The Real World

By day, I am a software engineer and web developer living in San Francisco. By night, I'm a house and techno DJ. Somewhere between the two worlds I apparently fold a heck of a lot of paper.

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A Creased Reality

Origami has always appealed to my very nature. The geometry and underlying science, the creativity of the art form, working with your hands, the meditative quality of creasing and folding; all of these traits are a wonderful match for my personality.

For one, I have always been drawn to math; it came easily to me in school and the combination of math and art has been a consistent theme throughout my life. As a software engineer, math is at the core of my work yet writing software is often thought of as an art form. Before that, I studied music theory while playing classical piano, which is largely the study of the relationship between math and music. Nowadays, my love for music has turned into a love for DJing, yet another blend of technology, music and math. It's also no coincidence, that in all of these disciplines you work primarily with your hands whether it be using a computer, playing the piano, DJing or folding paper.

Perhaps more notable, is the idea of the interpreted model. In both classical piano and DJing, your main task is to take other people's works and make them your own. What makes you an artist is how you express the underlying music whether it be a Beethoven sonata or a Donna Summer disco record. This concept of taking on a set of instructions and interpreting them within the rules of an art form is something I really enjoy and other hobbies I've had, like model rocketry, build upon this idea.

So naturally, the concept of following a diagram and bringing it new life through interpretation is central to my origami projects. None of the models were diagrammed by me, that isn't to say I haven't modified them, but the models came with a set of instructions much like sheet music or building directives. It's up to me to execute the instructions to the best of my abilities in the hopes of creating something beautiful and unique.

Origami is a wonderfully creative vehicle and I've enjoyed all of the years I've spent learning this craft. CreasedReality is a tribute to those years and will serve as a platform for many more to come. I will continue to post new diagrams to the gallery so please enjoy and most of all, have fun, be inspired and remember it's never too late to learn a new hobby.

An Origami Journey

As a child of the 80's, I grew up during an origami revival so paper folding was as much part of my upbringing as puzzles and coloring books. I don't recall when or how I learned of origami, but I remember my first book. It was ‘Crazy Paper' by Dokuohtei Nakano, translated by the well-known American origami author, Eric Kenneway. Targeted specifically for children, it was a small paperback with basic diagrams like animals and finger puppets; standard fare for an introductory book.

Ironically, and perhaps most importantly, the book contained little to pique a child's interest. In truth, the models were dreadfully simple and the black and white paperback left a lot to be desired. So I sought out another, better book, one with color photos and interesting models that got harder as you progressed through the chapters. This was Paul Jacksons' 1989, ‘The Complete Origami Course'. The book was a revelation of color and exciting new models and firmly cemented my love of folding paper while introducing me to the core concepts of origami. To this day, I still refer to the diagrams contained within and use many of the models and concepts to teach others. The ‘Flapping Crane', ‘Strawberry' and ‘Cubic Box' are fun and useful models that folders of all levels should have memorized!

From that point onwards, I dabbled in origami making small but notable improvements in my skills, experimenting with new techniques and materials, amassing a solid collection of books and diagrams. I started out modeling the basics: flora and fauna, boats and airplanes, waterbombs and other traditional Japanese origami. I found great pleasure in taking the single square sheet and transforming it into something recognizable. I loved watching peoples reactions when they saw the completed model and how, even though they had just watched it happen, there was a sense of awe as to how the object came to be, as if it were magic.

Over the years, I found myself gravitating towards the more functional models like boxes, cups, sweet dishes and other items that could be used in everyday life. Decorational origami like hanging ornaments and kusudamas make for great gifts and it was in this way that I discovered modular origami as many of those designs are composed from multiple units. These models, the ones that went beyond the single sheet and broke away from the pure form became something I sought after. Over the last couple decades, the modular origami has really taken off with the help of artists like Tomoko Fuse, Lukasheva Ekaterina, Robert Neale and Tom Hull. These pioneers have provided an endless source of diagrams for me to interpret, they really deserve all the credit, without them none of this would be possible!

The Creative Process

You would think that most origamists begin a project by choosing a model they want to fold and then going from there. Me? I like to start by choosing the paper. Pairing the paper with a model that will best suit the paper's properties is the only way to pay tribute to both the paper and the model. Too often do I see a model I want to fold, only to determine that I don't have right paper for the job. Yes, I could make do with the stocks I have, but in the end, the piece that I had envisioned is going to be compromised and that takes a lot of the fun out of it.

This is especially true for modular origami. What if you need 120 sheets of paper, but you only have 40? What if you have 6x6 squares but you need 10x4 rectangles? And if the design calls for kami but you only have copy paper? Sure you could buy more, but this leads to paper hoarding or embarking on an endless journey for something that is no longer available. Worse, you could order more only to discover that the colors differ from one batch to the next (been there!).

Another consideration is how the paper will look once folded. For patterned papers this is particularly important. When you fold a sheet of paper into a single unit, you are decreasing the surface area by creating layers and pockets. Once folded, many of the subtleties and unique patterns of a print may get hidden underneath the layers. You don't want to ruin your nice paper by hiding it away from the world now do you?

Yeah, I have some strict views on the creative process, but I certainly don't shy away from the non-traditional. I'll mix media, use glues, tapes, paints, sprays, scissors, whatever it takes to get the job done and make the final piece the best it could be. In the end, it is safe to say that there is a ton of creative thought that happens before a single cut or crease or is made. I've been known to spend days, even weeks determining the proper starting materials. And if the project is complex enough, I may also carry out any number of prototypes or tests before starting on the final model.

Tools of the Trade

Tools are an often overlooked and underplayed aspect of modular origami and that's a shame because they are the secret to crisp folds and cleanly executed designs.

Frankly, I use so many tools it's difficult to quantify them all. I have a number of different types of tweezers, the ones designed for beading and jewelry are quite helpful. For holding models together during the assembly phase I use clothespins and every type of paper clip from binder clips to those old school plastic arrowheads. For permanent assemblies, I have the full gamut of glues and adhesives, not only for the paper but also for the embellishments. That means all kinds of epoxies, pastes, cements, and tapes. Sometimes, cotton or plastic thread is used to tie or string units together, like with the traditional kusudama ball.

The two tools I have come to rely upon most are my bone folder and my die cut machines. A bone folder is essential for tired hands, like ones that spend a lot of time typing for example… A bone folder applies more exacting pressure, which leads to more consistent, well-executed creases. They are especially great for modular origami where the same fold has to be applied over and over again to a small area. A completed piece can have hundreds of identical units, which can mean thousands of identical folds.

Modular work also requires a lot of paper and more often than not, at exacting sizes that are not available for sale. This means you have to cut paper to custom sizes and in origami, if your paper is off by even 1mm, it really matters. Mistakes are compounded as you fold. In the past, I may not of attempted much modular work for fear of spending weeks cutting things into little perfectly-sized squares and rectangles by hand. Rotary cutters certainly helped with this problem early on but they still required a deft hand.

Since the advent of affordable die cut machines for the home consumer, there's really no comparison or going back. I am now able to create custom shapes on my computer and send them to a machine for cutting. The machine is loaded with paper and then cuts the design for you providing robotic automation and precise cutting. It's like a printer but with blades! With my background in computers and design, adopting these machines was the next logical step. While aimed at the scrapbook market, I suspect these devices will be a game changer for paper artists of all kinds.

  • Paper folding, computers, and music have played significant roles throughout my life

  • With interests like that, it's no wonder I wound up in San Francisco!

  • This seminal Paul Jackson book sparked my lifetime interest in origami

  • Before discovering modular origami I loved to fold animals and insects, like this dragonfly

  • The best designs happen when you let the paper choose the model and not the other way around

  • This funky colored Victorian has an inspiring color palette

  • Gluing models together is not a sin; it provides stability and extends the models' lifetime

  • Having the right tools for the job is essential for precise folds and assembly