16 sides and 16 months

Oh dear, I’ve been neglectful and not updated this blog in quite a long time! It’s been almost 17 months since I last posted. Admittedly I’ve been doing less origami over the past couple years in order to devote more time to my studies– but I graduated from UC Davis this past September with a BA in Music Composition, so I’m back! Some origami-related highlights from the intervening year-and-a-half since my last post:

  • I had 17 original designs published in Todd Huisken’s book “Mormon Origami“, along with some of Nick Robinson’s work. This project took quite awhile– the commission was first proposed to me in early 2011– but I’m happy with the final product.
  • I diagrammed some of Joseph Wu’s work for the WWF Together app, which went on to win some nice awards.
  • I’ve diagrammed a couple models for Dan Robinson, and one of them was selected for “Origami Masters: Bugs“, edited by Marcio Noguchi.
  • I edited the East Bay Origami Convention 2013 convention book.
  • I got a job as music director at Loomis United Methodist Church! While not strictly origami-related, it means I can spend time on origami without worrying so much about rent.

But I know you’re all here for the origami content– so here’s a crease pattern that I’ve been meaning to post for awhile. This is a tessellation of hexadecagonal twists, but unlike the last time I used this arrangement, they’re not quite regular polygons– instead, the geometry has been tweaked so that each line begins and ends on a grid. The red square is the section of the pattern which appears in this photo.


Needless to say, I expect this blog will be much busier during the next 16 months, so stay tuned for more!

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This year I’ll be exhibiting and teaching again at the East Bay Origami Convention at UC Berkeley, Nov. 17-18. I’m also helping with their convention book. It’ll be fun, if you’re in the Bay area you should drop by!

I’ve also got several pieces in an exhibition at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts in Boca Raton, Florida; the show runs Oct. 23 – Jan. 23. I’ll be in Boca Raton to do a couple workshops and give a talk on January 19th; more on that later.

Recent publications:

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Thai Tulip and Stem

Although this model has been diagrammed a handful of times on the internet, there are only a few published sources that I have found, and all of them trace back to Gay Merrill Gross’ “Origami: New Ideas for Paperfolding” (1990), which lists it as a traditional model contributed by Dorothy Kaplan. I emailed both of them to ask about the model; Dorothy says she learned the model in 1980 from a Thai woman, during an origami workshop at Brookdale Community College. To my knowledge, the model does not appear in any reliable source material about Japanese or European folding traditions, so the model probably did originate in Southeast Asia. A story that Gay told me gives further evidence for this conclusion:

When I showed the model to Toshie Takahama of Japan when she visited our convention in the late 1980’s, she said that she had not seen it before. […] So my feeling about the model is that its origin¬†is traditional Asian but not Japanese.

Here are diagrams for the tulip.

Update 14 March 2012: the Thai Tulip also appears in “Origami Flowers and Flower Arrangements” by Joan Appel and Alice Gray, 1983.

The accompanying stem also deserves some attention– “Origami: New Ideas for Paperfolding” attributes the model to Mitsunobu Sonobe, but the NOA’s “Origami Textbook” lists Kunihiko Kasahara as the creator, and several other reputable sources, including John Montroll’s “Easy Origami”, either do not specify a creator, or label it as a traditional model. Given the extreme simplicity of the model, it is quite likely that it has been invented independently, several times. This sort of situation is more common in geometric origami, and the solution I’ve seen most often is what I’d refer to as the multiple-creators doctrine: if a model is either exceedingly simple or an obvious consequence of some well-known process or property, AND there is sufficient evidence that it has been independently created by multiple authors, then the model may be considered to be traditional. The origami tessellations community is where I’ve seen this concept used most often, but I think it applies equally well outside of that genre.

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Public Diagram Project Relaunch

I am officially relaunching the Public Diagram Project, with two new diagrams and a bit of history for the existing ones. A4 PDF versions are currently up, and I am working on providing some different formats as well. I’ve also put up a page about the project, with a listing of all the models currently included in the project. I’m not going to stick to a regular update schedule, but as I diagram these models for other projects, I will put them up here as well. Let me know in the comments section if you’ve got any requests for traditional models you’d like me to cover!

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This is a fairly obscure traditional model. The only direct reference I found is from Alice Gray and Kunihiko Kasahara’s “The Magic of Origami” (1977), which contains a Bell which is “an adaptation of the traditional bell flower”, with a small picture of the original traditional model. There is also a possible indirect reference in the English translation of Toyoaki Kawai’s “Origami” (1970), which includes a similarly constructed pentagonal “broad bellflower” on the same page as a modulation of the traditional iris onto two triangles.

Stylistically, this is typical of 19th-century traditional Japanese origami; it is developed from a frog base, it is intrinsically three-dimensional, but it is still simple, memorable, and easy to fold. Furthermore, Alice Gray and Kunihiko Kasahara were very careful to attribute models properly in their book, so I think we can confirm this is a traditional model.

Click here for diagrams

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Twist Tato

This model is one of those that there is less direct evidence for, but there is still a very strong argument for its traditionality. Research by David Lister indicates that the modern usage of the word “Tato” comes from the work of Michio Uchiyama (1878-1967), who used the concept on several different polygons. This exact model without the corners cut off is referred to as an “octagonal ornament” in Isao Honda’s “The World of Origami” (1965), and presented among well-known traditional models like the Crane, Star Box, and Iris. But Honda does not attribute any of the models in his book, so we can’t take that as direct evidence of this model’s traditionality.

However, we do know that the twist-fold structure forms the basis of much of modern geometric origami, and several creators have derived this structure from the idea of a twist fold, so we could easily classify this as traditional under what I would call the multiple-creators doctrine– if a model is created independently by several people, then none of them has exclusive ownership of the concept, and the model is functionally traditional. These models tend to be fairly obvious results of fundamental concepts or geometric properties, and this is no exception. It’s pretty hard to fold all the points of an octagon in the same way and *not* come up with something similar to a twist tato.

Click here for diagrams

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The crane is the most well-known origami model from any tradition, and has probably been diagrammed hundreds of times. The first known origami book, “Senbazuru Orikata” (1797), was written about different ways of making linked-crane constructions. The story of Sadako Sasaki prompted the crane to become a symbol for world peace, and the crane is now possibly the most common origami model of them all.

Click here for diagrams

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Lazy Susan

This model as a bit more of a published history than the last. In “Best of Origami” (E. P. Dutton & co, 1963) Samuel Randlett gives the following description:

“The Lazy Susan is a figure traditional in the Szechwan province of west China; its five compartments represent the five happinesses. (Five is a lucky number to the Chinese.) Mr. Chris Chow introduced the model to America by teaching it to Mr. Philip Shen, who popularized the model among devotees of origami.”

The name “Lazy Susan” is probably a western interpretation of the model, and in “Chinese Origami” (Ivy Press, 2006) David Mitchell observes that the model may have originated as a representation of Chinese coinage, which would be burned during a funeral ceremony. This conjecture is consistent with several other more well-documented Chinese models, which are still used today for similar functions.

Click here for diagrams. These diagrams have been released as part of the Public Diagram Project.

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Kotobukizuru (Congratulations Crane)

public diagram project logoThis was the inagural diagram from the Public Diagram Project, which was launched in October 2009 (you can read more about it here). You can view this diagram through google docs.

The first time I published diagrams for this model, I thought I’d invented it. Turns out I was wrong– somebody pointed out that it was identical to an obscure traditional model from Japan, which I’d never heard of. I had already submitted the diagram for the 2010 OrigamiUSA collection, so I emailed them and managed to get it correctly labelled as a traditional model before the collection was printed.

This is apparently a relatively well-known traditional model in Japan. Diagrams for it appear in “Step-By-Step Origami” by Steve and Megumi Biddle (Ebury Press, 1991), where it is designated as a traditional model. I have not found any earlier published references to the model yet, however a discussion on The Origami Mailing List unanimously confirmed that it was considered to be a traditional model.

It is a simple enough variation on the traditional Japanese crane that even if it had no published record as a traditional model, I would suspect it as being such. However the folding sequence requires either a layer wrap or a sink, which are both relatively modern developments. Furthermore, the lack of documentation in historical sources such as Hiden Senbazuru Orikata (1797), or in other english-language collections of traditional origami, supports the conclusion that this was a recent addition to the traditional repertoire.

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Blog Launch!

Hi there origami blogosphere! I decided that it was time I had a blog again– I’ve been doing a lot of projects recently, and Flickr isn’t very good for organizing things that aren’t photos. I will still be active on Flickr, but I’m going to make this the focus of my online presence. The timing of this launch is fairly arbitrary– I’ve been putting it off since late August. But recently I realized that I’m going to be at conventions in Cali, Colombia, and Berkeley, California during the month of November, and it would be great to have a web address to hand out during those conventions. So here we are!

Be sure to check in again soon– I’ll be rebooting the Public Diagram Project in a few days with more diagrams and historical background, which I’m very excited about.

In the meantime, I’d like to continue a tradition of mine– for the past five years, I’ve posted a diagram for a Halloween-themed design every October. Previous diagrams have included Crazy Jack, one of the simplest models I’ve ever diagrammed, and Crooked Witch, which Sara Adams kindly made a video for. Anyway, this years’ diagram goes along with my recent article at OrigamiUSA’s The Fold, about layout and style in diagramming. I hope you enjoy it: Lurking Ghost

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