Book Review: ‘Origami Fun and Games’ by Marc Kirschenbaum

Edited by Jane Rosemarin

How important is a title? “Origami Fun and Games” (Fit to Print Publishing, 2020) makes two obvious promises, but once you open the book, you realize things are more obscure.

This book is not focused on games. You would expect to see a lot of action models, but there are only five among the 20 models. “Fun” also gives the impression that the models are easy and simple to fold. This is not the case for the second part of the book.

So what about the fun factor? Is it a theme in the book, or does the author mean the models are fun to fold? It seems the connection to fun is more about the spirit of the objects. But this connection is quite loose. Would you say a guitar, a pencil, a tent, a skier and a TV set represent fun or games?

Having said that, let’s put it aside and try to measure the book by the main criterion: Is this a good collection of models that you will enjoy folding?

The Technicalities

  • Number of pages: 126
  • Number of diagram pages: 116
  • Number of models: 20
  • Language: English
  • Size: 8 by 10 inches
  • Paper Quality: Medium

The models are presented in order of difficulty, from simple to near-complex, but there is no indication of the difficulty level.

The length of the process is a good indicator. Simple models range from 13 to 22 steps, and the most complex model reaches 82 steps.

The book gets directly to the folding, offering only a one-page introduction and four pages of symbols. The symbols are clear and easy to understand, following the standard of Marc’s previous books.

At the end of the book, you will find a guide that recommends paper sizes and shows the size of the finished model relative to the starting square.

Folding

This is the second book written by Marc that I have reviewed. This is important to note because once you get to know his style, you know what to expect.

Contrary to what the title implies, this book is not about fun.

In truth, at some point, you begin to feel a “no mercy” attitude in the models. Folders will need to manage reverse folds while closed-sinking, or inside-reverse folds with too many layers. These challenging parts are my favorites, as they push you to better understand the folding process and improve your skill.

I love action models. I folded all five included in the book, and I wish there were more. Marc has a unique design style (you can call it old fashioned) that uses the 22.5-degree angle instead of the more common box pleating, to achieve a rectangular design, as in the Matchbox or the Pencil.

For the second and more complex part of the book, paper choice is critical. Using kami to get the color change would be a mistake. The right paper will be a thin, yet strong, duo-color paper. Unfortunately, such papers are not widely available.

Diagrams

For the most part, the diagrams are clear and concise — but there are a few mistakes, including missing crease lines, that an editor should have reviewed and corrected.

Personally, I do not like the style of arrows used in the book. They fail to show the exact starting- and ending-points of key maneuvers and they give you only a general idea of where to take the flap. I prefer the point of the arrow to show exactly where I need to place the starting point.

Sample Image
A page of instructions illustrating the arrow style.

Some of the steps could have used enlargements to allow folders to see small details. I actually pinched out the page (of my digital copy) to enlarge it, but that didn’t work.

Sailboat

Sailboat folded by Ilan Garibi.

The first model is simple-to-intermediate. Everything goes well, without any problems. The result is elegant.

Matryoshka

Matryoshka folded by Ilan Garibi.

Yet another simple model that folds well.

Pencil

Pencil folded by Ilan Garibi.

The model is promising, and it radiates simplicity, until you start to fold it. The fold lines are all slanted and are not intuitive, so you have to look carefully to see what goes where.

Puddle Jumper

Puddle Jumper folded by Ilan Garibi.

This is the first action model in the book. It is simple to fold, and it works quite well.

Tennis Racket

Tennis Racket folded by Ilan Garibi.

There is something I call brute-force design. This model is a good example of the term:

The process flows most of the way — until you hit an inside-reverse fold with 28 layers of paper. Twenty-eight!

The result is a very thick handle that fits the model quite well. To top it all off, there is a nice lock at the end.

The Baker

The Baker folded by Marc Kirschenbaum.

This is a classic flat-foldable design, and as such it will take an average folder about ten minutes to finish without any obstacles along the way. It is a fun model, just as promised.

Matchbox

Matchbox folded by Marc Kirschenbaum.

What a jump! I skipped seven models and landed in deep waters.

This is not a simple model. The Matchbox features 48 steps, with some acrobatic maneuvers that provide the mechanism that allows the inner tray to be pulled in and out. It is the only matchbox model I know that has this feature. Really cool!

But to get there, you have to work hard. There are closed-sink folds and multi-layer manipulations along the way. For sure, kami is not the right paper for the task.

Jack-in-the-Box

Jack-in-the-Box folded by Ilan Garibi.

Another high-intermediate model, based on a 22.5-degree angle, although this model features a box at the end.

Some of the diagrams are drawn from an isometric point of view, to show the 3D steps. These are clear and concise. The final model is more for a static presentation since the spring is attached to the side of the box and doesn’t automatically pop up when the box is opened.

Fluffy (Teddy Bear)

Fluffy folded by Ilan Garibi.

This is a high-intermediate to near-complex model. With 82 steps, it’s the longest model in the book. You have to be accurate if you want to have a nice color-change for the paws, ears and eyes.

Conclusion

I have mixed feelings about this book.

The collection of models is, to be honest, only loosely connected to the title. This causes a contradiction between what the title promises and the book’s content. There are not enough games, and the fun factor isn’t the focal point of the folding process.

The first part is simple, with some cool models, like the Pencil and the Baker.

The second part is far more difficult, with acrobatic maneuvers that novice folders will have a hard time going through. This may be the case because the diagrams do not always show those steps clearly enough.

Having said that, the second part is where you find gems like the Matchbox and Fluffy.

If you do not know Marc’s style, this is a good book to get to know him as a designer. You have it all here, from simple designs to one that asks you to do acrobatic maneuvers with your fingers before you can proudly put the finished model on your shelf!

Bottom line: nice to have.

On Sept. 16, the article was modified to indicate that a paper-size guide can be found at the end of the book.