Friday, 13 June 2008


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John Montroll is a well-known figure in contemporary origami. He has published numerous themed collections of original designs. In the days when internet shopping was still in its infancy and sourcing origami manuals was extremely difficult, his books were always readily available and a good next step for those who were ready to move on from traditional models.

Throughout the 1990s, Montroll maintained a frenetic work rate. At one point it looked like he wouldn’t rest until he had created a paper facsimile of every member of the animal kingdom. In recent years he has slowed down. In his absence origami has moved on and his work has been overshadowed by more sophisticated designs, leaving him slightly undervalued.

While some of his models are dated, Montroll, in his prime, was a tireless innovator of the art. Many of the techniques he developed have entered into the repertoire of the modern origami designer and have been used as the foundations for more complex pieces.

Montroll’s best designs are a joy to fold and possess a wonderful, transparently mathematical logic. They don’t require enormous sheets of paper and can generally be folded fluidly, with none of the stopping and starting and fervent head-scratching that accompanies more complex designs.

This dromedary, while slightly angular, has aged very well. The face neck have a lot of character. Many years ago in the Yemen Republic I used to fold it for the tribesman I met and occasionally travelled with. It made me a lot of friends.

Saturday, 7 June 2008


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Of all the master paper folders, the Frenchman, Eric Joisel, is perhaps the most expressive and, dare I say, artistic in his approach. You can find a gallery of his animal models here.

It’s very clear when you look at his Snail or his Pangolin (spiny anteater) that he has a firm grasp of the complex geometry that underpins modern origami. At heart though, Eric’s creations are pieces of sculpture, infused with soul and personality. A fascinating insight into how he goes about designing his astonishing human figures can be found on his website here. If you feel up to it, and have at your disposal a robust sheet of paper and three hours to spare, you can have a go at making his Baby Hedgehog.

Pictured above is my first attempt at folding Eric Joisel’s fish. It’s an economic design that absorbs very little of the paper into the interior of the model. I started with a nine inch square and finished with a model just under 6 inches long.

I shaped the body by massaging a dilute solution of wallpaper paste into the paper and then holding it in place while it dried. I seem to have spent much of the past couple of days walking around the house with various parts of this fish pinched my thumb and forefinger. The eyes were formed by dipping the base of a pen cap into a saucer of water and then pressing it firmly against the paper.