On the folding edge of origami
Posted by ampontan on Monday, June 25, 2007
MOST JAPANESE can quickly flick together without much thought an origami crane or some other object, using whatever paper that’s handy. That’s the result of Japanese kindergartens having taught the art of paper folding for more than a century.
But the modern world of origami has gone far beyond making birds out of scrap paper—today artists square off in Bug Wars to produce paper insects requiring more than 100 folds, give their creations opus numbers, and use lasers to score the paper before folding.
The New Yorker recently gave its full-scale treatment to modern origami, focusing on scientist-turned-origami artist Robert Lang:
For centuries, origami patterns had at most thirty steps; now they could have hundreds. And as origami became more complex it also became more practical. Scientists began applying these folding techniques to anything—medical, electrical, optical, or nanotechnical devices, and even to strands of DNA—that had a fixed size and shape but needed to be packed tightly and in an orderly way. By the end of the Bug Wars, origami had completely changed, and so had Robert Lang. In 2001, he left his job—he was then at the fibre-optics company JDS Uniphase, in San Jose—to fold paper full time.
The artists are choosing subjects that transcend animal art:
(John Montroll) also made origami models of complex polyhedra that no one had thought possible. “John has done models in origami of all the Archimedean solids! All the Platonic solids! All the Johnson solids!” Lang said excitedly. “He did all the polyhedra!”
The time it takes to read the article (it’s five screens long) will be more than repaid–it’s excellent. The only slip-up I can spot is a reference to the old TV show Naruhodo Za Warudo as a Japanese “What’s My Line”. (That wasn’t the show’s format during most of the time it was broadcast.)
And while you’re you’re in the mood, you might stop by Joseph Wu’s Origami Page, with an extensive photo gallery that includes pictures of Lang and his creations. This page has photos of the works of Akira Yoshizawa, and this is the English site of the Origami Detectives, which I’ve added to the links at right.