is accompanied by his Canadian wife and family. For a while I become 'New Papa' to a lovely one-and-a-lot year old called Melanie, but however often I enjoy this honour I am soon rejected in favour of the real thing. Her three year old sister Melissa is already fluent in both French and Japanese and not noticeably short of proficiency in English - an ability at languages that, as the convention progresses, I would be glad to possess myself. Folding may be an international language in itself but the other kind is useful too.

Sunday is much the same. Lyn continues her efforts and even takes a session in the 'origami artists' teaching room, which is scattered with tables and is jam-packed with enthusiastic old-hands and novices. The sheer eagerness for folding and the hunger to learn here is staggering. It flows from the energy and enthusiasm of Rene Lucio himself.

One of the highlights of the second day is the showing of Zulal Ayture-Scheele's origamic animation of Prokofiev's 'Peter and the Wolf'. The half hour film is newly dubbed into English and tells its simple story with verve and humour. 'The Wrong Trousers' it ain't but it is well worth seeing if you get the chance.

Over drinks on Monday morning comes the almost accidental discovery of a wonderful minimalist fold by Carmela Ligios of Italy. I am halfway though teaching my sailboard design when she comes out with something like, 'Oh, we're going to make a dog.' When we look closer and improve the creases a little it turns out to have horns, not ears. So it's a bull, of course. I must have folded my sailboard a hundred times and never seen what I was folding. This isn't good for the ego either. Carmela has a fit of the giggles. She can't come to terms with my enthusiasm at her discovery. English folders are an odd lot it seems.

Suddenly a haiku occurs to me,

The world is yet unthought / a sheet of paper / waiting to become.

Magu hands me a fold. It is something he has just invented too. Origami is like Old Man River. It just keeps flowing along.


Speech from York: December 1995
Sergei Afonkin Addresses the BOS about Origami in Russia

I hope I can begin my speech so, as during the last four years origami has helped me to find in foreign countries(as well as in my own) many good friends. During these years I felt that paperfolders are members of one big family and I am very grateful to the BOS Council for the great chance to be here now and sit at the family table and talk about a secret.

Why secrets? Because everybody likes them! For me up to now, my country is the biggest secret itself and origami in it is a mysterious phenomenon too.

I have to speak about a double secret. The first part is why origami did not exist in Russia in full form before 1991 when our Centre began to spread the culture: the second part is why paperfolding has become so popular and why it has grown so fast-

I cannot give you exact answers as I am neither a sociologist nor historian. Only some suggestions and subjective assumptions can be given.

To begin with I am not quite correct in saying there was a complete absence of paperfolding in Russia before 1992. Students were given a dozen of simple figures of paper and the method of folding them. There was also at the end of the 1980s several articles with diagrams published by Viktor Beskrovnyh in a very popular Russian magazine entitled 'Family and School'. He is a biologist and now lives in Germany. Some foreign books were also available at that time. I mean a colourful book by T Kawai and 'Origami for the Connoisseur' by K Kasahara. On the other hand these books were not in fact available. I shall explain this paradox.

In the former Soviet Union the usual practice of second editions did not exist. A book was printed only once and was available for a very short time in the bookshops and then disappeared like a small stone in a big swamp. The fate of the book after it had been published was of no interest, success or failure it does not matter.

Also the books I have mentioned were not published in the Soviet Union. They were among a small number of foreign books that the state bought every year. It was a very small stream of literature to flow into my country from abroad. At that time I was a student and bought every good book I have seen on the book shelves because it was cheap and only available at that time. It was impossible then to buy or receive foreign origami books. Do not forget the so called Iron Curtain and the fact that in those days correspondence with strangers was very suspicious and to receive a parcel was evidence of a spy's intentions. Unfortunately that is only half a joke - remember " 1984" by George Orwell ....

OK. You could ask me why some russian author did not write and publish his own russian origami book at that time. Surely a lack of information is a serious hindrance but what about Russian natural skill and talent? The problem was the following. There were not so may publishing companies in the Soviet Union and they only published a few books for children and their parents. I know of four, maybe five. The circulation of books they published was enormous. One, two hundred thousand. half a million copies, a million .... it was normal. The state published books for its citizens. The number of authors was limited and they were special people - either those whose talent was already acknowledged by communist bureaucrats or those bureaucrats themselves. It was a question of ideology and money - big money. A friend of mine, a very good painter who illustrates books, told me that in 1984, when he did a book. He received enough money to make him free for two years. He is not an idler so made another one. Now he does three to four books every year not to die of hunger. Capitalism!

So when I told my friends that I want to write an publish a biological book for children they said that I am crazy. They said it was easier to have a cup of tea with the British Queen than to become an author in the Soviet Union. And they were surely right at that time. Unfortunately until now I have not had the chance of a cup of tea with her Majesty the Queen but some books and origami ones among them are published.

Paperfolding in may countries is organised privately. For example, BOS is a large, great, very good, organised organisation (something like a club where you can spend your time among friends with great pleasure). It is independent of the state, Queen or parliament. The situation was quite different in my country. Only ideas and movements that were supported by the state had a chance to develop. Otherwise they went underground.

When we first tried to create the Russian Origami Centre in 1991, we tried to get some state support. It was crazy and in vain: the last thing the agonizing Red Empire wanted was to know how to fold paper

On the other hand, it was already possible to register some social organisation and that had been done. Also in 1993 the state lost its X-ray control over all publishers.

Many new ones began to appear like mushrooms after warm rain, and old ones began to gasp without the state's financial support. In this situation the chance to publish an origami book increased many times.

So in a word, origami as a social and cultural phenomenory did not exist in Russia before 1991 because the flowers of art grow badly on the stony ground of a totalitarian state and only some global changes made it possible. This is my own opinion.

Interest in paperfolding in my country was big enough. During the last four years our Centre has received many thousands of letters from all over the country and all said, 'Please, help! I have tried without success to find information about paperfolding and have heard that you could help". Teachers in primary schools and kindergartens, parents, children themselves, many asked us to show or to mail something. So answering their letters we made only one thing - to put a lighted match into a dry stack of straw

Maybe it seems more like another paradox but the hard time we lived then (and live now) helped origami spread fast because it was (and is) the cheapest way to teach children a handicraft. No colour pencils, no textbook, no rulers, no thick volumes ... nothing but a piece of paper and a teacher who looks like a magician. At that time our Centre began to give origami courses for grown up people and this helped many of them to find a new job.

An old Russian woman told me that she had worked all her life at a secret military factory which produced super-secret atomic submarines. When the Red Empire crashed she lost her job. Now she gives origami lessons in a kindergarten and she is absolutely happy. The only thing she regrets is that she started so late ...

At that time it was very monotonous for my wife. Some members of our centre and me to write endless short letters to tell something of origami or to include models or sheets with diagrams. Some progress was made when a newspaper entitled 'Peace of Origami' appeared in 1993. It was very cheap and everyone could buy it at the biggest book shop every month. It was the only newspaper sold there as they are usually sold in the streets as in London. It was a very special paper and the head of the bookshop understood that. So with the newspaper we could tell something important to several thousands of people at once.

Inflation killed the newsletter after one year. Then came the books. It is strange why our first origami book 'Tricks and Games with paper" had been printed by a Chemistry publishing house. Changing times had forced it to publish other books to make money. Origami became a gold mine for this purpose. The old system of book distribution over the country was destroyed and other methods began to grow. From time to time origami books surfaced over the country and new letters arrived from readers.

Our Russian origami books have models from all over the world as well as our Russian models. The latest book has stimulated the first attempt of Russian paperfolders to create their own models. These were sent to the Centre. When over two hundred had arrived we decided to create our own Russian Origami database. Today it includes more than 600 models and some information about the author, his/her address, year, time, level of complexity, number of steps., with key words it is easy to find the necessary model. I am sure it will continue to grow.

New situations need new ideas. Our country is very big: its size makes problems. It is easier to come to York than to cross my native country from west to east. We cannot organise a convention like yours. The next step is a Russian Origami magazine that could gather the latest news and introduce new names.

As soon as the idea came to our mind, heaven immediately helped us again and an editorial company in Moscow asked me to run the magazine. Next year it will be a quarterly edition with colour cover and it can be sent to everybody in my country. It will be cheap and everybody who wants it will have it. Great! if some foreign paperfolders want to have it they should write to our Centre.

My dream of the future is to make origami a subject in primary school. During the last three years I have given origami lessons in the school in which I work and see how eager the children are for these lessons. So after some practice, I and my wife Alice who gives origami lessons for adults, wrote an origami text book for schools. It is now published in Moscow and I hope it will do well.


Origami Tales: February 1996
Anecdotes from Bob Caldwell

Many years ago I ate regularly in a small Soho restaurant. After a time I fell into the habit of folding something and leaving it behind. Nothing was said and I supposed that they were swept away as rubbish with crumbs and cigarette ash.

One day I went off leaving nothing.

The next time I returned, two serious looking waiters confronted me, almost as I turned from the door, and it was my impression that they had been waiting for me.

'You didn't leave us anything last time!'

I swear they looked hard done by.


Sitting in a club, I hear another member at the bar ask the barmaid, 'Where did you get those paper decorations?'

'Oh, one of the members makes them. He calls it origami ......... ......... he only does it when he's drunk!'


Having learned from the magazine of a new Japanese shop in Camden some time ago, I went. It was staffed by two young Japanese women and had only two books. After inspecting them I said, 'I'll take the one by Momotani'. The girls looked at each other, then at me. 'How you know?'


Poetry Corner: April 1996

    A society member named Brown
    would fold when around town.
    When asked of his preference
    he replied with some deference,
    'Why, it's a tricky Lang clown'.
    [L Hart].

    There once was a folder called Brill
    Who was folding a new dollar bill.
    He squashed and he pleated
    and was almost defeated
    Then saw he'd made a windmill.
    [L Hart & L Buckley]

    A folder who often blinked
    Was attempting an awkward closed sink.
    He said 'I don't care
    If the paper does tear,
    But I'll miss all the fun if I blink'.
    [E Corrie]

    I've folded an Haute Couture frock -
    My cat-walk will give 'em a shock!
    Magician's flash-paper
    Twill burn to a vapour!
    As smoking, she streaks round the block!
    [P Blencowe]

    A monk-fold, from a kitchen towel,
    When asked to fry fish, gave a scowl.
    'I am not a friar!
    Though 'tis my desire!
    Re-fold me - With a much better cowl!"
    [P Blencowe]


Seen and Heard: June 1996
Jeff Beynon under observation

(Paper) Spy Planes

In the April 7th UK edition of the Sunday Telegraph, Andrew Gilligan describes a new generation of pocket-sized spy planes no bigger than a man's hand, which are being considered by the US Defence Department. Chris Carpenter, a lecture in aerodynamics at Warwick University, comments that "even with a small prevailing wind, it would travel at roughly the speed of a paper dart" So, the next time you see a small plane-like object in the breeze, watch out!


Folders' Corner: August 1996
Nick Robinson on Reverse-engineering

We've all been in the classic situation during a convention, a discarded fold catches our eye, we take it home hoping to work out how to fold it and never pluck up the courage to unfold it.

In last issues letters page, X mentioned a technique I suggested to her for recreating models from a finished example. She felt it wasn't the best for her since she didn't have diagramming skills. Although artistic talent is useful, it is by no means essential for making workable diagrams in this instance. The technique is commonly known as 'reverse-engineering' and here's one approach to it.

  • Draw a picture of the finished fold. Aim at capturing the edges and important creases. Some people think it's easier to think in terms of shapes rather than the whole object Thus you might see a triangle or kite within the overall shape; draw that, then look for the shape that adjoins it. This is clearly harder with a 3D design, but it doesn't have to be a work of art!
  • Flatten all creases more strongly than you would normally, to help you refold less obvious steps.
  • Look for a step which involves a single valley or mountain. Failing this, a reverse fold. Unfold it & refold it until you have a clear idea of the move. Add the symbols/creases and written explanation (the more the merrier) to the initial diagram.
  • Draw the paper in its new shape and repeat the sequence. Each time you add a new step, fold it back to the earliest (final!) step. This helps to memorize the sequence.
  • Repeat back to the square!

Clearly, anything beyond a moderate fold is going to provide you with a lot of work. It may not be possible to succeed with a complex fold. However, given a well folded example and a lot of patience, you should manage to create a working (reverse) set of diagrams. You will also have a fairly fresh idea of how it all goes back together, so you should make a few examples immediately, just in case. If you are really keen, you'll want to make a proper set of diagrams as well.

Complex steps such as closed sinks can be a s*d, (I remember having no end of trouble with a Paul Jackson Elephant) but eventually give way to repeated folding/unfolding. Along the way, you often derive a particularly effective sequence for the design. I find that this method also gives me lots of ideas for techniques and adaptations, as well as making a refreshing change from folding!

Does anyone out there have a favourite method of recreating a finished fold?


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