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.