Book Review — Origami Tessellations: Awe-Inspiring Geometric Designs

Ratings

  • Writing: 4
  • Illustrations: 5
  • Math Level: 1
  • References: 1
  • Overall: 4

(For a detailed explanation of the rating system, see the end of the review.)

Review

Introduction

Origami Tessellations: Awe-Inspiring Geometric Designs by Eric Gjerde is a different kind of book from the books I reviewed in my last two posts. The previous books (M.C. Escher: His Life and Complete Graphic Work and Platonic & Archimedean Solids) were both most useful as sources of inspiration, with lots of beautiful illustrations and, especially in the second case, lots of food for thought and potential jumping-off points for projects. This book serves those purposes as well, but is designed primarily as a a how-to book; that is, this book actually shows you in great detail how to make beautiful things yourself!

The title clearly states exactly what it will teach you how to make. For anyone who hasn’t already encountered origami tesselations, you can see some examples in my post I Fold!! OrigamiUSA Convention 2011. In short, this is a branch of origami that deals with how to create repeating patterns out of a single piece of paper. It sounds like a simple concept, but there are, as you’ll see, MANY beautiful possibilities lurking…

Walkthrough

As one would hope for in a how-to oriented book, this one is organized in a very logical way.  The first 20 pages or so are dedicated to explaining the basic techniques used in all origami tesselations. There is a section on precreasing (creating square or triangular grids to start from); one on pleat intersections (how to handle where two pleats run into or cross each other); and one on twists (the basic “building blocks” of tesselations).

With these tools in hand, the rest of the book gives photos, patterns, and folding instructions for each of 25 different projects, divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced sections. I might have placed one or two models into different sections based on my own experience of how challenging they were to fold, but in general the progression is quite smooth and you can work your way from the front to the back and have a nice sensation of increasing accomplishment as you complete ever-more-challenging models.

At the end of the book is a gallery of some larger works, as well as acknowledgements, index, etc.

Highlights

Of course one of the highlights is simply the photographs of the amazing models being taught in the book. To give you a flavor, here are a couple of my own photos of models I have folded from the book (NOTE: The photos in the book are even prettier because they were (a) folded by the author, who has done this for many years, and (b) professionally photographed!)

Five-and-Four

Five-and-Four (designer: E. Gjerde; folder: P. Webster)

Roman Church Floor Tiling

Roman Church Floor Tiling (designer: C. Bettens; folder: P. Webster)

 

The gallery at the end of the book has even more jaw-dropping photos. Also, in addition to the “full model” photo at the start of each project, there are also photos of each step along the way, which are very helpful when the words of the instructions aren’t making total sense.

Conclusion

Origami Tessellations: Awe-Inspiring Geometric Designs is a very well-done book that takes a specific class of model and shows anyone who has a piece of paper available (and a certain amount of patience and hand-eye coordination!) how to create some truly remarkable art. There are rare occasions where I found the written out instructions to be a little confusing, but I think that is somewhat unavoidable given the sometimes complex contortions you are putting the paper through. :-)  Generally the accompanying photo was enough to resolve any question in my mind, and I have yet to encounter a model I couldn’t complete successfully. (At this point I’ve folded about half of the models.)

If this category of art excites you, I would definitely recommend this book as your starting point for trying it out.  If you want to see the heights that this art form can be taken to, check out Eric Gjerde’s web site, as well as the origami tesselations group on Flickr.

Feedback

Please let me know what you think about this review – the rating scales, the format, the content, anything!  I want to make sure these reviews are as useful and informative as possible, and only you can help me do that! Thanks. :-)

Rating Format

To keep things consistent, I have decided to give each book I review a rating from 1-5 stars on each of several scales, pertaining to their usefulness and desirability for the library of someone interested in geometric art. Here are the rating scales I will be using:

  • Clarity of Writing: Is it easy to understand? [1 = Poorly written, 5 = Excellently written]
  • Quality of Illustrations: Is it beautiful to look at? [1 = Few/boring/monochrome illustrations, 5 = Many/beautiful/color illustrations]
  • Math Level: Is a lot of prior math knowledge needed? [1 = Basic/high school level, 5 = Very Advanced/Graduate level]
  • Depth of References: Are there references to other interesting sources? [1 = None, 5 = Many]
  • Overall Rating: How would I rate the book overall? [1 = Skip It, 5 = Must Have]

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About Phil Webster

Phil is the creator of GeometricArts.com. You can reach him on the Contact page.
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