…And, out of many, one.

I have fallen in love with Origami, more as an improvisational movement practice, then as the traditional paper play it is known for. And yet, I now see everyday paper trash in a new way. Tossing the newspaper into the recycle bin, I question silently, ‘is this paper now a no-thing? Is a new expression possible?  Check out this newspaper dress  – a charmingl example of how folding can transform the mundane into magic.

Origami has captured the ingenuity of countless artists, engineers, and other visionaries.  Between the Folds, a PBS documentary produced in 2008, shows a behind-the-scenes glimpse of some stunning artists and their applications. The process forbids cutting and gluing. There’s no chipping away of clay, no scarps of fabric or shards of pottery, no dried-up paint pots, no large garbage cans overflowing with the detritus of art making. From a single sheet of paper, the origami-maker must indulge in paper folding play, transforming a blank slate into a tangible reality.

Nothing is wasted – nothing in excess.

This kind of recycling at once applauds human sustainability, but also goes beyond. With the generation of new products, ideas, and uses, comes a freedom from conceptual waste as well as from consumer waste.  Folding play in origami is an act of mind-manual interaction that has a profound effect on one’s state of being. Origami is fast becoming a form of mindfulness practice, a trendy alternative to adult coloring books. Any piece of paper at hand can become a means of immersing oneself in the moment, to focusing on folds with mindful attention. Each fold can either take careful discernment, a series of mental calculations as to whether to take this pathway or that one. Or, it can be a spontaneous process of playful discovery. Either way, the process allows the brain to synchronize in an elegant rhythmic dance between hand, paper, and neuron.

 

American physicist Robert J. Lang is one of the foremost origami artist-theorists in the world today. Lang lectures widely on origami and its connections to science, mathematics, and technology which have led to creative applications of folding in industrial and space design. Lang writes of the amazing concept of the ‘tipping point,’ witnessed as a property of both origami and mathematics. Here, the confluence of multiple folds or calculations, the tipping point occurs when both origami and mathematics. Here, folds come together and self-organize to create a new and more optimal pattern of organization:

‘Highly sculpted representational origami, most famously typified by the works of the late Eric Joisel. Joisel called his work ‘jazz origami,’ because the vast majority of the folds were improvised on the spot based on aesthetic considerations. Here, too, there is no set sequence, no set of diagrams that can provide instruction: instead, Joisel simply moved around the paper, bending, shaping, curving, adding folds, nudging it ever closer to the ideal he visualized, but in no set order.  Surprisingly, many mathematical folds require a very similar approach…tens or hundreds of creases may need to come together at once, the artist must simply work his or her way around the crease pattern, the design, bending each fold in the proper direction but in no particular order, until they all (or a large subset) can come together. One nice property that many mathematical folds have is a ‘tipping point’ – a point at which the number of creases going in the right direction reaches a critical mass and the fold, instead of resisting, starts to come together, almost with a life of its own.’ Robert J. Lang, Twists, Tilings, and Tessellations: Mathematical Methods for Geometric Origami

Leave it to origami to create a paradoxical Mobius strip where out of one sheet of paper comes many folds which, with a twist and a turn, becomes one object.