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5 Artists Who Fold Paper For A Living

Have you ever tried your hand at Origami? The ancient Japanese art of paper folding has become an ever-increasing popular activity for people of all ages. Translated, the word ‘Origami’, means ‘to fold paper’ in Japanese. Its complexity ranges anywhere from a simple paper plane to complex 3D structures such as creatures and flowers.

These designs are all constructed using a single piece of paper, with varying folding techniques such as crimping, petal folds, and wet-folding. Wet-folding is where a small amount of water is used to dampen the paper to allow the fibres to weaken, making the paper easier to shape.

Artists have been using these techniques for years, and some are now even making a living out of their paper-folding skills. Here are just a handful of people who have turned their hobby into a career and use paper as part of their daily lives.

Polly Verity

Polly, having grown up around art materials and artists, has always found herself becoming inspired by a journey of paper and the idea that a single piece can be transformed from a flat sheet into something three-dimensional.

Her process is a little different from traditional origami, as are her final pieces. She initially folds the paper to help ease shapes into it. After opening the paperback to a flat-ish sheet, the lines indented within the paper are then mathematically transcribed into a computer line drawing. “Once this drawing is refined and tested and with the repeat tessellation computed, the line data is sent to a desktop cutter that scores the surface of the paper very slightly. The paper is then folded by hand along these scores.”[1] She ensures that each sculpture that is made, is only constructed from a single sheet of paper with no adhesives or cuts made to it.

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Hoang Tien Quyet

Vietnamese artist, Quyet, started folding paper as a child. He has said that at the time he was ‘mesmerized at how a flat piece of paper could transform into beautiful 3D animals and objects.’ He also really liked that as a child, he could make his own toys and entertainment.[2]

With similar techniques to Polly Verity, his development from an early age allowed him to hone his craft and develop his skills in order for him to create masterpieces made entirely from a single sheet of paper.

Along with a gallery section, he has a website set up to help other budding origami enthusiasts in their creative journeys which is home to over twenty origami projects that people can try out themselves.

Giang Dinh

Another prominent Vietnamese artist within the paper folding community is Giang Dinh, whose obsession with simplicity is clear from his creations. Focusing on the number of folds, Dinh states that he uses the same principles as painting a portrait. He wanted his work to be like that of a painting, that after only a few strokes, can be recognised for what it is meant to be.

He also stated that “When one pays too much attention to the techniques, he or she tends to forget the goal is to breathe life into the final piece. In a way, one needs to “forget” the technique in order to feel the soul of the subject in the paper. When designing, one needs to see the big picture and try to capture the essence of the subject, then he or she can think about adding supporting details.”[3]  For him origami is also like a Haiku: a few words that can mean so many things but can be interpreted by many, and carry as much meaning as the onlooker attaches to the piece.

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Michael G. LaFosse

Michael has been working as an origami artist for over 40 years alongside careers in writing and papermaking. He originally trained as a marine biologist as has found  ‘his strongest inspiration in the natural world preferring to study his subjects in their natural habitats’.[4]

Some of his more notable creations include a ‘Mountain Lion Mask’, which was wet-folded from a single 18-inch square piece of paper, and an impressive piece entitled ‘American Alligator’ which was folded from just one single six-foot square piece of paper by both Michael and artist Richard L. Alexander as a collaborative piece. Both of these artists currently work at the Origamido Studio in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Sipho Mabona

Freelance paper-folding artist based in Switzerland, Mabona began his career by simply trying to design the perfect paper airplane whilst studying for exams in school. It was only when he ran out of design ideas for his paper airplanes that he considered turning to more complex folding. Once he made this decision to move away from the planes, he ‘was hooked right away’ and that he has been ‘folding ever since’.[5]

His work with paper perhaps wouldn’t be considered “traditional origami” when compared with the artists mentioned above. If someone were to mention paper folding or origami, most people would think of a small swan, not a gigantic life-size replica of an elephant. Constructed out of just one piece of white paper (custom made to be 15 square meters) Mabona and 10 assistants folded the sheet to create an elephant in Origami form.

The project took several weeks and the final sculpture stands more than 3 feet tall and weighs 250 kilograms and is entitled ‘The White Elephant.

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If these inspiring artists have made you hungry to try paper folding out for yourself, then why not head over to the Origami section of the Love Paper Creations website, where you can practice the basics of the art of paper folding. Then who knows, you too could be making the next giant mammal out of a sheet of paper and become a paper folding master.

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