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Origami Artist's Secrets: Aleksandr Timoshik

Aleksandr Who?

Three years ago he was just a Russian guy who likes to fold. Today, he is the champion of the 2018 IOIO—VIII International Origami Internet Olympiad. Although it has no official recognition, for many folders this is the ultimate challenge in the origami world. One receives 11 missions. Ten missions are to fold the diagrams supplied, and the last one is to create your own model according to the selected theme. Aleksandr won first place in this competition and received a gold medal!

This column is usually dedicated to creators or designers, but this time I felt I had to get my answers from the performer and not the composer. I believe that origami can be used by artists to express themselves without being the creator of the model. Aleksandr is such an artist, and his answers will shed some light on the process he went through from just folding to an artistic level.

Who is Alexander Timoshik?

Hi, my name is Aleksandr, and I am a surveyor from Russia. I am married, have two children, a boy (9 years old) and a girl (4 years old). My hobbies are mainly related to sports and an active lifestyle––snowboarding in winter and mountain biking in summer, basketball and fishing all year round.

In our local spot, I am also known as a designer and builder of bicycle trails for extreme mountain biking, and even took a modest part in organizing and conducting the Russian Cycling Championship in the discipline of Cross-country. In the past, I was pretty good at dirt jumping and freeriding on mountain bike.

Origami and You

What is origami to you? Why are you interested in origami? What was your first model to fold and when? Do you create models as well? If so, what was the first model you created? Can you say origami changed your life in anyway, or is it just a hobby? How many hours do you fold a week? When did you start to participate in the IOIO?

Origami for me is also one of the hobbies. Probably this is a way to express that creative part of me. When I began to ride a bike, from the very beginning it was more interesting for me to build jumps and tracks than to jump them. I put my soul into my constructions, gave myself completely to them. Now, due to age, responsibility and other reasons, I ride my bike less frequently and more carefully, so the creative part inside me found its splash in origami.

I first became interested in origami 10-12 years ago, when I saw a comrade folding a Robert Lang horse for his daughter. I searched the Internet, found many different diagrams and began to study the symbols and basic folds. After that, for several years, I folded everything I could find that was freely accessible on the Internet. I looked at complex models as something incredible and incomprehensible that I did not even dare to try.

Several years later, I had a desire to design my own models. The first was a heron. It seems I just had a dream about how to fold the sheet to get the finished model.

The heron, my first design.

Later, I dreamed of a few more models, and I made 10 pieces at random, simply folding a sheet of paper and not knowing where it would lead. Naturally, those models were quite simple, and I do not exclude that other authors could have similar models. I sketched diagrams in a notebook and took a new piece of paper. Then there was a break of several years, during which I had a second child, and the first child sat on the bike.

I accidentally stumbled upon an origami community on the Internet and decided to show them my models designed several years earlier. From that moment a completely new course of my advancement in this art began! I found new friends, received help in developing my skills, learned how to read patterns, and was introduced to the IOIO. It was 2017––the time of my growth as an origami artist, and, accordingly, the 7th Olympiad was the first for me. I took 5th place in it, becoming the only Russian who was in the top ten. Of course, I was shocked, and it gave me a powerful impetus for further development!

In the last year, I folded something almost every day––in transport, at home in the evenings, when the children go to sleep, and my wife, Mary, does her work. On average, I spend two hours a day on origami.

Your interpretation

I would like to compare your work to that of a pianist, who is going to play the first piano concerto by Brahms. Like him, you choose your emphasis and tempo to present the work through your hands. Comparing your work to other competitors, your interpretation is unique, not only the folding but the location and composition as well.

What is your muse? What drives your work process? Do you see the final model in your head before you start? Are you inspired by the paper you choose for the task? Do you have a (non-origami) favorite artist? A favorite art piece? Are you trying to develop your own style of interpretation?

I do not even know what to say here. I try to give each of my work an individuality, breathe life into it, convey some kind of emotion to it. Sometimes it turns out a little better, sometimes worse. When I hear the word "art", first of all I relate it to painting. However, I cannot single out any one artist as a favorite. The only thing I can say, probably, is that I prefer landscapes. If it is a forest, then Shishkin, if it is the sea is Aivazovsky, if it is the night and the light it is Kuindzhi.

Own style? Well, of course! Each person has his own style, as everyone has a different handwriting!

What do you fold?

It's hard to determine your preferences from your flickr page, which you created only two years ago. Nevertheless, bugs were the dominant genre. But now you have moved beyond bugs. Do you have a favorite designer? A favorite model to fold? What challenges you more: a simple model with a lot of freedom to shape, or a complex one, where every claw has to be in the right place?

Yes, I got to flickr in my new era, which I mentioned above. I was fond of insects from my childhood, collecting beetles and butterflies, raising butterflies from caterpillars. The Insect Encyclopedia was my reference book as a child. Therefore, the biggest role in the development of my art was played, of course, by Robert J. Lang, with his fantastic insects. The first origami books I bought were Lang's books and the models from these books I folded over and over again.

As for the challenge, I can’t say for sure, sometimes there is something that I really want to fold at any cost, such a model for me was the Russian hut by Andrei Ermakov, for which I thank him personally. But I still feel myself in a certain stratum where I still have to learn and learn and is very far from super complex models.

Russian hut by Andrey Ermakov I folded for IOIO 2017.

How do you work?

Your technical skill is superb. How many years have you been folding seriously? Your flickr page shows a very steep learning curve. Is it truly so? How do you start? How many drafts you need before you are satisfied? How do you approach the shaping phase? Do you use tools? Wet folding?

Yes, this is true, two years of tangible progress, for myself it is amazing and very nice. Perhaps the reason is that before I did not know about different types of paper and their possibilities. I folded everything from ordinary origami paper sold in sets and was limited by the capabilities of this paper. But even with kami, for the first time I tried using tweezers and clamps and shaping models with water and thread. For a long time, I considered the use of glue to be unacceptable, but now sometimes I use glue to fix certain elements and give the model some posture and emotion. I never make drafts. Immediately I take the paper from which I want to fold the model, and if something does not work, just start anew. But, most often, I finish the model. I don’t like to stop in the middle of the process. Some people have unfinished bases lying around for several years. I do not.

Robert Lang's tarantula folded with craft paper, shaped with water and thread

Your materials

What papers do you usually use? Why? Do you prepare them yourself? How do you decide what paper to choose? Which is your favorite paper for animals? For insects? For tessellations?

After I learned about the existence of special origami papers, I decided to try various options, choosing from the available ones. I dismissed tracing paper right away. Despite the fact that it is thin, durable and keeps the reverse folds well, it is, in my opinion, only for tessellations. Animals and insects from tracing paper are soulless, even with some incredible shaping. There are exceptions, of course, but in general this is the case. Tissue paper deserves special attention and occupies most of the space in my arsenal. Single or double for insects, in gluing with other types of paper for anything–this is the main source of material and color variety for my models. The only pity is that over time, this paper loses its color and models deteriorate, even under a layer of varnish. Kraft is an excellent material that is suitable for a huge number of models. A large range of density and thickness, the richness of color solutions, while accessibility and low price are the materials that I would advise every origamist to have. Rice/mulberry/silk paper––fibrous materials that you begin to work with after a special preparatory treatment. Preparation also requires certain skills and abilities, and also takes time, but the result at the same time justifies all investments––this paper will give you incredible pleasure when folding and shaping your models, and most importantly, breathe life and character into them! Here are some examples from my flickr page: Winged Kirin by Satoshi Kamiya; Turkey by Katsuta Kyohei; Western Dragon 3.0 by Shuki Sat0; Ancient Dragons.

Here are models I folded with rice paper: Giant Grouper by Kashiwamura Takuro and Gnomo by Eric Joisel.

Mary bought me a set of bamboo paper for calligraphy just to sample, seeing the appropriate parameters on the size and density of the sheet. It certainly has its drawbacks––it is not very durable and has the usual slightly yellowish color, but the models from it, I think, are very beautiful and lively. I liked it very much! More expensive types of paper, as well as handmade paper, I have not tried. Everything has its time. But, as you see, with factory paper you can achieve good results if you are not talking about super-complex models.

Vinegaroon by Kota Imai folded with double tissue paper

Left: Butterfly by Do Anh Tu folded with double tissue paper. Right: Owl by Katsuta Kyohei folded with rice paper

Left: Lobo by Juan Pedro Rubio folded with bamboo paper. Right: Greater Kudu by Shuki Kato folded with craft paper.

Your message

Do you have a motto in your life? Is origami part of that motto? Is there a message in your handiwork?

The motto––I do not have any clearly formulated motto, or a clear plan of action and a clear understanding of my future. Taking into account some features of our life, it is generally difficult to think about something far in advance. I only know for sure that in life you need to do exactly those things that bring you pleasure.

Which model would you like to highlight?

It will probably be my “Try to find me” model, made for IOIO-2018. I like it very much, since the theme of the forest has been close to me since childhood, and in general, nature plays a big role in my life.

Try and find me.

The question I didn’t ask

Is there one last question I should have asked? Ask yourself, but don’t answer. Just let us know what is the question.

There can be only one question for me. What will happen next? in a month, in a year, in 10 years, perhaps. You will not find the answer to this question in Google.

Name Aleksandr Timoshik
Place of residence Moscow region, Russia
Profession Surveyor, head of engineering survey department
Email timoshik [at] mail.ru
Website https://www.flickr.com/photos/155086678@N03/

In closing, here is a moth designed by Aleksandr for you to fold.

Click on photo for diagrams.