Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Origami Christmas Tree Decorations

I remember that the Christian high school that I attended in Japan had a Christmas tree with apples as ornaments.  I don't know whose idea it was to decorate that way, but I thought it was strange not only to see apples hanging from an evergreen tree, but also to use the "forbidden fruit" as ornaments.

In our household we don't have a Christmas tree, but if we had one, I would of course love to decorate it in origami!  Since I never get to do that, I was really excited when my school asked me to decorate a Christmas tree with the kids for our neighbor, especially since the "neighbor" was Cavalia!  They have been performing in Portland, and their tents are set near our school.  They offered to do a special performance for some school children in the area including ours.  Cavalia also asked our school to decorate a Christmas tree for them.  The school put me in charge of this project.

For the past week I had been teaching the kids how to make origami ornaments.  We made 4 different kinds, about 50 ornaments in total.

3D snowflake design found at Papar Zone
Six pointed star found here
This diamond shaped model is made of two lily bases assembled together.
My simple design of accordion folds and gluing ends together

I also folded an origami horse as a tree topper.  This origami horse model is from a little book I picked up at a 100 yen shop and by Makoto Yamaguchi (it is called 親子で折るおけいこ折り紙上級).  I used wet-folding method for the first time for this model.  Wet-folding is a technique developed by origami artist Akira Yoshizawa, and many origami artists who like more realistic looks on their models use this method.  Wet-folding creates more curves instead of geometric sharp edges that comes from normal origami folding.  Since it was my very first wet-folding model, it didn't look perfect but I think it came out pretty cool!  Thank you RC from POPS for giving me tips on wet-folding.

Here are some photos of the Christmas tree taken at Cavalia.  I got to go to the show as one of the chaperons for our school children.

The entire Cavalia performance was breathtakingly amazing and beautiful.  I enjoyed every second of it.  Since photographing was not permitted during the show, unfortunately I don't have any photos to share.  But we were allowed to photograph during Q&A after the show.  It was such a holiday treat to get to watch this special Cavalia performance!

Sunday, November 6, 2011


In traditional Japanese culture, people used furoshiki, a square piece of wrapping cloth to transport kimono, bento, gifts and many other things.  After the use of plastic bags became common in the post-war period, the number of furoshiki users almost diminished.  In the recent years, however, the trend of using furoshiki has come back again along with the eco-friendly movement.  Just a square piece of cloth can be wrapped in so many different ways, kind of like origami.  They also come in different sizes, designs, and types of fabric.

My sister found this furoshiki in Japan and gave it to me.  The design motif of the fabric is paper cranes!

I can wrap a bottle of wine to take it to a party, like this...

When I go to check out some books at a library, I can wrap the books like this:

Or, if I am going to a spa and need to bring change of clothes, I can wrap them like this.

Really, they are so versatile, eco-alternative to plastic bags and elegant alternative to eco-bags.  This website shows many techniques on how to wrap furoshiki.  You can buy one there, on Etsy, or many other places.  You can also use just a square scarf as a wrap cloth too!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Origami Caravan Auction for the Japanese Orphanage

I recently read an article on the rebuilding updates in the northern part of Japan after the March 11 disaster.  The article shows a few sets of photos, and each set includes a shot of right after the disaster, another shot at the same location after 3 months, and finally the 3rd shot being 6 months after.  It's this article.  You can see how much progress people have made recovering each area over time.  There surely is a lot of progress.  But the photos prove that it takes time to come back from something of this magnitude.

If you are wondering how you could help, here is an exciting opportunity to help some orphans from the disaster, especially if you are an origami enthusiast like me.

Mr. Makoto Yamaguchi, one of the foremost origami creators, has a volunteer project called Origami Caravan, which started as several visits to evacuation centers with origami paper and books, in order to lift the spirits of the survivors.  Now the project has progressed to collecting donations for the orphanage in the affected area.  Origami Caravan came up with this idea of asking some renown origami artists to donate their original artworks, and auctioning off those items online so they can donate the profits from the auctions to the orphanage.  What a great idea!

You can read more about this project and bid on the items from the official site of Origami Caravan.  The auctions are happening on eBay as of right now (Nov. 5, 2011) and will go on at least for a few more days.  A new item comes on every day.  Participating artists include Makoto Yamaguchi, Tomoko Fuse, Michael LaFosse, Satoshi Kamiya, and many more.  This is a rare opportunity to bid on an original artwork of an origami artist that you always admired, for a very good cause!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Origami Baby Cards

A couple of my co-workers at school are currently expecting baby girls.  Since their due dates are coming close almost at the same time, we are having a baby shower for both of them.  In addition to pitching in money to buy them gifts, I volunteered to make cards for them.

Here is another version of an origami baby card.  This hatching egg model is from Origami Jewelry book by Ayako Brodek.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My fall-themed work station


I just decorated my work station to be seasonally appropriate.   As you can see in the first photo, I used to have a goldfish print cotton cloth ("tenugui"), which I bought back from Japan and stitched to a piece of bamboo as a wall hanging.  My sister recently gave me this beautiful Japanese maple print one for fall, so I switched.  Another addition to the work station is a jack-o-lantern box to hold Halloween candies.  This funny, topless pyramid-shaped box was a diagram by Chizu Akagi, included in a Daiyo origami package.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fall Decorations in Origami

After some rain, temperature drops, and color changes of foliage, it really feels like we have entered into the fall season here in Portland.  I personally prefer summer over fall, but with Halloween being my favorite holiday of all, I am excited to be in October.  I love Halloween not because I am big on dressing up in costumes or trick-or-treating (too old for that, of course).  I love Halloween because I love doing Halloween themed crafting projects with kids, giving away candies to trick-or-treaters at my door, and all the spookiness that come with the holiday.

A few years ago just before the Halloween season, I received a donation of a big orange butcher paper roll from a parent at my school.  I decided to cut the paper into a square and make an origami jack-o-lantern out of it.  It turned out to be about actual size of a pumpkin, PERFECT.  Pretty soon, I started making a bunch with the kids at school.  A year after, I proposed a new library program about it, which turned out to be a huge hit.  I never would have come up with this idea if I didn't receive the donation of the orange butcher paper, so I am very grateful for it.

So here they are... the life-size jack-o-lanterns in origami!  ...And the little ones to go on the Christmas lights too.

I am offering the Fall Decorations in Origami program at just one Multnomah County Library location this fall.  The program includes how to make a 3-D, life-size pumpkin in origami, using orange butcher paper. You will also learn to make bats, ghosts, and other fall-themed characters in origami as well as kirigami (folding and cutting paper art).

Saturday, October 22  2-4pm at Gresham Library.  It's a drop-in class, this program has always been very popular and often full.  Arrive early to reserve yourself a spot!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

World Animal Festival 2011

What is your favorite animal?

This is a question I often ask people.  Being an animal lover I am always curious as to what kinds of animals people like.  My favorite is sloths.  Ever since I visited Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica, I completely fell in love with these peaceful creatures.  The photo below is Buttercup, an orphaned three-toed sloth that got rescued by Aviario's.  Isn't she the cutest?  She was totally posing for this photo.  She even got that Mona Lisa Smile.  Buttercup melts my heart...!

There are no sloths at our own local Oregon Zoo, but for the past 5 years, I've always enjoyed working there as an origami vendor for their annual World Animal Festival.  I demonstrate, display, and teach my origami work.  There, I ask each visitor my usual question, "What's your favorite animal?" and make whatever the response of the animal I hear in origami. 

It has always been such a treat to visit and work there, and I look forward to this event every year.  This year, I will be working there on Sunday, September 25 from 10am to 4pm at their Elephant Plaza.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Origami Flowers

I just received a very unexpected, lovely gift the other day.  It was a bundle of beautiful origami flowers with a thank you note from the youth librarian at Woodburn Public Library, where I taught an orizomegami workshop last month.  I put them in a vase, and now it's displayed on my work station.  How lovely!  Thank you, Jeannie!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Article by NW Kids Magazine

NW Kids Magazine provides lots of practical resource guides to family and kids-friendly events and activities in the Portland area.  They just published their annual Birthday Issue, which included me as an origami entertainer.  They also posted an online article about me as an origami artist.  I would like to thank Beth, the NW Kids Magazine editor for interviewing me.  Here is the article.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Create Your Own Toys in Origami

I have a new program coming up at Multnomah County Library locations!  It is called Create Your Own Toys in Origami.  In this program I will introduce models of origami toys that are not only fun to make but also fun to play with!  Featured models include jumping frogs, finger puppets, ninja stars, spin tops and more.  The photo below shows the spin top model, which is the highlight of the program.  They are not only fun to spin, but also pretty to look at!

Saturday, September 10  2-4pm at Albina Library
Saturday, September 17  1:30-3:30pm at Gregory Heights Library; register for it from here.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Students Rebuild's Crane Art Installation for Japan

I recently received an e-mail announcement from Students Rebuild, a non-profit organization that was collecting paper cranes for rebuilding efforts in the tsunami-affected part of Japan back in March.  I had sent them over 1,400 cranes made by people at the camp, the school and the senior residency, all of where I teach (read this post for more details).

Back when they were asking people to donate cranes to match their money donation from Bezos Family Foundation, they said that their intention was to make the paper cranes into an art installation.  Now with a help from an artist named Vik Muniz along with some volunteers, they have turned the cranes into a beautiful photographed piece.  It's exciting to know that those cranes made by us are included in this big piece of art.  They made the photograph into posters, and they are now for sale on Students' Rebuild website.  The proceed will go to aid long term recovery and reconstruction.  For more details about this project, read this article on the New York Times.

Photograph by Andrew Moore for The New York Times

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sidewalk Art

One of many reasons why I love living in Portland is how abundant its art scenes are.  There are arts everywhere, not just for sale or for formal display, but also just for fun, like the ones that I found on sidewalks during my walks.  It's fun spotting things like these on grimy streets.

Friday, August 5, 2011

End of My Working Summer

Today was the last day of my camp job.  This is my 5th year working there, and as always, it has been crazy, exhausting but fun-packed, amazing and inspiring 6 weeks.  I feel relieved and sad at the same time that it's over.  It's almost impossible to try to describe how special this camp is for me, or for anyone who is involved.  One of many reasons why it is so special is because of all the amazing, creative people that I get to work with.  I feel so privileged to work in such an inspiring environment.  Here are some photos from there.

Stage Arts from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Scarlet Macaw puppet made by Puppetry Specialist

1,000 paper cranes as prayers for world peace

Framed Ninja Star Quilt made by the campers for the camp auction

 Small paintings by campers in Fine Arts Center

Beaded earrings made by Native American Assistant.  They were gifted to me.  What a sweetheart.

 A scene from Fiddler On The Roof on the last day

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Not to be confused with origami.  Origami means folding paper in Japanese.  Orizomegami means folding and dyeing paper. It is a paper dyeing method that is used to create patterns on liquid absorbent paper.  This art form is relatively inexpensive and also easy to learn and to achieve beautiful result.  The finished product can be used as gift wrap, book cover, collage material, or anything else imaginable.

Recently, I went to teach an orizomegami workshop for teens at a library just outside of Portland.  They experimented with different folding patterns, papers and colors.  Of course, it came out different every time, like an kaleidoscope.  The moment of unfolding paper to see the result is an exciting, kind of like opening a present!

After papers were dried, we made greeting cards out of the dyed papers.  Here is a card that one of the teens created for her mom's birthday.  She said the dyed paper (coffee filter) is an umbrella.  It really does look like an Asian umbrella!  Beautiful!

I've made greeting cards with orizomegami before, but I had never thought of using the round ones like this.  I got so inspired that I made a greeting card using a dyed coffee filter as a sunburst, with a gold origami crane flying into the sun.  I should've had the photo of it, but I just realized that I already sold it at my camp auction.  I gotta have to make another one to post it here...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My recent favorite item: LED Book Light

I do origami anywhere in my house, and anywhere I go to.  At a restaurant, in an airplane, on a picnic table at a park, etc.  As long as I have a solid surface to fold on and good lighting besides paper, I can do it anywhere.  And that's the beauty of this form of art.  "A solid surface" is relatively easy to get; all you need is a table, a lap table, a clipboard, or even just a book to fold on.  But good lighting is not always easy to come by, and it is a must since I want to have those very precise folds, every time.  Besides, my eye sight is terrible in dark.  

So I recently bought a little book light.  It is called MiniFlex LED Book Light by Mighty Bright.  I bought it for about 10 bucks at Fred Meyer but it's available at Amazon, etc. too.  It clips on to a book or it can stand by itself.  It has a flexible neck.  It's so compact you can take it anywhere.  I brought it to a plane recently, and it worked better than that light on the ceiling of the plane.  I plan to bring it to camping trips this summer too.  I think it will come in handy at anywhere I travel to.  I highly recommend this product to anyone!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Origami House Gallery in Tokyo and Nippon Origami Museum at Narita Airport

While in Japan, I visited two origami exhibits that were both amazing.  One was Origami House Gallery, operated by one of my favorite origami artists, Makoto Yamaguchi.  In the glass showcases, I saw a lot of pieces by Satoshi Kamiya and Eric Joisel, both of whom were featured in Between the Folds documentary.  They create the most complex and realistic origami models that I have ever seen.  I didn't take any photos there because they don't allow it, but you can see some of the artworks in their website here.  There, I also found out about Japan Origami Academic Society and became a member.

The other origami exhibit that I visited was Nippon Origami Museum at Narita Airport.  I have been there when I traveled through Narita last time, but I'm glad to visit there again and to snap some photos.  I snapped these photos so quickly before I boarded the plane that I forgot to include most of the artists exhibiting work.  I am terribly sorry.

There were just too many art pieces to share in this blog but the photos above are of some of my favorites.  Compared to the artworks that I saw at Origami House, these are closer to my style so I can relate more.

Next time when I visit back home in Japan, I would love to visit Nippon Origami Museum in Ishikawa-ken.  I've been wanting to go there for quite some time now, but I just didn't have time to make it this time.  It's supposed to be the biggest origami museum in the world!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Harajuku and Sugamo

At the end of our trip to Japan, we stopped in Tokyo for a night.  I know that a lot of foreigners are still afraid of going to Tokyo for possible exposure to radiation, but I believe it is safe, at least for adults without children to visit.  We stayed at a hotel right by Mejiro station.  Mejiro is on the Yamanote Line, which is the main railway in Tokyo that goes in circles.  The hotel was close to everything we wanted to go, had lots of shops and restaurants around, and best of all, it was only less than US$100 including yummy breakfast buffet.

From our hotel, we visited two different districts.  We went to Harajuku, which is where young people like to go to hang out at the shops, restaurants and bars.  We went there at night for a taproom that my partner wanted to visit for beer, and it was very busy.  By the time we got out of the taproom, most shops around there were closed.  I loved their mural artwork on the roll-up doors, though.

Another district that we visited is Sugamo, which is known as "Harajuku for the old ladies."  There is a street with a temple with a Jizo (Bodhisattva portrayed as a monk) and shops for older generation.  In comparison to Harajuku, Sugamo is more traditional and less western influenced.

A street view of Sugamo

A dried fish shop

Japanese sweet shop

These two districts are very different in contrast, but we really enjoyed visiting both places.  I guess we are somewhere between young and old.