As luck would have it, just as I launched this site, the annual convention of OrigamiUSA (hereafter: OUSA) rolled around. It was my very first time attending, and I had an absolutely amazing time, which I will try to chronicle briefly below. This picture shows all of the models I folded over the weekend (minus a few that are still half-done!):
To all my new OUSA friends: Welcome, and stay tuned! I hope to be
posting more pictures soon.
Three Days of the Condor (and the Dragon, and the Rose, and…)
As I discovered, the OUSA convention is three days of non-stop, action-packed classes, events, and general folding mayhem. It takes place in NYC at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), and many convention goers (including me) stay in the FIT dorms. The convention is very well organized, with special touches (like “first timer” and “convention pro” name tags) that make it very easy for a first timer like myself to settle in and figure things out, despite the large number of things going on. Classes are available for all levels from “simple” to “super complex”, and participants range in age from 7 to 80+. A typical day looks like:
- 8-10 am: Gather in the main room, get tickets for your classes, etc.
- 10am-noon: Classes
- Noon-2 pm: Grab lunch, fold in the main room, prowl the stores and exhibition hall
- 2-5 pm: Classes
- 5 pm – midnight: Grab dinner, prowl the stores and exhibition hall, and fold, fold, fold!
- Midnight – ??: Late-night folding for the diehards
If you are an origami enthusiast and able to make it to the NYC area, I highly recommend you consider attending the convention in future years — I know I’ll be going back!
The OUSA Community
In addition to the amazing instruction I got during my classes, the inspiration of the amazing models in the exhibition, and the paper and books I bought in the store, what really made this experience memorable for me was the incredible community of origami lovers that I discovered, and who embraced me from the first moment. I have folded origami most of my life, but always on my own. I never imagined that nearly 600 people would gather to celebrate this art form, much less that they would all be as incredibly warm, welcoming, and generous with their time and knowledge as they were.
The Geometric Arts Perspective
Of course, as I detail in my post What IS Geometric Art?, to my mind not all origami is geometric art, despite all of it being inherently geometric in its construction. However, there is a significant subset of folders who are particularly interested in using origami to celebrate geometric forms, and needless to say, these are the folks I spent the most time with. I would say that of everything I saw, there were three main categories of geometric origami going on:
- Modular origami
- Single-sheet polyhedra
In modular origami, the idea is to make many copies of a small, simple module – each made from the traditional single square of paper – such that each has tabs and pockets. These allow the modules to be connected together into larger forms, which are often polyhedral or otherwise geometric in form.
Here is a model I just completed since the conference, based on instructions given to me by Doug Caine (according to Doug the blue “soccer ball” module was originally created by Jae Maekawa; Doug designed the pentagonal “dimple” module that fill in the gaps:
There are almost endless possibilities and combinations. It is surprising, even to me, that I am not particularly drawn to this style myself. I think it’s because many modular designs are inherently not very stable, and end up with a degree of “slop” no matter how careful the folder. I’ve constructed MANY polyhedra, and if I’m going to do it from individual pieces, I’d just as soon use card stock and tape the way I always have, and end up with a neater, sturdier result!
This seems to be a very active style right now, due in part to the recent publication of Eric Gjerde’s Origami Tessellations book. I myself have been working my way steadily through this book, and there were examples of his designs being taught in the classes and in the exhibition hall. There are a number of other people innovating in this field as well, and it is exciting to see the many directions people are taking this form.
The basic idea here is to come up with a pattern of folds that can be repeated indefinitely, as with a general tiling or tessellation. As anyone who knows about plane tessellations realizes, these are generally based either on a grid of squares or a grid of equilateral triangles, these being the most basic forms that can completely cover the plane. Here are two of Eric’s patterns that I have folded, one based on a square grid, the other on triangles.
One of my most exciting discoveries was to see that one of the big names in American origami, John Montroll, has turned in recent years to more purely geometric designs, and in particular, the design of a variety of polyhedra made in the traditional origami method using only a single square of paper. I am busy exploring his designs in his recent book Origami Polyhedra Design, which is a treasure trove for anyone interested in this particular topic. So far I have constructed the icosahedron, cube, and octahedron.
Resources for Geometric Origami
If you, too are interested in exploring geometry through origami, here are a few places to start:
- Flickr origami tessellations group (WARNING: Browsing these photos is highly addictive!)
- John Montroll’s web site (not all geometric, but several books specifically about polyhedra)
- Eric Gjerde’s web site – origamitessellations.com (pure geometry – all tessellations!)
- Modular origami diagrams at the Origami Resource Center
I will surely be posting again on this topic as I continue to work my way through the many models I learned at the convention and the several books I purchased there. You can follow the RSS feed (for news reader or email) to be informed of future posts!