Origami – from the Japanese ori meaning “folding”, and kami meaning “paper”
I’m not exactly sure when I started folding paper into shapes a bit more complicated than a paper airplane or water balloon, but I do remember buying, rather having my mother buy me my first origami book when I was eight or nine years old. I’m also not exactly sure just what sparked my interest in the ancient Japanese art of paper folding, however, when that spark hit, it lit quite the fire. At the very least, a glowing ember. I still remember coming up with an extensive Halloween bulletin board display when I was in Mrs. Wallace’s 5th Grade Class at Pleasant Valley Elementary in Groton, CT. I made witches on broomsticks, pumpkins, black cats, ghosts and other spooky shapes. It really was quite festively terrifying if I may say so myself. I also taught a few origami classes when I was in 8th Grade at St. Thomas More Elementary in Arlington, VA. (Yes, I was a Coast Guard Brat.) Who knew folding square pieces of paper could make someone so popular? *I believe my second "major" origami book was "Modern Origami" by Dr. James Minoru Sakoda. It served me well when I was 10, and I still consult it regularly today – and his "Modified Chinese Junk (Ship)" still confounds my fingers and mind.
Throughout high school, I continued to fold. I would buy a new book every now and then, and when I found out that the local art supply store carried different types of origami paper, I became more or less a regular there. -Although, I would also by my Letraset sheets there too, but that’s a topic for a post I don’t feel needs to be written. Origami is basically something I do to pass the time. I don’t fold on a regular basis, but every now and then, I will pick up a pack of paper and start going through a new or old book, folding as many of the "folds" as I have the time and patience for. There are still many folds in my library of origami books that I have yet to try, but, on the other hand, there are many I come back to time and again for their ingenuity, their simplicity (or their challenge), and their beauty.
I usually get back into folding mode whenever I’m playing in a show. Some people do crosswords between songs, some people knit, other read magazines. I fold. It keeps my fingers warm, and my mind engaged. Origami has always been like math to me without the burden of having to remember formulas. For the most part, any time you make a crease, you are folding the piece of paper in half, or folding a section of the piece of paper in half. There is geometry involved, but it’s magically simplified in the third dimension: you match one corner up with the other, and/or match one side of the paper with the other, then crease. You do have to think about what you’re doing, but the paper really does tell you where the creases should go. And if you happen to over or under compensate one way or the other, the paper will tell you that too. At the very worst, you’ve wasted a couple of minutes of your time, and a half-cent’s worth of paper. -How many lopsided paper airplanes and swans have you seen?
During one show – again, I can’t remember the exact one – the conductor turned to me and said that someone in the front row was admiring the various paper animals, flowers and geometric figures I had placed on and around my keyboard. It turned out to be a young girl, probably around age six or seven. It was around Christmas at the time, so I had folded a bunch of stars – four- and eight-pointed ones – in metallic gold and silver papers, of course. I asked her if she would like something for her Christmas tree, she nodded Yes, and I handed her up one of the stars. A tradition was born. I began folding and giving away my creations on a regular basis. Depending on the configuration of the pit, I was usually able to keep some books down there with me, so I could also take requests! Of course, if a show had a short running time, or if the scenes between songs were short, my folding output would be affected. On the flip side, during a run of Camelot, I folded a lot. A lot!
The fold illustrated below is one of my favorites. It comes from Kunihiko Kasahara’s wonderful book, "Origami Made Easy". I bought the book in high school – after checking it out countless of times from the library. There are some truly wonderful folds. Yes, it is "easy", but there are some "not-so-easy", and a few advanced folds to keep one interested and entertained. I’m going to refrain from putting any textual instructions, and just let the pictures speak for themselves. I hope. Traditionally, origami books instruct through the use of diagrams that use different types of lines and arrows to indicate how to fold the piece of paper. A dashed line indicates a "valley fold", and a dotted and dashed line indicates a "mountain fold". Essentially, if you fold a piece of paper "away" from you, you are creating a "valley fold". If you are folding the piece of paper "towards" you, you are creating a "mountain fold". The labeling of those folds becomes evident upon visual inspection. There’s also great deal of perspective involved: one man’s valley could be another man’s mountain. There are also inside-reverse folds, outside-reverse folds, blintz folds, squash folds, etc. But again, I don’t want to deal with that code, at least not right now.
So, if you feel up to the challenge, as it were – and only you have to know that you put yourself up to it – just follow the pictures below. You will need to start off with a square piece of paper. It does not have to be a piece of origami paper, you could just use a piece of paper from the copier that you’ve squared off. However, it would probably be most helpful to have a piece of paper that is white on one side and colored on the other – or maybe just scribbled over with a pen or pencil. Having the contrasting sides will aid in the folding process; it’s good to know which side is the "front" and which is the "back". This Peacock is sort of an easy fold, although, there is one step in the middle which requires a bit of manipulation of the paper. Additionally, finishing out the "plumage" does take some patience and dexterity on the first try or two. However, once you have mastered the folding technique – And you will! – the finish fold is truly one of most representational and beautiful of all origami pieces. Then if you wish to invest in a packet of patterned origami paper, well… There are some examples of some "pimped out" Peacocks in the final pics. *And, please, no comments about my cuticles.