Edited by Robert J. Lang

Abstract: The realm of model names in origami is complex, yet the origami community doesn't often give it the importance it deserves. This article discusses the matter through particular cases, personal experiences, and conversations with other origamists, supporting some arguments with articles about artwork titles. Its main findings are: There's a relationship between model names and the intention of the creator—or the public, in the case of traditional models. That intention can be linked to the relationship between the model, its name, and its referent (in figurative and geometric origami) or class (in practical origami). Three practices by some segments of the origami community hinder the names' capacity to accomplish their intention. The article concludes: creators should understand the depth behind naming their models, other origamists must respect model names, and that respect can help origami's recognition by the general public.

The title of the article [1] is my [2] origami take on the rhetorical question Juliet posed, convincing herself that if Romeo would stop being a Montague—being just a name—she would be free to love him (Shakespeare, n.d., pp. 40, 41). In a related case, Eco (1984, p. 6) decided to call his most famous novel The Name of the Rose. It's a masterpiece! I read and loved the book; there's so much to it that any title would be incapable of doing justice to its complexity. As I understand it, when pondering what to call his masterpiece Eco considered the name The Abbey of the Crime, but what about all the stories that are entwined in the book? The crime title would reduce it to just another detective story. He chose the least descriptive name so it wouldn't get in the way of the narrative.

Names are pretty much a big deal; that's also the case in origami. I once tried to create a one-fold model; when I asked what it was, people gave different answers like a heart, an owl, and a cobra head (Gerardo, November 23, 2012). That model on its own doesn't determine what it is; it needs a name to be what I had intended it to be. By the way, it's a cobra head (Figure 1).

Figure 1. A cobra head.

General Ideas

Let's take a look at names in traditional origami. Many of them are very descriptive, letting us know what they are: a flapping bird, jumping frog, star box… I personally make an effort to name my models the same way. Some names give us a glance into their origins as in the case of the masu box. A masu is a type of wooden box that was used in Japan (in the past) in order to measure a specific amount of rice, and is currently used to drink sake (Ohashi, n.d., para. 1, 2). In other cases, the original name of a model is a mystery, like in the case of the fortune teller AKA salt cellar. In Spanish, the model has many different names; a couple of years ago Torres (May 19, 2012) tried to find them all. She was able to make a list of fifteen on her blog. An interesting case to mention is the Waterbomb. According to David Lister (1996, para. 4), this is the most popular name in the West, suggested use as an one-time toy to get other people wet, but in Japan it's especially known as "ball" or "balloon" (Lister, 1996, para. 14), which instead is used mainly as a hanging decoration. Here we see a relation between the name and the public's intention. I'll explain further about that in the next paragraph.

Now let's think about the first contact an observer can have with an origami model. It can be directly with the fold, as when you find a folded model in an exhibit without any artwork labels (which happens a lot more often than I wish to admit). The first contact can also be with only the name, as when one is reading about origami on the web and finds a model being mentioned without any pictures. Finally, it can be with both the fold and the name of the model, as in an exhibit with artwork labels and web galleries with pictures and names, to mention just two examples. There's a big difference between these scenarios: without the name, a fold can be many things, just like a child who sees a race car when looking at a cardboard box. The name takes us closer to the intention of its creator or, at least, the public's intention—especially in the case of traditional origami. As a creator, I personally consider that it's very important for the observer to see what I created as I intended. So for example, the Trihedron Cubic Box (Figure 2) is supposed to be seen as a box and used as such, even though it could also be seen as an artistic representation of a cube (Gerardo, June 2, 2012).

Figure 2: A fold of Trihedron Cubic Box.

In a similar vein, Fisher (as cited by Franklin, 1988, p. 157) saw artwork titles [3] as guides for interpretation serving a hermeneutical function, and Levinson (September 1985, p. 30)—using music as an example—explained how titles guide perception of the stimuli we are exposed to through the work.

Reference and Origami

There's also much to say about model names and the types of models, particularly figurative, geometric, and practical models. For that, we'll have to mention the referent; I'm talking about the object referred to by the model (read the definition of "symbol" and "symbolism" in Diccionario de Filosofia by Ferrater Mora). This is easier to understand in figurative origami; an origami cat is precisely that because the folded paper evokes the real living feline creature. In geometric origami—for example in modular origami—their referents (geometrical shapes) are abstract representations. Different objects from the real world can resemble a particular shape, like the octagonal shape of a stop sign or the spherical shape of a Ping-Pong ball. The abstract object is their referent [4].

In both cases (geometric and figurative origami), I consider we have succeeded in creating a new model when the fold—without the name—is enough to evoke the referent [5]. One thing is to show people your new model and receive answers along the lines of: "What a cool looking lion!", "It looks like a star," or even "Ugh… your angel is ugly as hell;" despite the observer's personal thoughts the referent is never put in question. Another thing is to show people your model and getting the following response: "What is that?" You are then obligated to confess its referent; if the model itself isn't enough to evoke the object, then it's possible that your model still needs work [6]. You can assess your own "figurative" (including geometric) model by showing it to different observers omitting the name and wait and see if they are able to make out the referent through the model. As a side note, I believe this tends to be easier to accomplish with geometric rather than with figurative origami; real-life and even made up objects and creatures are more complex than geometric shapes.

In 2010, I (Gerardo, June 28, 2011) created Another Toilet (Figure 3). On one occasion—when a little friend of mine had recently had her third birthday—she took the origami toilet and played with it, placing it close to her butt and making a shhh sound with her mouth, imitating peeing. You can't get a better assessment than that! Practically a baby, she could have seen anything through that fold or even nothing at all—at least nothing of interest to her. Despite that, what she saw and acknowledged was what I intended others to see through my model: a common toilet. Bear in mind what I had mentioned before about the intention of the creator.

Figure 3: A fold of Another Toilet.

I have this suspicion regarding all of this: complex origami (in terms of very detailed models) has become increasingly popular with time partly because of the assessment of the model's referentiality. It's almost impossible to point to a well-folded Díaz's (2006, pp. 147-157) Hippocampus (Figure 4) and ask what it is; it has everything to look like the mythological creature. Same thing goes with models like Lang's (2003, pp. 489-518) Black Forest Cuckoo Clock (Figure 5), Kamiya's (2010, pp. 62-64) Ryūjin—especially version 3.5 (Figure 6)—and many other complex models. With them, origamists have the best chance of communicating successfully with the observers. The fold is shouting what the model is and the observers are hearing it loud and clear. Although in these examples, and some other, the observer might not know the corresponding referent; I didn't know who Ryūjin was until I read about him as I prepared this article. Related to this referential clarity, complex origami has allowed an increasing specificity of its referents; instead of representing a generic beetle, you can represent a concrete species. These are very good reasons to love and keep on exploring and expanding complex origami.

Figure 4: Andrés Lozano's fold of Díaz's Hippocampus.

Figure 5: Atilla Yurtkul's fold of Lang's Black Forest Cuckoo Clock.

Figure 6: Tomasz Krawczyk's fold of Kamiya's Ryūjin 3.5.

For now, we've focused particularly on the relationship between the fold of a model and its referent. Let's continue with the relationship between the name of the model and the referent, this time in modern—as in not traditional—origami. In most cases, naming in modern origami follows the pattern of traditional origami; the name describes what the model "is". A bull model is named Bull, and the same thing happens with, for example, the Gryphon, Cross, Heart Crane, Dodecahedron, and Japanese Tree Frog. Some other times, the name does something more than describe models' referents. Peyton (n.d.) named his model Angry Fish (Figure 7) because of its resemblance with the characters from the videogame Angry Birds, aside from being a fish. Naty Nefesh's (July 3, 2013) ring was named Ring of Power and Fortune (Figure 8); there's a story behind that name [7]. -sebl- is just as original with his model naming as he is with his model creation; for example, he named one of them Climb Peaks (Figure 9) instead of Frog Holding on to a Leaf since that's exactly what it resembles (Limet, 2014, pp. 86-90). A curious situation happens with some fan art models; when their diagrams are published in a magazine or book, they have a totally different name from the subject they're referencing due to trademark issues. When successfully resembling the trademarked subject, they become a sort of inside joke: we are all being told that they represent something else but we all know what they really represent (Figures 10–12).

Figure 7: Rui Roda's fold of Peyton's Angry Fish.

Figure 8: Rui Roda's fold of Naty Nefesh's Ring of Power and Fortune.

Figure 9: Atilla Yurtkul's fold of -sebl-'s Climb Peaks.

Figure 10: Atilla Yurtkul's fold of Kamiya's Yellow Bird.

Figure 11: Atilla Yurtkul's fold of Gilgado's Prehistoric Squirrel.

Figure 12: En Route to the Observatory and Biplane both by Kirschenbaum. Picture by Daniel Scher.

It's also common to find names that serve as tribute to real people, pets, places… For example, Juliana Star (Figure 13) is a modular model created by Vargas Rodríguez (2011) named after her niece and Alex (Figure 14) is the name of a golden retriever model created by Killeen (blue paper, February 3, 2009) as a tribute to his deceased canine companion. In addition, many of LaFosse's butterflies are models with names in honor of fellow origamists—Such as A Butterfly for Eric Joisel AKA The Joisel (Figure 15) (LaFosse, 2013, pp. 68-70). About this LaFosse (personal communication, July 14, 2015) answered that through the books he was able to express his gratitude with notable origami designers that are longtime acquaintances, friends, and even some places like the studio he shares with Richard L. Alexander. Sometimes when he's creating a new origami butterfly, a particular person is called to mind. Yet, he only dedicates it—through its name—when time passes and he still thinks of that same person each time he folds the same butterfly.

Figure 13: A fold of Vargas Rodríguez's Juliana Star.

Figure 14: Alex by Chad Killeen.

Figure 15: Rui Roda's fold of LaFosse's A Butterfly for Eric Joisel.

Let's now take a look at two cases opposite to what we've talked so far. Let's begin with tessellations. According to Wolfram MathWorld (n.d., para. 1) "a tiling of regular polygons (in two dimensions), polyhedra (three dimensions), or polytopes (n dimensions) is called a tessellation." Now, origami tessellations have been defined as "geometric patterns folded from a single sheet of paper, creating a repeating pattern of shapes from folded pleats and twists." (Gjerde, 2008, p. 2) In most cases, tessellations don't have a specific referent unlike figurative origami—although there are exceptions like Brick Wall by Momotani (1984, p. 23) and Basket Weave by Cooper (2008, pp. 50-53). In that sense it's a similar situation to most kusudamas. How to name them then? For Martínez Pantoja (personal communication, July 10, 2015), his own tessellations arise from the spontaneity and curiosity of seeing what he can get from hexagonal sheets without much technicality, which is why he tries to give them names that are just as spontaneous. He names them using human values or qualities, reminding us of them as we seem to forget them in our everyday lives. Each one represents important elements in his own life, like Peace (Figure 16) regarding his first job as a professional and Friendship (Figure 17) reflecting his friends connected like stars in the firmament.

Figure 16: Peace by Martínez Pantoja.

Figure 17: Friendship by Martínez Pantoja.

Here is the other opposite case: original referents. Coeurjoly creates models that play games with our perception. Many of them combine—through Coeurjoly's imagination—two different referents. With Levinson and Fisher, we had mentioned that titles guide perception and interpretation. The challenge is to enhance the perception games played by the models through the names instead of ending them. Thus, we have Treer, named Ciérbol in Spanish (Figure 18)—maybe a deer maybe a tree (v.coeurjoly7, October 16, 2014)—and Milk & Honey (Figure 19)—perhaps a woman or just her lips (v.coeurjoly7, September 19, 2014)—both by Coeurjoly.

Figure 18: Treer by Coeurjoly.

Figure 19: Milk & Honey by Coeurjoly.

Classes And Origami

Recapitulating, in most cases of figurative and geometric origami, people should recognize the referent by looking at the folded model without needing to know the model's name, and model naming has varied between descriptive and unusual names, sometimes giving tribute through the name. Regarding practical origami, it's quite different from the aforementioned types of models. Figurative origami is about evoking other objects (the referents), but practical origami is about crafting the real objects through folding techniques; an origami lampshade isn't evoking a real lampshade… it is one. In this example the lampshade isn't a referent, it's a class; in a class, different objects share certain attributes that make them what they are (read the definition of "class" in Diccionario de Filosofía by Ferrater Mora). If we look at different lampshade designs—including one made through origami—we'll notice that no two of them are exactly the same and there isn't a particular one that works as a model for the rest. Instead, they all compose the class.

Now the problem is that in many of these cases it's basically impossible for the observer to recognize the class just by looking at the model. For example, one holiday season I folded my Octagonal Case with Blossoming Seal [8] (Figure 20) to cover a gift card for my family; since it had lots of green and red they were convinced it was a Christmas ornament instead of what it actually was—regarding my intention when I originally created it. In practical origami, you can't assess a model by its referentiality. Instead, I suggest assessing it by its efficiency: how well it accomplishes its task. That being the case, the model's name serves a very different purpose; it isn't getting in the way of the model's ability to evoke its referent in an observer. Instead, it guides a user as to how to interact with the model. Remember the issue about the creator's intention and my example regarding the Trihedron Cubic Box? As I had mentioned, I intend people to use that model as a box (its class) despite the fact that it's an uncommon design for one. Let's take a look at another example: Hexahedron by Kahn (1993, pp. 101-103) is almost the same model as Fortune Cookie Box (Figure 21) by LaFosse (2003, p. 64). The box has just one extra step, yet the name has made one a geometric model (evocative) and the other one a practical model (interactive). This can happen to many other geometric models and boxes; being one or the other depends on the name.

Figure 20: A fold of Octagonal Case with Blossoming Seal.

Figure 21: A fold of Kahn's Hexahedron (left) and of LaFosse´s Fortune Cookie Box (right).

Here are two cases contrary to what I've explained about practical models and classes. On one hand, not all useful models are ambiguous without a name; it's very easy to recognize the common box (Caja corriente - common box, July 19, 2010) (Figure 22) as a box without needing the name. On the other hand, there are also mixed models, which are both practical and figurative, for example Swan with Box-like Body (Figure 23) by Juárez Quintero (2014, pp. 5-7). It shares both a class and a referent. In other words, it's one of many boxes but besides that, it resembles a swan. This is also the case of most origami bookmarks. With practical-figurative models, the assessment should be of both efficiency and referentiality.

Figure 22: A fold of the common box.

Figure 23: Rui Roda's fold of Juárez Quintero's Swan with Box-like Body.

More Ideas

Around where I live (Colombia) and in other countries, most folds in convention exhibitions don't include artwork labels. They are just a variety of masterfully crafted folds arranged in tables. This reflects a lack of interest from the folders—and maybe the observers as well (I'm not sure)—regarding the names of the models, not to mention the names of the creators and the folders themselves. Exhibiting a model without its name strips it of the creator's intention as explained before. The relation between the observer and the model is incomplete, since there is no hint as to what is intended for him or her to observe. Levinson (September 1985, p. 33) said about this: "Titles are elements in what is artistically fashioned, and however inconsequential a title may be in a given case, there can never be a justification for excluding it in assessing the total and exact import of a work of art." Here Levinson isn't referring to the same assessment I had mentioned earlier [9]. In an exhibition the name helps the public relate to the different models at a personal level: "I—Gerardo—am falling in love with Graciela Vicente's (Leidygra, July 8, 2011) Rose Candy Jar" (Figure 24) for example. Now, a creator can decide not to give a name to his or her model—I'd say this is more plausible with purely aesthetic models that lack referents. In such a case, the artwork label would typically say Untitled. That way, the observer can know that it was the creator's intention to leave the model unnamed as he or she assesses it.

Figure 24: Eric Madrigal's fold of Vicente's Rose Candy Jar.

On a related subject, I have also noticed around here that it is common for origami instructors—for example during conventions—to change the name of the models created by others. Although this has also happened in some convention books from different countries. For example, the name of the aforementioned Ring of Power and Fortune by Naty Nefesh (July 3, 2013) was changed to simply Ring by the editorial staff of a particular convention book. Regarding all this, Levinson (September 1985, p. 33) acknowledged that "labels which become affixed to a work through an agency other than the artist's may occasionally be amusing, or enlightening, or suggestive of ways of approach, but they have no claim to determining artistic meaning as do bonafide titles." Changing the creator's selected name forces a false identity onto the model. Since people are now convinced that this distorted name is actually the real one, they will keep on spreading it, threatening its identity with oblivion. If you didn't before, I do hope you will from now on use artwork labels when exhibiting your folds and teach—not only how to fold a model—but also its original name, as well as publish diagrams with the names of the models given by the creators.

There's another tendency in Colombia and other Spanish-speaking countries in relation to origami models and their names. I'm not sure if this happens regarding other non-English languages, but many Spanish-speaking origamists do not translate the English names when interacting with other Spanish speakers [10]. The problem is that not too many people understand English in Colombia, and it's probably the same case in the rest of the Spanish-speaking countries. I admit names tend to sound more interesting in English than in Spanish; Masu Stacking Lid (Gerardo, February 26, 2012) sounds much better than Tapa Apiladora Masu. Words in English tend to be shorter, and there's a certain punch to their pronunciation, but if the names aren't understandable, then they can't accomplish their task in relation to the observer, the model, the intention, the referent, the class, and everything discussed so far. About all this Royo Prieto (July 20, 2013) had already proposed that when a title simply describes with common words what the figure represents (often an animal species), not only does it not make sense to keep the name in its original language, it's even counterproductive. However, in cases like the aforementioned Angry Fish, Royo Prieto suggests leaving the name untranslated in order to maintain the intended relation with the smartphone game among Spanish speakers, since in our countries it has been marketed with its untranslated name Angry Birds. Besides that Halle—username Carlos G.S. (July 20, 2013)—advises us to be careful with regionalisms when translating names: -sebl- has a model named Wren, but the word used in Latin America to refer to that bird is also a vulgar way to refer to female genitalia in Spain.

A code comprehensible for the receiver is important for communication; according to Franklin (1988, p. 171), "Titles are messages that accompany the artwork and refer to it and/or provide instructions about how to take it. The code is the language in which the title is phrased (English, French, numbers)." Say I told you my model's name is Dhuhfvu, OK? Now let's say instead that I told you the model's name is Night in the Jungle. Both names tell you something as an observer; the first option probably generates more questions than answers, while the second one establishes a more effective communication between you (as the observer) and me (as the creator). The following anecdote will help illustrate the point: I once went to a convention in a neighboring town. In the hall, a promoter was using a microphone to inform us about the workshops being offered. One of them was for something called "Bull"; not knowing what it meant, he explained to everyone he believed it was one of the dragons from the exhibit. That's the result of not translating the names to the shared language; it isn't always easy to do so, but it is important.

What's worrisome is that not only are many Spanish-speaking origamists not translating the names, some are even naming their own creations in English despite sharing them with other Spanish speakers. Actually, Rodríguez Muñoz (March 2009, p. 297) offers three comments on the use of English—as a foreign language—when naming a work of art and the unwillingness to translate an artwork's name that is in English. First, the artist considers the name as another stroke of his or her work, and as such, must be left untampered. Second, its general use is intended to cast out spectators who don't belong to certain circles nor have certain knowledge. Third, art is becoming a product of mass consumption for which the use of English—as a foreign language—is a current trend. Rodríguez Muñoz (March 2009, p. 298) precisely criticizes the indiscriminate use of English—or any other foreign language—in art exhibitions without taking into account the public targeted for the collection. Therefore, this thoughtless preference can reflect a form of snobbism, obscuring origami from many.

There's one other idea to discuss: naming models can also be a "marketing" strategy, helping to draw more attention to a model, much like naming a new product or a Hollywood movie before it is released. Bear in mind, though, what I mentioned about the first contact between an observer and the model: most people are aware of the title of a movie before watching it—although it's not always the case—but in origami, I believe that knowing the name before seeing the model is the least common scenario. Still, a particular thought about how to title a movie can help name a new model. Prendergast (n.d., para. 18) declares, "A good title always leaves something unanswered." Whether we're talking about film or origami, a creative name keeps the observer thinking and pondering new ideas related to the name. Let's take a look once more at the name of -sebl-'s model Climb Peaks. What does the name imply when what we're looking at is an origami representation of a frog holding on to a leaf? Each time the observer asks this -sebl- is reaffirmed in his decision of naming his model like that instead of the literal Frog Holding on to a Leaf.

I asked both -sebl- and Kirschenbaum about the creative names of some of their models. This was what -sebl- (personal communication, July 6, 2015) thought on the matter:

So for me when I fold a piece of paper I have an idea of an animal, for example a praying mantis. I want to fold something different than the other mantises. I want to say something more in my folds: "the mantis is hidden behind a leaf (Figure 25) and waiting for… what?" You can create a story about this praying mantis and the title helps my story, [it's] my way to breathe life [into the models]... my way to say something.

Figure 25: João Charrua's fold of -sebl-'s Hidden.

Regarding Kirschenbaum (personal communication, July 1, 2015), he considered:

Choosing interesting names is sometimes a challenge for me, but when something clever comes to mind, I like to use it. I typically use descriptive names (nothing wrong with calling an elephant "an elephant"), but especially when a piece feels more like a composition, a thoughtful title seems more appropriate. I might have gotten inspired a bit from Neal Elias, who has lots of fun names for his works. Jeremy Shafer does it as well. (…)Housefly (Figure 26) sounds like a normal name until you realize it depicts a fly with a house on it. Basically a silly pun. (…)Tee Time was a silly pun on the phonetically similar word "tea". It came to me quickly, and sounds much better than Golfer.

Figure 26: Housefly by Kirschenbaum.

Besides this, they both agreed that sometimes a creative name inspires the creation of a new model and not the other way around. -sebl- (personal communication, July 6, 2015) likes to tell stories through his models, so a new name can actually be the perfect beginning of a new story (model). In a similar situation, the name Original Beatle came to Kirschenbaum (personal communication, July 1, 2015) as an idea during a design class with Jeremy Shafer. Since some of his classmates liked it, he decided to create the guitar-playing beetle to bear the title. In addition, Spectacled Bear (Figure 27) was the theme of a design challenge. Wanting to be original, Kirschenbaum decided to reinterpret the name by creating a bear wearing sunglasses.

Figure 27: Spectacled Bear by Kirschenbaum.

In the case of Housefly and Spectacled Bear—both by Kirschenbaum—notice that the names per se aren't creative; there are a couple more models with those very names. Yet what makes them original is the new meaning they acquire when related to referents that are different from the ones expected by the observer. Is a housefly an insect that is commonly found in houses or a fly with the shape of a house? Is a spectacled bear a bear with a face with two different shades of fur or a bear that actually uses glasses?

Through this article, I've offered a general picture of the depth of model names, something that hasn't always been recognized or valued by the origami community at large. Having an idea of its complexity, a creator has better tools to choose carefully the name for each new model. In turn, the community has stronger arguments for treating model naming as a privilege of the respective creator, earned by his or her accomplishment. Since that privilege has been earned, other origamists ought to respect the chosen name instead of omitting or changing it. This level of respect is an expression of the level of importance origami has for us origamists. By treating it with the value it deserves, we can help the general public treat it the same way. Otherwise, if we don't respect the names of our peers' or our own models, then how can we expect the general public to value origami as something more than a childish distraction?


Gay Merrill Gross, Arlene Gorchov, Mark Kennedy, and Matthew Green helped proofread the article. Arlene Gorchov and Mark Kennedy also helped review it partially, and Robert Lang reviewed it entirely.


[1] Toshikazu Kawasaki never named any of his roses "Kawasaki Rose", yet the term is used so often that it has become its most common name.

[2] Origami creator and owner of the collaborative blog Neorigami. E-mail address: gerardo [at] neorigami.com.

[3] I do not intend to participate with this article in the debate between origami and art. In addition, I do not pretend to discuss any differences between the terms "name" and "title" when referring to origami.

[4] Although there actually is a process of abstraction in both examples (figurative and geometric origami), since in most cases a dog model isn't referring to a unique dog, in geometry the referent is an abstract object per se. In other words, when thinking about the referent for the model I wish to create, if I think of a tetrahedron. for example, I'll probably conjure its traditional abstract representation. However, if I think of a dog instead, I'll probably conjure mental images of different dogs with which I've had some type of contact. It's only after I've conjured those mental images that I'll start the abstraction process for a generic origami dog.

[5] According to Mark Kennedy, the founder of the Lehigh Valley Origami Enthusiasts and a founding member of OrigamiUSA, Jonathan Baxter calls this "reading well".

[6] Now, aside from figurative and geometric origami, there's another kind of purely aesthetic models. This kind doesn't pretend to evoke a referent. Its models are totally original, being free of referents, and just pretend to provoke an impression in the observer.

[7] Halle invited a small group of friends to work on a project, which involved creating and putting together a set of models. One of those models was this ring, which didn't have a name back then. Halle then proposed naming it Ring of Power and Fortune in order to connect it with the theme of the project. The project eventually failed and was cancelled, but Naty Nefesh loved the name so she kept it for the ring.

[8] Hasn't been published nor posted.

[9] It might seem that Levinson contradicts my idea of assessing figurative models (including geometric) by checking its referentiality without the name. It isn't so; the assessment I was referring to is by the very creator of a model when judging if a model is ready or not, whereas Levinson is implying the observer—not the artist—that studies a work of art.

[10] Translation is a curious thing in the plastic arts. Some artwork titles are translated while others aren't. Rodríguez Muñoz interprets those trends in her article "Tendencias actuales en la traducción de títulos de obras de arte plástico" ("Current tendencies in the translation of titles of works of plastic art").


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August 13, 2018 - 5:28am Hans Dybkjær

This is a really great article, highlighting why naming is important also for origami models and why it is not a simple matter.

Another example is the old dispute if it is Verdi's vase (somehow indicating he was the designer, where he was actually the one to introduce the knowledge of the traditional model in America) or Chinese vase (indicating either that it looks Chinese or that its origin is from China, or both). Both names have merit, but as you state, convey completely different intents.

As for the many names of the fortune teller, back in 2007 I listed at least eleven names in Danish, http://papirfoldning.dk/da/ugensfold/2007-16.html (my apology that the image links seem to be lost meanwhile).

September 2, 2018 - 8:31am Rui Roda

A very interesting article. Really makes you think about the subject and the importance of the name/title of an art work. I'm tempted to rename some of my designs.

September 4, 2018 - 7:57pm Jose Ignacio Royo

Thank you, Gerardo, for including some of my view in the article.

I still think it's ridiculous to call a model that's published in the magazine of the AEP (or other Spanish-speaking association) "parrot" instead of "loro" or "rabbit" instead of "conejo". Unfortunately, it happens frequently, and people seem to think that the model is better because its name appears in English.

I disagree with you, Gerardo. I think "masu stacking lid" does not sound more interesting than "Tapa apiladora masu". English does not have to sound more interesting than Spanish, Basque or Tagalog. It's a mistake, in my opinion, to think like that and it's a consequence of the "cultural invasion" (I may be going a bit too far here). Unfortunately, English –a language I adore (for the record)–inserts too much of itself in other languages, which end up adopting twists and words in unnatural ways, disregarding its native forms.

As for what my dear Carlos G.S. says, I also disagree. "Chochín"–or wren (troglodytes troglodytes) in English–is a well-known bird. The fact that it has a sexual meaning in Spanish jargon or slang is secondary and totally irrelevant, in my opinion. The words "conejo" (rabbit) and "concha" (shell) are also used as vulgar ways to talk about female genitalia, and that doesn't prevent the publication of figures with those names; that would just be unacceptable! If the name makes someone laugh, that person will be laughing about his or her own ignorance or immaturity. The AEP, and its bulletin–which is its expression–should be above the immaturity of some, and be exemplary in the use of its own language.

All the best.

José Ignacio

September 30, 2018 - 8:30pm joaocharrua

I think it is an interesting article although it does not focus clearly on the true stigma of origami ...
For me origami is not just a representation of things and these things do not necessarily need to be recognizable by what they represent or pretend to represent (this would be the antithesis of art).
Origami can be used as a true art form, if you like, like painting or sculpture in its most varied expressions ...
For example how to represent human emotions and abstract visions of things with origami ... This is a challenge for me.
I see origami as a tool that allows me to explore these ideas in a very particular way ...
I think origami as we know it has not yet come out of the stage of representing concrete things be they figurative or geometric and we usually see the same themes to be repeated over and over again.
I feel that some soul is lacking in origami in this sense, and without which it will be seen as crafts to a more specific public and knower of art.
As for the names:
For me sometimes the name is a complement of the figure, an element that gives you more strength or extol some aspect, and has to make sense with my vision of the piece. I do not get upset when other people give different names to my pieces when they see them ... For me it's even positive because I know that I awoke in them something that made them see the piece through their personal perspective ...
Victor's Milk and Honey is described very simplistically in this article ... This piece is much more than just the representation of what is implicit in it ... Sometimes beyond the title we have to listen to the author to know the true meaning of the name :)
João Charrua

October 22, 2018 - 3:41pm mkosmul

I thought I'd share two stories from my own experience related to this topic.

During Outdoor Origami Meeting, one of the two major origami conventions in Poland, the special guests are always asked to hold a talk on the subject "Is origami art?". When Melina Hermsen (aka Yureiko) had hers, she mentioned how she initially folded some abstract tessellations and some representative tessellations. The latter she gave names which just said what the subject was, but it was only after she started using names which gave the model additional meaning instead (like Fading Memory, https://flic.kr/p/rPEMqE), people started to treat her folding as artwork rather than just craft.

The other story is about my own model, Epiphany III which represents the Star of Bethlehem or a comet. It was lying on a table when my parents came for a visit, and my mother immediately recognized the model as a Christmas tree because she looked at it rotated 90 degrees relative to what I had intended. I realized that the model indeed resembled a Christmas tree with a star on top from this perspective, something I had not been aware of before. The fact that both holidays of Christmas and Epiphany are related and a short time one after the other makes this accidental connection even more interesting.

Lastly, I noticed that there is a minor misspelling in the caption of the Ryujin model - the folder's name should be spelled "Krawczyk" rather than "Krawcsyk".

Anyway, thank you for sharing your thoughts in this interesting article. Personally, I've always been a fan of giving names to origami models, and since my models are usually tessellations, they often fall into the category where finding a name is not quite obvious. On the other hand, I usually do not label models at exhibitions, and the two simple reasons are: a lack of time to prepare the labels, and a lack of space at the exhibitions. When there is too little space to even show all the models I'd like to display, I usually prefer to squeeze in one or two more models rather than labels.

January 24, 2019 - 9:30pm matthew.green

These are very interesting reflections. I'm in the process of cataloging my own original models right now, and I'm having a hard time deciding in some cases. For instance, "Elephant" is descriptive, but generic; I'm trying to find names that have some qualifier or element to make them more memorable. It's especially challenging (and fun) with modular designs that have no referent. I should probably re-read this in a year and see how my own naming of models has worked out...

April 1, 2020 - 11:48am FoldFreak

This was a long, but interesting article. I think I should improve on the naming of my original models, now that I have read this. It never occured to me that naming a model was THAT important!