Make Summer Camp: Origami Progress Report

Origami experimentsBoxes. That’s what I wanted to learn how to fold in origami. I’ve already learned the masu box, which is a simple one-unit high by two units wide, by two units deep box.  Two of them make a box with a lid. But ever since I saw this box on Pinterest, I’ve been interested in folding it.  And last Thursday I did.  It’s an elegant little container, I think.  I wish I’d had a better/smaller hole-punch for making the holes on the smaller boxes; I used a standard-sized three-ring binder hole-punch on the larger one. And threading that one was much easier. I think the biggest challenge is that I don’t see how to assure that the link to Pinterest remains stable.  Which means taking photographs of my own, and making my own tutorial on how to make this box.  Origami experimentsI took a second picture with the largest box open.  You can see that it forms a shape rather like an eight-pointed star.  This makes me want to do it in orange paper in honor of Mercury, and fill it with lavender flowers and other Mercurial herbs, maybe with a talisman of Mercury at the bottom of the box, overlaid on top of the kamea and seals of Mercury. In the background, you can see some of my other origami efforts—The Table fold in the upper center, and to the left of that The Piano, and the Kabuto or Japanese Samurai helmet on the right-hand side.

I don’t feel that I’ve mastered the twenty-five shapes in the book I’m working through, that came with a set of papers called The Ancient Art of Origami. But I’m making progress.  Among other things, I’m growing to appreciate both the precision that comes from practicing origami, and the practical education in geometry.

When I was working on my geometry book regularly, I learned with a pretty high degree of precision how to do the necessary steps to make the medieval-style page layout.  When you’re working with parchment pages, the pages are not necessarily all going to be the same size.  They’ll be close, but not precisely the same.  And so geometry, rather than measurement, becomes the way to assure beauty rather than accuracy of measurement.  This is especially true in a medieval environment—where measuring tools with precise measurements, like inches and centimeters and quarters or halves of those, are considerably more difficult to make than the straight edges and compasses of geometry.
Origami experimentsEventually, I hope to be able to lay out seventy-five or a hundred origami models simultaneously— twenty-five to thirty origami forms of which I’ve made at least three exemplars.  That’s my goal for this art-form, to show Maker proficiency in it. Why origami, though?  I mean, aren’t there better things I could be learning, like Robotics or Electronics?  We don’t usually think of paper as the quintessential material of the Maker movement; and this is often derided as “kids’ stuff” or silliness. But no. I think there’s real learning here.  Understanding how two-dimensional material like paper (or plywood sheets!) can be cut and shaped into new forms, and made three-dimensional, is a critical skill to teach and to learn.  I remember the first time I tried to teach formal knot making to a group of student in school.  It was ridiculous.  No one had the slightest idea what to do with a piece of string. Which is almost as basic a technology as there is.  What’s the use of teaching kids how to work with plywood if they’re going to dump their plywood in the road during a trip home from the lumber yard due to bad knot work? Origami instructableBut more than that.   Paper, and its related materials of cardstock and cardboard, is a flexible and cheap material.  It can be used to represent many other materials in design work, from wood paneling to fabric.  When shaped and folded, it can be structural.  When folded and re-folded, as in origami, it can become stable or dynamic three-dimensional forms.  In other words, it’s a material of substantial grace and beauty, especially when we consider its cheapness as a modeling material for design thinking modes in the Maker Space or Design Lab.

But most of all, origami is beautiful.  Part of me can’t wait to give a small present to someone, something that will fit inside of such a box as this.  Because the simplicity and smallness of the present will likely be enhanced by the experience of having the gift delivered in such an unusual and beautiful box.  There’s tremendous usefulness in teaching children and adults to appreciate beauty and elegance, even in small doses; and an even more tremendous power in teaching them to create it—especially as a gift for others.

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