Origami By Children

Every year Origami USA sponsors an exhibit of Origami By Children. You can learn about it here. The deadline for submissions is fast approaching, so last weekend I was able to get my kids to sit down and focus on coming up with something. Lizzy, who is 7 now, started to take an interest in origami 2 years ago, when she invented her first original model, a picture frame.

Last year she did the traditional Lily. It’s more complicated than it looks, but the hardest move in is a squash fold, and she’s good at those. I coached her, showing her the model and encouraging her to take is slow and fold neatly. She did a nice enough job that her model got in the exhibition, and OUSA donated some origami books to her school.

This year she’s had more exposure to folding and knows how to follow diagrams, so I let her decide what to do. She folded a bunch of things out of John Montroll’s Christmas Origami, including the candle, bell, and candy cane. I guess no time of year is the wrong time to think about Christmas when you’re seven. She decided to do the ring from the Twelve Days of Christmas, and put five of them together. Of course it’s not a hard model technically — the folding style is know as “Pureland” meaning it’s only mountain and valley folds, but there’s some art to it in terms of color and composition. I think she did a nice job. I hope she gets in the show again.

Michelle, at three and a half, wants to do everything her big sister does, so she was along for the trip. I tried to teach her the bell, but the reverse fold just blew her mind, and 11 steps is about 4 too many for a 3-year-old to handle. So I scaled back and taught her the classic cup, on which the bell is based, which was just in her range.

Origami Butterfly

A fitting topic for the first day of spring. I had thought I might blog about something else tonight, since origami keeps coming up, and I have been doing other things too, honest. I could say plenty about my new job, but I think I’ll wait until a project goes live. Or I could talk about how I almost made it thru the winter without catching cold this year — until last weekend!

I could talk about my ongoing music work, and how painstaking it is to sequence good drum parts for a jammin’ sounding track. I’ve worked with some really good drummers over the years (you know who you are, Mark, Larry, and Pat), and boy do I miss them. On the other hand, I’m not really set up to mic a drum kit in my little project studio, so it might not come out any good anyway.

I could talk about how I am looking into changing my workout routine, mainly by moving it downstairs. The major reason I’ve been working out upstairs all this time is that I have high ceilings in my living room, and do some exercises where I lift weights over my head. I could do it downstairs, but I’d need to do those sets sitting, which means I need to get a bench. Which has led me to rediscover why I hate shopping along with the fact that modern workout equipment is super-expensive and way more complicated than I need. Like hundreds of dollars just for a bench! When I was in high school I had a bench that came with an exercise machine and I bought the whole system for something like $100. It was really simple, just a board covered with vinyl and foam and some legs. Good for dumbbells and situps. Probably worth $20. I gave it to my brother. I wonder if he still has it…

But I’m not going to blog about any of that stuff tonight. Nope, for now the main topic is origami butterflies. I normally don’t do insects, because that branch of origami has evolved into something like speed metal in music, very focused on one particular dimension — developing lots of points. Not to say it isn’t amazing, cuz it is; but it’s not really my thing. But a butterfly seemed like a good subject because it’s more lyrical than your average bug, and I had an idea for an approach. I’ve seen a bunch of really beautiful butterfly designs, notably Michael LaFosse’s, that are great wings but don’t have legs. I’ve seen others that have legs but are a bit to technical, given the subject. Granted some of these models are from the era where any insect at all was pioneering, but hey. So I wanted to something simple and sculptural, but still complex enough to have legs.

I actually came up with the design midway thru last year’s OUSA convention. Every year I seem to come up with one or two new designs, usually manifesting something I’ve been thinking of for a while but hadn’t had the chance to fold yet. I showed it to a bunch of people and the response was great. It’s based on a waterbomb base, with two of the flaps forming the wings and the other two forming the legs. It’s easily doable from a 6″ square, and only the only hard part is 2 closed sinks in a row. The thing I like best about it is it pretty successfully captures the moment of spreading its wings and taking flight.

I’ve been refining the model over time, an last fall I went to the butterfly tent in the American Museum of Natural History. John Montroll had told me that butterflies really only have 4 legs, the front ones are vestigial and you can’t really see them. Shaw ’nuff he was right. Looking at dozens of butterflies, they all looked like they have four legs. So a redesign is in the offing. Ah well.

Still, I’m happy enough with this design that I’m working on full diagrams for it. Every year I try to diagram one model to donate to the OUSA annual collection. I’m not quite done, but I’ll be sure to post it when I’m done. For now, enjoy this pics and the Crease Pattern for the base.

GE Music Player

My good friend Erik runs a recording studio and music production house in the city called GE Music, after him and his partner Glenn. Recently he asked me to design and build in interactive music browser / player as a way to present his scores and tracks to clients, potential clients, and casual listeners. It was a fun project because I could do all the development functions my self, including visual and interaction design as well as programming. As of last night the application programming is done, and the thing is pretty cool if I say so myself. Here’s a screen grab of a test deployment on my server.

Of course a static screen grab doesn’t really do it justice. The site integration and live deployment remains to be done. So watch this space, and soon I’ll post a link to the player living in it’s natural environment, serving Glenn and Erik’s awesome tracks!

Origami Sunday

Yesterday I taught at a Special Folding Session with the Origami Society at the American Museum of Natural History. I taught my Turtle, and diagrammed the crease pattern just for the occasion. It’s a model I like alot, and it makes good use of my Hexagon Base. I’ve gotten a fair amount of request for diagrams over time, and one of the organizers of the session asked for this model. One reason I never diagrammed or taught it is that shortly after I finished it, Robert Lang’s Origami Design Secrets came out, and his Western Pond Turtle is not unlike mine in appearance. My model, however, uses a very different folding sequence that is both much easier and roughly twice as efficient in its use of paper. Like many of my models from my Elephant to my UFO, it follows a sort of “upside-down-bowl-with legs” approach, with the greater part of model being only a single layer of paper thick, and the bulk of the paper going to form the legs, head and tail, with the rest gathered near the edges and providing strength.

The Museum is such a great, fun place, and it’s a happy circumstance of history that OUSA is based there. My class was pretty small, 8 people, but 3 or 4 were teenage boys and one in particular was really annoying in a mostly funny kind of way. They’re origami geeks, all into debating which model out there is the “hardest”, and asserting “Satoshi rules!” and that sort of thing, plus a lot of, uh, less mature banter. I didn’t know any origami people when I was growing up, but if I did, I’d have probably been like that.

The model went over well, but all those toes took a long time to fold, so I didn’t get to spend as much time as I’d have liked on the sculpting at the end. It’s pretty advanced model, so not everyone could pull it off with enough precision, but most did pretty well. A fair amount of sculpting can’t really be diagrammed anyway, it’s up to the expressiveness of the artist. It was a fun time, and I think I’ll teach one of these sessions again.

Jeannie and the girls came, and Lizzy stayed and folded while I taught, to the delight of the ladies who like to make ornaments and boxes — she made a bunch of that kind of stuff. Jeannie and Michelle took in the museum, and at the end we had a whirlwind tour of the dinosaur lobby and main African hall. Didn’t make it to the whale room, but otherwise a great day.

And, as a bonus, as I was putting together the CP, I came up with an armadillo, using my hexagon base. I had been thinking of a way to fold an armadillo since last summerwhen we were in Florida and they were in the yard of the house, living uder the hot tub. I had a concept that was similar, but using 45 degree symmetry, that I made from a (rectangle) Animal Kingdom map, but when I got home and tried to reproduce it I couldn’t get it to work. Don’t know why I didn’t think of the hex base sooner; it’s perfect for animals with equal-length legs, and toes. So the approach was solid although the first attempt was not prefect. Made a 2nd attempt with refined proportions, head and tail. It’s pretty close, I probably need one more try, mainly to fine-tune the head. So watch this space.