Saturday, November 23, 2013

Review: Origami Bonsai Kit by Benjamin John Coleman

I first laid my eyes on an artwork of Benjamin John Coleman on Origami Caravan website, over a year ago.  He was auctioning off an original work of his, which was a wall hanging of intricate origami flowers.  It looked very organic and sculptural, unlike most other origami flower models.  I loved it.  You can still see the photo of it here: "Outcropping II" by Benjamin John Coleman.  So when I acquired the Origami Bonsai Kit by Benjamin John Coleman, I was very excited.


This kit comes in a box with a full-color instructional book, a DVD, and folding papers in a variety of colors.  In the book, the author uses his own diagramming system called Glow-fold, instead of the traditional Yoshizawa-Randlett system which I'm very much used to.  Because of that, I needed to read the book a little more carefully than usual and get used to his own way of explaining the steps.

There are four types of simple yet attractive leaf models.  As for flowers, there are six varieties that are all very intricate and beautiful.  Five out of the six flower varieties start out from the same base model.  The last step of the basic flower form was a bit challenging for me, but luckily I got help from a friend.  The DVD is also a great resource for a time like this.  Aside from that small learning curb, I was able to fold all models with no problems.

The kit comes with folding papers in a variety of colors, a bit grossy and printed on both sides.  I love the subtle gradations of bright colors.  These printed papers give crease marks that are visible, as you can see in the photo below.

Rotundifolius, Ficus, Berlin Popular, and Ivy
(from left to right).
Black Eyed Susan, Primrose, Foxglove,
Buttercup, Pumpkin Flower, Morning Glory
 (left to right, top to bottom).

The crease marks look fine on leaves, but I was not fond of how they looked on flower petals.  Because of the crease marks that I couldn't seem to avoid, I used these printed papers only for practice.  For actual display pieces I chose to use washi.  I love the matte, soft texture of washi.  I have a good variety of washi at home.  The author says he paints the papers for his own creations, so that might be another option.

After folding flowers and leaves of my choice, with the papers and colors I like, even more fun comes next: finding a twig (and a stone) for the sculpture and assembly.  The author suggests to use an actual twig to attach to folded flowers and leaves: something that I had never thought of doing.  I've made a lot of origami flowers in the past but always used floral stem wires or pens/pencils with floral tapes around them to attach the origami flowers.  I found that using a real twig is much more elegant choice.  The author also talks in detail about leaf alignment and perspectives of sculptures, which really helped me figure out how to make it look more like a real plant.

As suggested by the author, I used a hot glue gun to attach the folded pieces to the twig.   I actually didn't own a glue gun before, but I picked up a seemingly good quality one from SCRAP for just $2! I was very happy and excited to see how organic and natural my first origami bonsai sculpture turned out.  I picked the combination of Primrose and Foxglove in pink and red: my favorite colors.




I can't wait to make more of these origami bonsai sculptures as center pieces for our Thanksgiving dinner and for holiday decorations.  Perhaps I could also give them out as holiday gifts.  I think this kit itself makes a great holiday gift to people who loves craft projects as well!

Origami Bonsai Kit is available to buy on AmazonPowell's, and many other book stores.

Origami Exhibit at Oregon Historical Society

Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami is a current exhibit at Oregon Historical Society.  Some of the world foremost origami artists' original works are in display, and they are absolutely amazing!

There are creations by origami artists that you may have heard about - Robert Lang, Satoshi Kamiya, Eric Joisel, Michael LaFosse, Tomoko Fuse, and many, many more.  Some of my favorites include a tiny paper crane folded by a needle by Sadako Sasaki (the girl who folded 1,000 paper cranes), the most intricate looking tessellation that is dyed in beautiful gradations of colors by Tomoko Fuse, a wearable star tessellation dress by Linda Tomoko Mihara, a lifelike pangolin with hundreds of scales by Eric Joisel, and a lifelike grasshopper with anatomical details by Brian Chan.  But there are too many more to mention.  From complex modular pieces and tessellations, to lifelike animals and abstract pieces, you will be mind-blown and inspired.

The link to the web page at OHS shows photos of just a few pieces in the exhibit, but there are over 140 amazing works gathered from all over the world.  You'll just have to see them all in your real eyes!

Another exciting part of this exhibit is that OHS is adding a new showcase full of local origami artists from POPS - Portland Origami Paper Shapers, which is a local origami group that meets once a month.  The showcase will be full of very talented artists in the group, including Janessa Munt from Daily Dollar Doodles, and up on sight sometime this month (November).  One of my little shadow box pieces will be there as well!

Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami is on exhibit now through January 11, 2014.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Origami as an Art Therapy

Many people claim that origami works as an effective art therapy and practice it to ease their anxiety.  I am not particularly an anxious person, but I do sometimes get nervous when I have a big work event coming up.  As soon as I start folding sample pieces to prepare for the event, I feel much better.  This is not only because I feel more confident in my work once I'm better prepared, but also because focusing on folding paper, thinking about sequences, and admiring the beautiful paper materials and simplicity of the model give me soothing feel.

Sadako Sasaki, the girl who folded 1,000 paper cranes for her wish to recover her leukemia, perhaps was driven by the same kind of feel.  It had also given her something to do while she was at hospital.

I have not been trained as an art therapist, but using and teaching origami as an art therapy is the area of my career that I would love to explore in the future.

One of my students at a senior assisted living facility just gave me this calendar, published by the Parkinson's Disease foundation.  Her artwork was chosen to be included in this 2014 calendar.  Her quote, "Four years after I was diagnosed with PD, I started making origami. the Japanese art of folding paper.  When I am transforming paper into stars and sunflowers, my mind is distracted and happy.  My tremors seem to cease.  At that moment, there is no Parkinson's Disease."


I am so happy to have heard that what I teach has positive impact on someone's life.  It made me feel better.  This is one more of many reasons to love origami!