Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Review: Akira Yoshizawa: Japan's Greatest Origami Master

In 2014, I had an opportunity to visit Sano Art Museum in Mishima, Japan for the exhibition of Akira Yoshizawa: The World of Creative Origami. Before that time, I had seen several of his artworks only in photographs and folded just one or two of his models. Of course, I've read and known about how Yoshizawa had taken a big part in development of modern origami, by creating thousands of new models, pioneering wet-folding technique, developing notational diagramming system, and promoting the art form worldwide by serving as a cultural embassador. I knew how important he was in the history of origami so I was very grateful to have had a chance to see this exhibit.

At the museum I saw hundreds, perhaps thousands of his original artworks, all well preserved and beautifully displayed. I spent hours at the museum, staring at each and every folded model close-up and far. Everything looked so animated. It was absolutely astonishing experience that I will never forget!

So when I heard that Tuttle Publishing is releasing a new book of Akira Yoshizawa, I got very excited and wanted to get one as soon as it came out. But then the publicist from Tuttle offered me a pre-released copy to review on my blog so of course I jumped at the chance.



This beautiful, large hardcovered book has a total of 192 pages. It includes a preface by his widow Kiyo Yoshizawa, an introduction by Robert Lang, Yoshizawa's biography with timelines, hundreds of artworks that are beautifully photographed in full colors, and hand-drawn diagrammed instructions of over 60 models. These diagrams originally came from two books by the Master in Japanese: 美しい折り紙 (Beautiful Origami) and やさしいおりがみ (Easy Origami). Tuttle had these two books translated into English, combined them with extra contents into this magnificent book.

When I first got the book, I flipped through every page, stared at every photo and read all the texts. I found Dr. Lang's story about Yoshizawa's master piece, a cicada, comparing to the development of his own cicada model especially interesting.

Prior to the chapters from the two Japanese titles, this book shows some photos of Yoshizawa's master works, such as ones that appeared in his exhibition flyers and book covers. My absolute favorite, which was also what I had seen in person at the museum, is Yoshizawa's self-portrait in origami. It's wet-folded and looks exactly like him! It is absolutely stunning. I also love two versions of elephants, which look completely different but equally beautiful. Unfortunately, the diagrams of these models are not included in the book.

As for the diagrammed instructions that originally came from the two Japanese titles, they are beautifully drawn and easy to understand. The models range from easy to intermediate. There is elegance even in the simplest models. He introduced some basic folds and how to cut paper into different shapes, such as equilateral triangle, rhombus and pentagon, as well as how to fold preliminary bases out of some of those shapes. A lot of the included models are living creatures or things with Japanese connotations. I enjoyed reading about each introduced model because it gave me some sense of why he was inspired to create those models.

The Sea Turtle model from the book.
The background is Hiroshige's print origami paper, also from Tuttle.
The Small Bird model from the book.
The way I staged it make the bird look more like an archaeopteryx...


I am very grateful to have gotten to know more about Akira Yoshizawa and his approach in origami through this book. I am sure that any origami enthusiasts would feel the same when they acquire this book, and even those who are only starting to get to know origami would get inspired to fold more from it. It is definitely a must-have to be on your wish list for the holidays!

I see that it is on sale if you order it from Tuttle now. It's also available on Amazon and many other bookstores.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I will be attending the OrigamiUSA Convention 2016


At the end of 2015, Regional Arts and Culture Council awarded me funds to help me attend the OrigamiUSA Convention in New York in June 2016!  After 9 years of teaching at Childpeace Montessori and Willowbrook, 100+ library classes, numerous visits to teach at elderly care facilities, correctional facilities and community events, it was a big milestone for me.  For many years I've wanted to attend this big annual convention, but it was expensive to travel all the way to New York from Portland to attend it so I never made it there.  I am so happy and grateful that RACC is giving me financial support to make this trip come true!

This will be my first time to visit New York (or anywhere else in the east coast) and to attend the OUSA Convention so there are a lot of unknowns, and just a thought of being in such a big city intimidates me.  But I am determined to make this trip full of learning, inspirations and fun!  I already signed up not only to attend the convention but also to volunteer as an interpreter and teach my hummingbird model.  Here is what the model looks like:

The hummingbird model as a Christmas ornament


Hummingbird and
sweet pea model (designed by John Blackman)


Hummingbird and flowers (designed by me)


Hummingbird and traditional lily


Are you attending the Convention too?  Please drop a line to let me know if you are!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

My New Bathroom Decorations

Over the past year we got our bathroom remodeled.  I absolutely love how it came out to be!  McNearney Construction did an amazing job.  It used to be the least favorite room of the house; I lamented to use the old and not-so-functional room every day for over a dozen years.  But now it's absolutely the best room in the house.  It was worth a long wait.  Still a tiny, one-and-only bathroom in the house, but it has some really cool features like a radiant heated floor, a built-in soap cubby, motion sensing lights at floor/ceiling, a motion sensing flush toilet, and a hidden medicine cabinet that comes out of a dead space.  It is so functional, comfortable, clean and beautiful. 





I love the fact that this small space seems to get ample amount of light for taking photographs.  I have been enjoying taking photos of my origami arts, as well as my flower arrangements in the room for my Instagram page.  Here are some of the photos.


Japanese quince flower arrangement in the soap cubby

Cherry blossoms with an origami vase cover.
I enjoyed ohanami while taking a bath.

Rose petal bath

Japanese quince flower arrangement.
The vase cover is made of origami.

A collage art made ofDouble Pyramid
(model designed by David Donahue).

The Double Pyramid is used as an iPhone stand.
It's nice to have when I want to listen to music while in the bathroom.

Yaezakura (double-layered variety of cherry blossoms)
I picked up during a walk and floated on water.

 Pruned a neighbor's apple tree branches that were
crowding our yard over the fence, just in time of them blooming.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Portland Pride 2015


This is another late post... about Portland Pride in June of 2015.  I usually participate in this annual parade with Rose City Mortgage, but this time I decided to participate only by making these origami accessories in rainbow colors for the people to wear.


Paper balloon choker
Various kinds of modular flowers using
LaFosse & Alexander's Origami Flowers as a reference.
They are made into pins.
Fluted diamond garland
Traditional 16-pointed stars,
made into pendants.
Star Corona by Maria Sinayskaya
made into a pendant and a pin.
Yoshizawa butterfly, rainbow colored by my student
made into a pin
3-minute Kawasaki roses made into a pin and a hairband.
I used ばらの夢折り紙, a gift from the author as a reference.  
It was just as fun to fold these as to parade in this event!  I may have to do this again...

Hina Matsuri, Japanese Dolls Festival at Portland Japanese Garden in 2015

About a year ago, I had an opportunity to offer an origami workshop as a part of the Hina Matsuri event at Portland Japanese Garden.  I know it is an one whole year delay in posting this, but I still wanted to share this special memory on my blog.  (I blame my neglect in posting this entirely on the ease of posting on Instagram and Facebook;)


A camellia flower and the pavilion in the background.
The doll display and the event were held in the pavilion.

Origami Hina Dolls diorama
Origami Hina Dolls greeting card
A part of my display pieces
My student helper teaching some guests

The participating guests made the greeting card version of  hina dolls, like the third photo from the top.  As it was a beautiful spring day there were a lot of visitors at the garden for the event.  Thanks to my fantastic student helper we were able to pull it off.  I was ever so grateful!

The garden is currently under construction for expansion so they didn't have the Hina Matsuri event this year, but I look forward to visiting there once it reopens.  I believe this place is one of the most beautiful places in Portland, and I feel lucky to have been a part of it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: LaFosse & Alexander's Origami Jewelry


This is the second book about origami jewelry that came across me.  The first was Origami Jewelry by Ayako Brodek.  While Ms. Brodek's book is filled with feminine and intricate designs, this new Origami Jewelry by LaFosse and Alexander includes bold and striking designs.  Understandably, Ms. Brodek is a woman and Mr. LaFosse and Alexanders are men thus the difference in the same topic.  I very much enjoyed this whole different take on Origami Jewelry.

There are 25 different models that are introduced as "beads," or more like "folded gems" in this book.  They are geometric designs, some of which flat and others three-dimensional.  Some of the 3-D gems have beautiful curbed shapes to them.  As far as I know these designs are all new that had not been published elsewhere.  These gems can turn into earrings or necklaces, and the book explains in details as to how to turn these gems into certain kinds of jewelry that are shown as examples.

As always, LaFosse/Alexander's instructions are very clear and easy to understand, and the book comes with DVD just in case you get lost in diagrams or you prefer to follow video instructions.  For each model, they show the size comparisons between the paper and folded model so you will know what size of paper to use for the size of a folded model that you want.

The book goes into details on how to mount these folded beads, how to connect them and their variations, selecting paper and materials, back-coating to strengthen the paper, cutting and trimming paper to size, and all other details on tools and materials needed for making origami jewelry.

Furthermore, the authors "offer all of the jewel designs present in this book to the public for their unrestricted use, without obtaining any commercial use license or design royalty."  In other words, LaFosse/Alexander are OK with the readers selling jewelries made out of the designs included in this book.  However, you have to be aware that any other original designs by LaFosse/Alexander or by any other origami artists are intellectual properties so if you are to use them for commercial purposes,  you must first obtain permissions.

Here is an earring that I've made out of a design called Wolverine Claw in the book.  I think it looks more like the Eiffel Tower.

I've made an ornament out of another design called Square Rhombus Beads, which is used on the cover of the book as an earring design.  I think a lot of the designs in this book are also great to use as ornaments or garlands.



Lastly, I loved the analogy that the authors made in the book about musical performance and folded art, so I want to share: "Well-chosen paper is the instrument.  If the paper is patterned, the scale of the patterns, colors, and textures will provide tone, and even play their own notes, too.  The design is like the musical composition that provides the strength and substance necessary for durability.  Elegant results demand a careful, heartfelt execution, or a cogent interpretation during your performance.  Refining your folding skills take 'practice, practice, practice' as does playing any musical instrument artfully."

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Review: Origami Ikebana by Benjamin John Coleman

"Origami Ikebana" by Benjamin John Coleman is the second product by that author that I am reviewing.  I wrote a review on Coleman's "Origami Bonsai" kit about a year ago (review can be read here).  "Origami Bonsai" is a great product, and Coleman's new book/DVD, "Origami Ikebana" is just what you'd expect based on the last one.

Origami flower sculpture that I made,
using the Origami Bonsai book as reference

Although the actual ikebana and bonsai are two different forms of art, these two products by Coleman cover pretty much the same topic: how to create realistic origami flower sculptures.  However, the Origami Ikebana is a more recent product than the Origami Bonsai so I see a lot of improvements and greater depth in the newer book.

What are the improvements, you may ask?  First of all, there is a wider variety of flower and leaf instructions offered in the new book.  His new book has 8 types of leaf models and 34 types of flower models, whereas the old one had 4 types of leaves and 6 types of flowers.  What's even more exciting is that the author explains how to cut paper into decagon and dodecagon, which allows you to fold 5-petal flower and 6-petal flower respectively.  Previously in Origami Bonsai, every flower model had four petals.  By cutting paper into decagon or dodecagon, each included flower model could have more petals.  This opens up a whole new set of possibilities, and I look forward to not only folding his flower models but also experimenting with decagon and dodecagon for my own models.

Coleman's primrose models that I folded,
out of decagon (5-petal) and dodecagon (6-petal)

Furthermore, the author gives step-by-step detailed instructions with photos on painting leaves and flowers, making base rocks and boulders, painting them, rolling paper for stems and stamens, assembling the parts for a finished sculpture, and even packing it for shipping.  Indeed, it is A LOT more than just an origami instructional book!

To tell the truth, I am usually hesitant to do messy projects so I haven't tried painting paper, making rocks or rolling paper, but his examples in the book all look beautiful so I plan to try it someday.

8 types of leaves (left page)
and an example of flower sculpture (right page)
Pages that show different kinds of flower assemblies
By far, this flower sculpture example is my favorite!

Overall, I am very impressed by both the quality and quantity of the content in Origami Ikebana.  The entire book is filled with beautiful examples, in full-color and even comes with a DVD!  I think that any origami enthusiast would enjoy this book, but especially those who like to go a step further than just folding and to find ways to sculpt the model for a beautiful display, as well as to experiment with their own folding patterns.  If that sounds like what you like to do, this book is for you!