Growing up my folks had the Time Life Craft set of books. In many ways it was the Time Life book set for hippies. It showed paper making, macrame, bottle cutting, bee keeping and silk screening. This was all neat, but my favorite sections were card tricks, magic and origami.
Maybe I’ll talk about magic later. I went through a big magic phase as a kid. Wow, did I love magic. But the paper folding is the one that has maybe stayed with me longer.
The books showed the normal models – the flapping crane and the hopping frog. They showed how the diagrams work and the basic folds – mountain, valley, reverse, squash, rabbit, etc. When other kids doodled in their margins and covered their binders with names and logos in sparkly ink, I made frogs in class.
The frog remains my favorite. It is instantly recognizable, fairly easy, surprisingly turns from a two dimensional flat shape into a three dimensional one, is itself a little toy and requires almost no artistic talent. That is perfect for me. There are other shapes that I can make that are similar.
I prefer the traditional models for my own adventures in origami. But there is so many other ways the form/art has progressed. Wet folding allows the paper to hold more expressionistic shapes – rounder curves instead of just flat creases. Even that isn’t at all cutting edge. I just watched a documentary tonight. They had one fold sculptures and thousand fold ones that moved in fractal patterns. They had models designed mathematically to achieve proportion and approximate a real animal made from paper. There were dragns with a thousand scales – each one individually folded and dioramas of a little scene of two people standing beside a pile of books folded out of a single square of paper. It was all tres, tres cool. (The documentary is on Netflix and is called Between the Folds.)
But it has almost nothing in relation to what I do. I make models that others have created. Simple ones with only about 20 steps. When I fold it is about relaxing and doing something with my fingers and mind to keep them nimble. It is less about expression.
That seems to be almost niftier than the ability to fold paper itself. That so many people can approach it with so many different goals in mind. Groovy.