Editor’s note: Valentina Minayeva is an economic forecaster for the government pension fund of the Lugansk People’s Republic, a state that declared independence from Ukraine in 2014. Her brilliant kusudama designs came to the attention of Laura Rozenberg, the editor of The Paper, OrigamiUSA’s print magazine, and you can find more photos of Valentina’s work as well as diagrams for the Anchor kusudama in the Spring 2021 issue, which was published on March 1. Scroll down to the end of this article for diagrams of Valentina’s Olympus kusudama.
Q Who is Valentina Minayeva? Please tell me in five sentences what I should know about you.
A I love modular origami. I have been passionate about kusudamаs for 11 years, but I am constantly improving my art skills. I easily switch from one type of creativity to another; I also like to draw, and I spend a lot of time knitting. I also read a lot. While doing origami, I’ve come to know many friends who share my passion.
Q What does origami mean to you? Why are you interested in origami? What was the first model you folded, and when? What was the first model you created? Was it a star or a bird? What drove you to start creating your own work? Can you say origami changed your life in any way, or is it just a hobby?
A Origami for me is both a hobby and an integral part of my life. I am always looking for new ideas, often experimenting with paper. I like to combine incongruous elements. I like to build models from asymmetrical units — this type of kusudama is especially attractive to me. I always have a stack of cut paper of different sizes on hand. I fold paper all the time: at home, at work, in transport, at boring seminars. I come up with new works every day, but not all of them are worthy of attention.
The first kusudama I folded was Morning Dew by Makoto Yamaguchi. It was this kusudama that sparked my interest in modular origami. The first model I created was a twirled spike. This is a simple model with a double-sided effect.
I did not specifically seek to create something of my own. I folded numerous models by other designers. Once you understand the principles of connecting modules, the purpose of symmetry, the types of polyhedra and the importance of a strong, glueless assembly, you can come up with something new yourself. And sometimes interesting models turn out.
Q What is your muse? What drives your creative process? Do you fold other people’s models? If so, do you have a favorite designer? A favorite artist? What brings you to the table to find a new model?
A I am a person who can easily get carried away. If I see an interesting model on some site, then I suspend all my current tasks and start folding. Sometimes I want to embody what I see in life or nature in my work. For example, lately I have been attracted by spiral shapes and corrugation. It is these elements that appear more and more often in my work. The work of my origami friends can inspire me to create a new model. I think other origami artists’ interest in my work can also serve as an incentive to create new models.
I often fold kusudamas from other designers. I cannot single out anyone who I like more than others. I admire equally the talent and skill of both Russian-speaking and foreign designers of kusudamas.
Q What do you create? It is very clear what your preferences are. It’s all about kusudamas. Why do you prefer this field? Have you tried your hand with other genres? What would happen if I forced you to create a dog? or a flat star? Do you feel new designs are waiting out there or are we all re-finding the same models?
A In origami, I prefer kusudamas because modular origami opens up endless possibilities and variability. You can combine contrasting colors, make flat or volumetric kusudama models, or come up with amazing geometric ornaments or beautiful flower petals. Most of all, it is surprising that many small units of the same type can firmly adhere to each other without glue and create unthinkable structures of different shapes and sizes, like a child’s construction set.
I also like other types of paper art such as tessellations and classic origami from a single sheet of paper. It may sound immodest, but I think that I can create models in these areas too. Of course, the creative process may take more time and patience, but I think that I can create both a star and an animal figure out of paper. This already happened when I participated in the International Origami Internet Olympiad.
I think that as a designer I still have many unrealized ideas and models. Sometimes I come up with variations for my old kusudamas, but I try to make them radically different from the original model.
Q How do you create? What is your creative process? Do you start with a plan in your head to follow a design you envisioned, or is it doodling that helps you find a new pattern? How do you start a new model? Do you try to improve a lock or the color change, or do you just leave it after the first try?
A It is difficult to say unequivocally how a new model is invented. For me, it starts with creating a mental image of what the kusudama should look like. I imagine whether it will be something flat or voluminous, a curler or a flower with petals. And only then do I fold the paper in an attempt to recreate the conceived image, pattern or shape and figure out what paper ratio would be best.
After creating the main decorative part of the unit, I see how to make the modules connect from the remaining tabs. It might be that to create a stronger lock, it is necessary to lengthen the original paper size. If a kusudama holds together weakly without glue, I try to improve or alter the attachment or significantly change the unit. Before assembling the modules, I try to think over which paper is suitable in terms of density or color. I save the newly created module as a crease pattern or draw the assembly steps as a freehand diagram.
Q What papers do you usually use? Why? How do you decide? How do you choose your color combinations? Do you have a favorite kami brand?
A There is a limited selection of paper in my city. I mainly use wrapping paper rolls and kraft paper. Sometimes I fold from colored A4 copy paper. I rarely fold from coated paper. I almost never use kami, as it doesn’t suit me that this paper is pre-cut to a certain size.
It is important to remember that if I am folding a kusudama with a geometric pattern, or modular flowers, then solid paper with a different color on each side is more suitable. If you use paper with a pattern, then it is better to choose a pattern with a small design, since the modules are small in size. In order not to alter the kusudama modules in the end, all these nuances must be thought out in advance. The combination of contrasting colors looks spectacular and expressive when assembling multi-module structures of 90 units and more. In this case, I use leftover scraps of paper of different colors.
Q Do you have a motto in your life? Is origami part of that motto? Is there a message in your handwork?
A It is important for me to do something that brings me joy and pleasure. As long as the kusudamas put me in a good mood, I will be doing this artform.
Q I am sure there is one model of yours that you would like to point out to us. Which one is it; why did you choose it?
A I would like to highlight my Taj Mahal, created in 2013. It is easy to assemble, folded from a square and put together without glue. Intricate, layered interweaving of folds creates a beautiful pattern in the form of large flat stars on the surface. The model uses both sides of the paper. I love kusudamas with geometric patterns. If you fold this kusudama in the form of a dodecahedron, then it has a round shape. It looks harmonious. The sphere has a complete feeling, and it is pleasant to twirl it in your hands.
Q Is there one last question I should have asked? Ask yourself, but don’t answer. Just let us know what the question is.
A Can my creativity and my origami work have a positive impact on other origami artists and bring goodness to the people around me?