Back in the USA

Just finished the Origami USA convention in New York City.  It was a really great time this year.  I felt like last year it was good just to be back again after the pandemic, but this year I was drawn into getting deeper into different creative ideas I was seeing in other folders’ work and in connecting and talking with people.  Also it was good to see attendance was up, including lots of first timers and lots of kids.  Maybe a few will stick around in the years to come and become the next generation’s leading origami artists.

I felt good about my new work this year.  Last fall I invented my Halloween Spider, and after attempting to teach it in the springtime I reworked the folding sequence to eliminate the “sink of doom”, which made it a good deal easier to teach and to fold.  I practice folded quite a few of them in the last couple weeks to see how it works in different kinds of paper, and to get a feel for the details of sculpting and finishing.

I also finished my big new polyhedron idea, a Stellated Icosahedron that also featured sunken stars.  It was the third in my series of icosahedron variations folded from a hexagon. Although I conceptualized it first, on my trip to Bogota in February, it turned out to be the hardest to fold by far.  I finally got a model completed a couple weeks ago, but then I attempted to wetfold it and it ended up looking not very nice, so I started over.  By the final attempt I finally knew how it would go together without experimenting, so was able to do some precision precreasing to help it along.  I used a fairly large sheet of Elephant Hide, about 19″ square before cutting.  I did a second, smaller one out of a sheet of Skytone paper, about 15″, which was also very nice but a bit more delicate.

In addition to Jeannie and Michelle, we had a houseguest this year: our friend Madonna, who we got to know in Bogota.  She won the OUSA Convention teaching award this year, but that only included three nights in the hotel.  So she stayed with us Thursday and Friday.  Madonna is mainly into tessellations, often out of a grid of triangles on a hexagon sheet.  This doesn’t overlap much with what I do, but is nevertheless quite interesting and beautiful.  Almost as soon as she arrived at our place, she noticed our fridge magnets which are a combination of hexagons, triangles and rhombi, and set about the rearrange them to demonstrate some patterns that were in her mind.  We hung out folding late into the night and exchanging ideas. She gifted me lots of skytone paper, which is one of my new favorites.  It’s alot like Elephant hide but thinner, and comes in great marbled pastel colors.

The convention itself was great.  We arrived Friday afternoon and started seeing alot of our origami friends as they trickled in.  I set up my exhibit, which had a bunch of new stuff as I mentioned.  I chose some classic models to set off the new stuff, including more polyhedra and insects, some animals from my Sculptures book, and a few spacecraft.  We mainly just hung out and folded Friday night, and went out to dinner.  John Montroll was there, with lots of new diagrams, and it was good to catch up.  

Paul Frasco and Ryan Dong folded the world’s largest origami swan out of an eighteen-foot square of paper, certified for the Guinness Book of World Records.  One cool thing was that Paul built an armature of out PCV pipe to support the model’s weight.  He assembled it as the model was being finished, and it looked totally improvised.  But it was pretty clear he had an adaptable plan that would fit to the proportions of the folded paper without having to know the dimensions ahead of time.  Very smart. Once the swan was stood up, it was fifteen feet long and ten feet tall, and looked like a dinosaur in a museum exhibit.  Very impressive.

Saturday we got there early since Madonna was teaching a class first session.  I took a class for someone else’s Spider, a box pleated model with a clever asymmetrical development to form the legs.  I taught my first class in the afternoon, my Foxy Fox from the Sculptures book.  The class was very full and had one or two too many kids who were a little too talkative and weren’t paying enough attention, so that made it challenging. Still the class was a success and everyone folded a nice fox.  

I had agreed to teach this class because there was a call from the convention committee that there weren’t enough mammals being taught, and I knew this one would work well in a single period class.  I haven’t really checked in with the models from this book in a while, so it was fun to revisit.  Kind of makes me want to do a new version with new improvements and refinements I’ve incorporated over time as my style and skills have evolved.  Same with my Loon, which I taught to my friend Kathleen.

Sunday at lunchtime I ran the paper airplane competition.  I’d never done this before and had  some help from Paul Frasco and Steve Rollin, who had participated in the past.  It was pretty intense!  There were contests for distance, accuracy and time aloft.  The distance winner went over fifty feet, and the time winner over three seconds.  In the target contest, the fist and third place winners were separated by only one half of an inch!

Sunday afternoon I taught my Halloween Spider.  There were only ten or so people in the class, which made it much more relaxed.  Also I had a document camera giving a close-up view of the folding in progress, projected on a giant screen.  There were a bunch of kids in this class too, but they were all already virtuoso folders and followed along without any difficulty.  The time I spent practicing paid off because we got done with time to spare, and had time to focus on the sculpting at the end.  Also, I folded mine from a sheet of tissue foil I bought at the source, so it came out looking great.  There was a new line of high-end tissue foil this year in all kinds of color combinations, in 10″ and 20″ sheets, so I bought a ton of it.

Sunday a bunch of us including John and Madonna and Marc Kirschenbaum went out for Indian food for dinner.  When we returned it was time for the giant folding competition.  Marc was running it and I helped judge for awards.  I feel like people get better at it every year, even though everyone underestimates how much a giant sheet of paper tends to behave like it’s cloth.

Monday we decided not to go into the city until noon, so I got a chance to work out in the morning.  I had lunch at Ray’s Famous Original Pizza next door to the conference hotel, which I presume is not the same as either Ray’s Famous or Ray’s Original, which were both down in Greenwich Village when I first moved there in the early 90’s.  I’d heard that Famous Ray and Original Ray had settled their feud some time ago and joined forces to become a chain. Anyway, great genuine New York pizza.  

That afternoon I gave my lecture on single-sheet polyhedra.  When I gave it at CFC in the winter, the interest was mainly on the mathematical and geometric aspects of it.  Here the crowd was a little different, and in discussion afterwards tended toward the craft and ornamental side. Still, quite well recieved.

Throughout the weekend there was alot of free folding in the hospitality area.  Jeannie and Michelle both took classes and learned some nice new modular ornamental things, and Michelle folded one of John Montroll’s complex insects, a dragonfly.  Also, I met Taro and some of the people from Taro’s Origami Studio.  I’ve been looking for a publisher to work with for my next book, and it turns out they’re getting into publishing and are looking for authors, so that might just work out.  Also Michelle is looking for work this summer and they sometimes contract out piecework folding models, so that might just work out too.  Now she describes herself as the world’s first origami nepo baby.

We had the banquet Monday night, and then it was time for goodbyes, and now here we are again back to the normal routine.  Ah well, the next big convention is in the fall, so that gives my time to fold some new models and hopefully make some progress on the publishing front.