Folding paper

Since November, I’ve been enjoying folding paper. Though predominantly a woodworker, I’m interested in all sorts of crafts and making with different materials so when I was choosing a name for this site I deliberately left it open to include other things.

With the exception of a couple of single-sheet patterns, the origami I like is modular origami; building up models from small folded units which fit together, usually to make a ball. In Japan these are called kusudama and were originally used for incense.

Most of the kusudama I’ve made so far consist of 30 units joined in a pattern of hexagons and triangles to form a dodecahedron (12-sided shape).  You can see the hexagons and triangles in this model, “electra” which was designed by UK folder David Mitchell.

Each unit is usually very simple to fold and takes only a minute or so. After the first couple or three I can remember the folds and my hands take over semi-automatically. I find it a very relaxing way to take a break, slowing down from whatever I’m doing to fold a few origami units.  With a familiar pattern I don’t need to concentrate on what I’m doing but I’m conscious to make the folds neat and the final shape crisp.  It’s a form of meditation in a way. I find seeing the pile of completed units grow to be really satisfying and love the patterns made by the repeated form on the table.

With spooncarving I’ll often work on a batch of one kind of spoon, roughing them all out then working through the pile with the straight and then hook knife to complete the first carving stage.  A few days later, when they’ve had chance to dry a little I’ll go through them for the finish carving. As with origami, the pattern becomes familiar, my hands learn what they need to do and the whole process flows.  Cuts become more confident but at the same time more relaxed and the forms that appear have an easy, natural character.

My girlfriend, who I got started with a few kusudama has now surpassed me with the breadth of the models she’s created and her artful choice of coloured papers. I’m going to visit her in a couple of weeks and I’ve agreed to make half the units for a new model – an ‘epcot ball’ with 270 units.

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About Steve Tomlin

I am a greenwood worker and scythe tutor. I carve spoons, bowls and other products from locally sourced greenwood. During the summer I teach scything around the UK.
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