Origami USA 2007 Convention

Well it’s that time of year again. I spent the last four days at the OUSA Annual Convention, hanging our with origami people, talking and thinking about origami, and folding late into the night. The OUSA convention attracts some of the best folders from all over the world, including Japan, Europe and South America. I got to catch up with some of my origami friends and colleagues including John Montroll, Marc Kirschenbaum, Robert Lang, Brian Chen, T. J. Norvell, and a good number of others. You know who you are. Shout out to Brian Webb from Indiana.

If you’re into origami, and particularly if you live on the East coast of the United States, you probably already know about it, and may very well have been there. If you’ve never been to one, I encourage you to join us next year. It’s more like a conference that a convention really. There’s an exhibition (amazing!), and classes and seminars, and all-day free folding in the hospitality area. Anyone can exhibit their work or teach a class.

The exhibition was pretty amazing, and featured a great variety of subjects and styles. Highlights for me included Brian Chen’s Totoro Bus and Robert Lang’s American Flag. Satoshi came from Japan as a special guest of the convention, and his stuff is always fantastic. I exhibited some new work including my Armadillo, a few Butterflies, and my Stellated Dodecahedron. I also displayed my UFO, Rocketship, Elephant and Dragon. I’m happy that every year the quality of my exhibit goes up. This year there were a lot of people (over 70) exhibiting, so I selected fewer models to fit in the space, which made the whole thing a bit easier. And Michelle’s cup was in the Origami by Children display.

There’s also a store with books and all kinds of paper and other supplies. This year we bought 2 books. Jeannie got Tom Hull’s new book, Project Origami. Which is rather mathematical in nature and focused on modulars and their geometric properties. I’ve barely glanced at it yet but it looks fascinating, and know Tom, it’s sure to be great.

I bought Marc Kirschenbaum’s Origami Bugs. I’ve been working on origami Lady Bug, based on my butterfly, but after several unsatisfactory attempts I was starting to conclude that the result I was after was different enough that the butterfly base might not be suitable, and was wondering if I could modify the base or if I’d be better off starting over from zero. Then I saw Marc’s Ladybug on the cover of his new book. His has 3 spots per wing, whereas mine will have one, but I’ve found that sometimes it’s good to examine how other folders tackle a subject, even if you have a totally different approach in mind. So I got the book. I started folding it on the train, and so far I can tell you it starts with a bird base and is well over 100 steps. My insect base is derived from a waterbomb.

Saturday Lizzy came with us, and she took a class of modular flowers. She did really well at it and was quite pleased about it, and gave the flowers to Nana, which was very sweet. Jeannie took a couple of classes on modulars and tessellations. I didn’t take many classes myself. Most years I try and take one class if there’s a really nice complex model being taught. This year I wanted to learn Joseph Wu’s Babe the Blue Ox (fantastic!), but it was a morning session, and so I missed it. Up till 3 AM the night before.

I did take John Montroll’s polyhedra class. Most classes teach a single model, but John’s method is that he had lots and lots of models that he’s diagrammed, all of which might someday make it into a book. So he has people fold them and gets their impressions. At this point he has enough polyhedra to potentially make two new books. I spend a fair amount of free-folding time talking with John and folding his polyhedra anyway, since polyhedra from a single sheet is a really interesting design area for me too. I’ve been working on a two colored Tetrahedron Dual (Stella Octangula), and among John’s new stuff was a whole set of interesting and fun-to-fold color-change polyhedra, so I got some ideas from that.

And of course I taught. Normally I do one model in a two-hour class, but this year I did 2 one-hour classes. Each was a relatively simple (for me) model of my own design: my butterfly and my octopus. I invented the butterfly at last year’s convention, and if you’ve been following by blog you know I refined and diagrammed it over the winter and spring. The Octopus is a few years old I never diagrammed it. It always gets a strong response and lots of request to learn it, so I thought I’d do it this year. Both models were rated as intermediate (usually mine are complex) so there was a wider range of skill levels in my classes, but everyone seemed to do pretty well.

Monday is seminar day, where people present topics outside of strictly folding models, things related to origami design, theory, technique or the mathematics behind it. One seminar I went to was by T. J. Norville, who came in last year with some amazing paper airplanes. His seminar was on some simple pleated forms that generate hyperbolic paraboloids. These are negatively-curved surfaces with interesting structural and geometric properties. This gave me and idea for how to do a cool Cuttlefish. (Now that I’ve renewed my interest in the Octopus, I want to hit some of the other Cephalopods.) In another seminar, Toshi from Japan gave a demo of some interesting software here’s developing to take a polygonal 3-D computer model and generate a crease pattern.

Still when all is said and done, the real fun for me is the free-folding, because every year I invent a few new things. This year the major one was a Hot Air Balloon, complete with a gondola hanging underneath. Design-wise it’s related to my Octopus, and also to my Rocketship and UFO. I pretty much nailed it on my first attempt, and then folded a few more trying to refine the curvature of the balloon and the details of the basket. I’ll fold a “final” version soon out of good paper, and it’ll definitely be in next year’s exhibit. Now all I need as a blimp to complete the series.

Then last night, at the closing banquet I was seated next to T. J.’s son, who doesn’t fold but was there to help out his dad and take in the experience. We got to talking and I learned he’s a Star Wars fan. He asked me to fold him an R2 unit, and since I’d been spending the weekend thinking about how to fold dome-shaped things, I was able to come up one fairly quickly. Then a made a golden Protocol Droid to go with it. He seemed quite pleased by the results.

Thanks to everyone at OUSA for putting on another great convention!

Interim Update

Hello all. I’m mainly getting ready for the Origami Conference this week. Folding like a demon in my spare time. Lots of works-in-progress, but no new finished pieces yet. Been trying to finish my ladybug but so far an elegant solution has eluded me. A friend suggested I try and come up with a Moose, so I’ve been looking at the mooses in the books I have. One is by John Montroll and the other by Robert Lang, and their approches couldn’t be more different. John’s is a great example of his classic style, using all 22.5 degree angles and advanced isotopes of the traditional bases.  It’s pretty easy to fold, and works well from plain ol’ 10″ kami. I did one on the train today, starting on the way in and finishing it on the way home. Came out really nice. Robert’s is all box pleating, and I’m about half done, and remembering why I don’t fold box pleated models very much, all that overhead. Still, I’m looking forward to finishing it, and it should be nice. Also made out of 10″ kami to be fair.

My own idea is rather different than both of theirs, particularly with regard to the antlers, which is of course where the action is in a moose. I’m thinking of doing something more sculptural, out of 2 large flaps, rather than hiding all those points deep in the model and opening it out at the end, a feature which both my examples share. So mine basically reduces to an 8 point base. Of course I’m not at the level yet where I can fold a model straight from the concept and nail it every time. No, there’s usually a fair amount of experimentation to get there for me. So we’ll see how it goes. If it works, I’ll also have a suitable base to fold the Great Forest Spirit from the movie Princess Mononoke, kicking off my long awaited Miyazaki series.

In all the excitement, there is one new thing I forget to mention: last week I did a punch-in on the ending of the sax solo for Heat Wave, and produced a slightly-less-rough-mix. Enjoy!

GE Music Player Goes Live!

Earlier this year I blogged about my friend Erik and his music production house GE Music. Well the project I did for him — an interactive music library browser/player — is now live and serving Glenn and Erik’s tracks. They have it loaded up with a variety of music, a sampling of the range of their work that includes acoustic, electronic, jazz, easy listening, rock, orchestral and soundtrack styles. It’s well worth a listen. Go to GE’s homepage and click on “Music” in menu on the top. Or if you prefer, here’s a direct link to the player. I particualrly enjoy the tune “Bong Shop”. Rock on dudes!


Today’s post is some links to friends linking back to me. Warning: if you click on my links, and then click on the links in their sites leading back here, you may get caught in a loop. Re: curse on recursion!!!

First off my brother Martin, posts some pictures and comments here on his visit down here last month. He’s been busy with a new house and travel for his work, and has a gigging band, so he’s been blogging up a storm lately.

Next, friend John Neumann has started a blog here. Read and you will learn that I recently did some overdubs, which he’s since stirred into the mix, for the Happy Monkey Song on his forthcoming album. Also in the post is a bunch of stuff like hints about The Festivus Song, which may become the 9th track in his set, and some sensible dieting advice.

Origami Armadillo

The annual Origami USA convention is coming up in just two weeks, and I’m working on to make some new models for my exhibit this year. Each year I have a few new things and keep some favorites from the years before. Last year the new stuff was Origami From Space, which I will blog about at some point because I’m not done with that line of investigation just yet. More than just a thematic idea, there’s a whole approach to folding in there that I haven’t seen developed elsewhere, and I think is worth pursuing. This year I have a bunch of rather various stuff, including polyhedra, insects and animals. There’s my Butterfly and my Stellated Rhombic Dodecahedron, and now, a brand new Armadillo. I have a bunch more models in the queue, pulling together some threads I’ve been working on for a long time.

I’ve been working on the Armadillo off and on for the better part of a year. Tonight I completed a final version, which I made out of nice paper and it came out really well. The model uses my hex base, which is great for four-legged animals with balanced head and tail, approximately equally long legs, and of course toes. I made a pretty good first attempt a few months ago. The shell and body looked great and the tail and overall proportions were pretty good, and certainly the concept was working. There are some pretty interesting symmetries in the there that I used to develop the shell. The head and neck turnout out to be really tough to get just right. So much of a subject’s identity and attitude is in the head and neck. It seems like I’ll spend as much time on this as the rest of the model. I’ve even made head studies — models of just the head of a subject before. This one in particular had to have big ears and eyebrow ridges in addition to the usual proper posture and pose . The ears were a challenge since the base did not have extra points to use for the purpose, so they basically had to come from nowhere, and it was hard to pull that off and still have an okay looking head. So I’m really pretty happy with the way this one turned out, and it’ll be a keeper in this year’s exhibit fer sure.

I’m tempted to name this model Tarkus, in honor of the classic Emerson Lake and Palmer album with an armored armadillo on the cover. The it would also qualify for membership in the mythical creatures category.

Next up, I have a work-in-progress Ladybug that uses the same base as my Butterfly. It features a black body with a red carapace with 2 black spots, so the double color change is the major interesting thing about it.

Another idea I have is a Dual Tetrahedron. This shape, composed of two intersecting tetrahedra, is equivalent to a stellated octahedron, except that the two tetrahedra would be different colors. I’ve made versions of this shape before out of 4 and 2 sheets of paper, but the single-sheet version is obviously the one to go for.

Third, I want to fold a plant, for this year’s convention challenge. I have an idea for a potted plant, but since the devil is always in the details, I won’t know for sure if it’s a good idea until I have it folded. I have yet to even make a serious attempt yet.

If I get that far, it’s on to the bonus round. An idea I’ve been carrying around for a while for an Oliphaunt. These mythical creatures were featured in the Lord of the Rings films, visualized not just as extra-large elephants, but also having four tusks. The approach I would use would be take my Elephant and modify the base. The side effect of generating more points for the extra tusks would be to have extra paper in the middle of the model. I’ll use this to make a castle on the beast’s back. I figure it’ll make a nice complement to my Dragon.

We’ll see how far I get down this list. The good news is, even though I probably won’t get all of these models made, when I get to the convention, it’s always a really productive and creative folding environment, and I’m sure to make progress as well as come up with some new ideas.

Quiet Revolution Rough Mixes

My Friend John Neumann, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and recording artist is at it again. You might remember him as having previously scored an arrangement of Yes’s Tales From Topographic Oceans for string quartet.

Now he’s working on a new album or original material. The working title is Quiet Revolution. He’s posted some rough mixes here.

I like John’s songwriting style a lot. He is variously introspective, dark, hopeful, and funny, and ties it all together with a tasteful palette of synthesizer textures, loops, ambient sounds and real instruments. His sound is evocative of Peter-Gabriel-era Genesis and John-Wetton-era King Crimson, but he has his own thing going on too. Fans of modern legit music will enjoy Harbingers of Spring in particular, which recontextualizes a classic Igor Stravinsky riff and features some smokin’ bass playing.

The songs are pretty far along (although admittedly I don’t know what he might be thinking of changing around structurally or in his arrangements), and tend to need just minor tweaks like balancing some levels, or adding some effects to the vocals, or a bit of EQ or compression here and there. I find that after working on writing and tracking a song, you tend to get so close to it that you can no longer the subtle nuances of the sound, and it’s good to step away for a while once you’ve hit the rough mix, and come back to it with fresh ears once you have a bunch of songs done up to that stage. John seems to be taking a similar approach with this set.

Anyway, give it a listen an enjoy, and watch for the final versions of the songs coming together in an album later this year.


Well, It’s been almost a year since I updated my online photo album. So here are two now galleries, to bring us halfway up to date, to the end of 2006. Next up, 2007 up the present.


These galleries are meant for friends and family, and are password protected. If you think you are friends and/or family, and need a password, please send me an email. Meanwhile, here’s a sampling.