The Art of Folding and Unfolding

The Art of Folding and Unfolding

November is a time of year when we instinctively turn our attention inwards.  In the gust of cold we’ve had here in Seattle, people across the city are finding warmth and comfort in meditative activities, intimate community, and moments of peace and quiet.  In the theme of this autumnal introspection, Moo-Young set up our monthly Art Walk installation to weave together our individual meditations. Terry Allen, the event coordinator for the Puget Area Paperfolding Enthusiasts Roundtable (PAPER,) is an origami artist and organizer.  She helped us facilitate a gentle social experiment for this installation, and the result is ongoing. 

From the ceiling of the concept shop, we’ve hung a large hand-tied net.  Before the year is over, this net will be brimming with pieces of origami folded by… you!  As the crowds flowed in and out on the night of our Capitol Hill Art Walk, we asked people to write down a hope or dream for the year to come.  Then, in a quick lesson, we taught them how to fold that peace of paper containing the wish into a simple star box. The net has steadily been amassing these inscribed star boxes ever since, and will continue to fill until the end of 2018.

Some people are shy at first, whether about sharing their wishes or about their competency in folding the box.  To the latter fear, Terry Allen has some words of encouragement: “The incredible joy of origami is available to the least experienced folder. Be Brave, try it, rip the paper, and try again, Enjoy!”  We love Allen’s philosophy on origami, because she sees in it an everyday magic that can be wielded by anyone. And we promise - if you can assemble IKEA furniture, or learn the simple steps of the Electric Slide, then you can certainly work your way through the star box, fold by fold, with a little guidance and patience.

The slow build of our installation has been incredible to watch, as well as the meditative, focused moments that all our participants have taken.  But you probably know us well enough to know that we are always thinking one step into the future, and we have plans for our big net of colorful stars.  In the new year, we will transform the entire piece. We will unfold the anonymous hopes and benedictions, and stitch the creased paper into a giant quilt.  The patchwork will replace the net of disparate, hidden thoughts, and instead will show the aspirations of this community as a unified, interconnected body. We can’t wait to see what we create together, and to release the folded, bound energy into the ether.  This is our Moo-Young spin on the everyday magic of origami; if you want to see positive change in the world around you, then manifest that dream! Write it down, cast a spell, and watch it spill into the universe. Together, all of our dreams and positive thoughts become stronger and stronger. 

In the meantime, we’d love to have your participation.  Stop by, say hello, and take a quiet, introverted moment to learn a new, easy skill and cast your wish into the net.

We would also like to share a little bit more about Terry Allen with you.  We could not have embarked on this project without her help and guidance. Joy had the pleasure of speaking with Allen about her relationship to origami, and here’s what she had to say:

Joy: What are your thoughts when you start to (create) fold a piece?

Terry Allen: I do not design origami models, I fold and teach. When I start folding I consider the texture and temperature of the paper. Is the surface cool and crisp or the soft warm fibers of handmade paper? How does the paper sound as I make the first crease? Some papers are old friends, I know the intended model will work well with this paper.

J: What about origami do you love?

TA: I love that origami is ephemeral. Folding and singing feel the same to me, the joy of the process is in the action of folding. As our fingers move the paper through the folding pattern there is energy, rhythm, repeated melodies, and we have lovely shaped piece of paper. I give away all my folded models, “here I sang this song for you, listen for a while and let it go, it’s recyclable, no clutter, not dusting, no worries, just a gift.”

J: What is your best memory involving origami?  

TA: I was fortunate enough to visit the The Nitobe Memorial Garden in British Columbia during an origami convention with a small group of folders and designers.   Sok Song, a lovely person and origami designer, sat down with me in the garden and taught me a model while the sun tossed the fall colors across the water. I am sure it took just a few minutes, but the peace of that moment still resonates with me when I fold his designs.

J: One fact about origami you’d like to share?

TA: In Western culture we often exclusively associated the history of origami with Japan.  It is important to recognize Japan’s unique contribution to origami, however many countries around the world have independent and sophisticated paper folding traditions.

J: Which design do you have the most fun folding?

TA: A simple pocket posy, the color of the flower is folded inside and at the end it blossoms.

J: One more story for us?

TA: I was teaching origami to a young boy and before we started he was extremely intent on knowing which paper knew how to be a frog or a dragonfly or a swan.   I folded one unique model after another trying to convince him that any piece of paper could be anything. He finally conceded that my brain was talking to the paper and would only try if I told the paper to be a frog before he folded it.

Terry is fascinated by the nature of origami that is both universal neutral and intensely complex. She is driven by what she feels it the endless capacity of origami to build relationships. Teaching origami is an activity that transcends language, cultural, and skill barriers.  Over the past eleven years Terry has served as the event coordinator for the Puget Area Paperfolding Enthusiasts Roundtable (PAPER.) Her accomplishments include a leadership role hosting the 2011 Pacific Coast Origami Conference and facilitating the Structural Engineers Foundation of Washington 2017 Fall Forum. ORIGAMI:  Inspiration in Science, Design, and Structures.

In addition to teaching at origami conference in Canada and the Western United States, Terry has committed herself to teaching throughout the Northwest including public libraries and elementary schools. She has designed an after school program called Origami for Young Adults specifically to introduce young athletes the art of origami. In 2016 and 2017 she was invited to teach origami at Math Day at the University of Washington.

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