Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Elephant No. 3: Origami

I've never really liked making origami.
The only thing I've ever been able to fold is a bird. And not even a good bird. I tried paper cranes once, but they ended up looking more like one of those hats you see on kids in Victorian illustrations. How Sadako of One Thousand Paper Cranes fame made so many of the things, I'll never know. My father used to make origami balls that he inflated by blowing into them, and paper cups you could actually drink from. Sadly, the paper engineering gene skipped me, although my younger sister is a master at this kind of thing.

Developed in Japan in the seventeenth century A.D., origami involves using squares of paper to produce three-dimensional forms with a range of simple folds. The word "origami" literally means paper (ori) folding (kami). Traditional origami paper is coloured on one side, and plain on the other, but any paper can be used for origami, as long as it holds a decent fold. Heavier papers can make it difficult to form creases in complicated forms, but are apparently better for wet-folded origami.

Today I decided that the passage of time may have eased the trauma of folding unrecognizable animals with coloured paper. I found a couple of sets of instructions online, and settled on a very attractive elephant by Vancouver-based artist Joseph Wu, a star of the origami world. It even came with its own video, rather than a mystifying set of printed instructions. My reasoning was that this would allow me to fold along in real time, which would surely make it easier. 

The video was probably one of the best instructional videos I've ever seen. The instructions were clear and precise, and all the steps were carefully demonstrated and explained. With such a great virtual instructor, I was convinced it would be a piece of cake to make the elephant in question. 

Here are my two attempts. I was fine until we got to ears and head. Then I got completely lost, folding and unfolding hopelessly while staring at the screen, rewinding the video, and trying again. The second attempt was a little better than the first, but there are times when you just have to admit defeat. After three hours trying to follow a 30-minute video, I felt I had no choice but to give up and try a different elephant.

The second set of instructions—also clear and easy to follow—was based on my nemesis, the paper crane. The elephant I made is clunky and barely looks like an elephant, but I'll take it. And at least I never have to make one again.


Origami is definitely not for me. It may be that it's too precise for my I-hate-rules-and-never-read-instructions brain. Or it may just be that I don't like folding things into shapes. I never mastered paper airplanes, either. And if you ever come to my house for dinner, the napkins will never be folded into bird shapes or cute little pockets. That's what napkin rings are for.

Elephant Lore of the Day
Elephant dung can be used to make paper. I actually wish I'd thought of using elephant dung paper to make an origami elephant. But then I would have had to cut a perfect square, and that's something I'm even worse at than folding origami.

To Support Elephant Welfare
World Wildlife Fund
World Society for the Protection of Animals
Elephant sanctuaries (this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information on a number of sanctuaries around the world)
Performing Animal Welfare Society

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