Wednesday, June 28, 2006


The paper fan shape. I’m only just discovering it—laggard as usual—and there are some beautiful possibilities. Have our historians, has David Lister or Joan Sallas, written yet a history of the Fan? Surely it goes back a long, long ways; it must be one of origami’s most primitive forms.

For me there’s a joyful simplicity and symmetry to the Fan that stands for some of origami’s fundamental, natural qualities. The strong lines that soften as they widen, the hard folds turning into curves, leading finally at the extremity to the cut-edge, normally fragile and still reminiscent of fragility but now held taut, at attention. Rapt.

The joy here is something of a child’s joy—the sunburst form—but also that of adult, robust sexuality. Birds with their fan tails were there first and have claimed the field. Women—geishas, courtiers and coquettes, hiding glances behind the fan, or adding a bird-like ornament behind a head’s careful coiffure—were quickly catching up from the rear, while the fashion lasted. That a fan can be angrily snapped shut, the show closed in an instant and you left gaping & wondering--well that’s part of the deal. Timing is everything. Act now on the allure—or live forever in regret.

Since it suggests paperiness and primal joy, as usual I’m thinking how the Fan can be combined and contrasted with techniques and materials that have an opposite quality (those that suggest stoniness, mass). Let’s wait a little though on results.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Paper Feathers

Paper is visibly thin, flimsy; but it’s interesting that without anyone ordering that it be this way, the vast majority of origami models do not leave the cut edge of the paper exposed in the final model—which would make the model look flimsier still. It’s almost as if origami were ashamed of its material origins. A noted exception among well-known pieces is Herman Van Goubergen’s Cat. --Here and there no doubt, in a bi-plane or maybe a bird, the cut edge puts in an appearance, but on the whole this part of the square’s anatomy is kept firmly out of view, as the family embarrassment.

Paper fans are a famous exception to this rule. Partly this is because the visible structure is dominated by those long, strong, widening spans. But look at the difference between these two fans--the second of which hides the cut edge in a mountain fold. It is manifestly less alive, less free. One wants the end of those firm spans to have something that opens into, is as gentle as----the air.

I’ve noticed, following this line of thought, that featheriness (and not just in fan tails) is nicely expressed in paper by a cut edge, the paper’s flimsiness evidently serving as a nice stand-in for a feather’s quasi-substantiality.

And here’s an old model, the Flitting Bird, where(as my young friend Yuval Atlas once observed) if you don’t look straight at them, the wing-tips with their cut edge seem to be in motion.

So: are there any other rightful uses out there for the Cut Edge?


This blog has to start someplace; so it will start here. Don’t worry, pretty soon it will seem like I've been around forever.

For those who absolutely need them--links to previous scribblings on origami, all pretty much covering the same ground, are here:


Folding Female Faces (also in: The Origami Forum, 2005)

Taxonomy of Curved Folding (Letter to David Lister, 2005)

Versatility of Origami (2005)

Sculptural Origami Exhibit at the Holon Design Gallery (BOS article, 2005)

An Origami Minimalism (2004) ; written for the 1st Israeli Origami Convention Book


2005: Masters of Origami
2004: Holon Exhibit of Sculptural Origami