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Origami Designer's Secrets: Alessandra Lamio

Alessandra in the company of a very special assistant, during a conference at the Italian convention “Origami, Educational Dynamics and Didactics”.

image by Ursula Zich All noncredit images by Alessandra Lamio

“Woland”, a character from the book “The Master and Margarita”.
Model designed for a competition about easy origami from triangles.

My cat Tigrotto playing with Alfredo Giunta's fly, folded in 2010;
this was one of the first experiments with new kinds of paper that I discovered in that period.

Rarely you got the chance to follow a designer from his first step forward. This is the case with Alessandra and me. We met in the 2010 CDO convention, a first for both of us. Then, I was the teacher, and she was an eager student. Five years later, and now I sit to study from her, to fold some of her innovative models. Her story is revealed in her detailed answers to my nine questions.

Who is Alessandra Lamio?? Please tell me in 5 sentences what I must know about you.

Alessandra: I'm an origamist. I say this with the passion of the artisan who has finally found, after many experiments, the medium through which best express himself. I affirm this with the fascination of the enthusiast who continues to find new interesting aspects in the field he loves. Above all I tell this to myself as a wish and a hope and this is very important for me, because I believe that the desires are as important as the facts to define a person. I still have a lot to learn and a lot to do, but I could not imagine a better path.

What is origami to you? Why are you interested in origami? What was your first model to fold? Can you say origami changed your life in anyway, or is it just a hobby?

Alessandra: Origami for me is a very versatile tool that allows me to involve myself in different fields of interest at the same time: it can be used in teaching and as a therapeutic tool; it has an artistic and creative side, when you fold or create new models; it may resemble a logical game when you try to decipher a CP or overcome a difficult step in a diagram; it's a great way to communicate and meet with new people; it allows you to relax and discover your limits, seeking strategies to overcome them.
AI discovered origami as a child, during a summer vacation, when in a flea market close to the beach I found a book containing a strange mix of traditional models, complex models, recipes for soap bubbles, tales... I fell in love at once and for some summers I spent a lot of time folding. In the following years, I ignored this activity, if not occasionally, until in early 2010 I stumbled by chance in a website concerning the therapeutic use of origami. I studied medicine and finding out that there was a link between the two areas that I had always loved was like an epiphany: I began inquiring about it and studying everything I could find on the subject, and in a short time I also discovered the works of artists such as Eric Joisel and the existence of beautiful papers that would allow me to overcome the significant constraints of copy paper that I was accustomed to use with struggle until then.
Beautiful frenzied months followed, leading to the foundation of a cultural association called Educarta (Edu = education and Carta = paper), to spread in my city the use of origami as a teaching and therapeutic tool. Since then my life has changed radically, and 18 months ago I decided to leave the other jobs I was doing and work full time with origami.

What ignited your creation process? What happened that turned you from a passive folder into a creator? Do you fold other people models nowadays? If so, do you have a favorite designer? What is the source for your new ideas?

Alessandro Beber and me with Hideo Komatsu's giraffe,
folded from a 450cm square of Fabriano paper,
180 gsm, for an exhibition in Turin.
Image by Anna Ippolito

Alessandra: I've always been attracted by the creative aspect of origami, but I began creating my own models only after a few lucky encounters during some conventions. At the beginning it was mainly a matter of finding the courage of attempting to create something and not a technical problem, it looked to me as a fascinating thing, but so difficult and far from my capacities. During my first CDO convention, in 2010, I had the luck of meeting you (Ilan Garibi), who taught me the first tessellations and the extremely important concept that errors can be also seen as the beginning of creating something new. Since then, I started experimenting, and a few months later, at the AEP convention in Madrid, in spring 2011, I enjoyed many long discussions with Pasquale D'Auria and Herman Van Goubergen; I wanted to understand how to proceed to create a new model, and for days I pestered them with questions on this topic. In particular, I remember that Herman told me about some aspects he find important in the creation process, and I realize now they became key points for me too: trying not to waste paper, using as few layers as possible, and asking me why I want to create a specific subject, if it's to express an idea or to focus on some aspect of the figure... and if I'm really interested in creating the n-th origami version of a given animal without having my personal point of view to express about it!
Even after I started to create my own models, I still like a lot to fold models by other authors, although now I dedicate less time to it. I usually prefer folding models of completely different kinds than the ones I'm used to create, as complex ones with very long sequences; usually what I like most is the process and the relaxing time spent folding, instead of the finished result, and it often happens that I leave them a few steps before the end, before the final shaping. My fingers especially love the nice and pleasing sequences of some authors as Roman Diaz and Hideo Komatsu; there are many other authors that I love for different reasons, but these are the ones I prefer to fold.
On the other hand, when it comes to creating a new model, it's very rare that it starts from the works of other origamists, rather I usually try to avoid seeing pictures of similar models until the project is completed... this is useful because it forces myself to try out personal solutions to details that were already studied and interpreted by many other authors, but at the same time there's the risk of rediscovering models that were already published long before, especially with tessellations and geometric models.

Fresh is the right word to describe your works. It seems that you manage to surprise us with new concepts. As I go through your flickr page I see a small variety – mainly tessellations and geometric models. Why did you start with those? Do you try to create also figurative models? How do you choose your next designed model?

“Corrugation 5:2”, folded from a 30x70 cm red Stardream paper.

Alessandra: Most of my models published on flickr are geometrical mainly for a banal technical issue: with my small camera and my poor photography skills, I find it easier to obtain a satisfying picture of a model with straight lines, which does not require specific shadows or perspectives to be understandable. And most of all, it's easier for me to fold a rendition which makes me sufficiently satisfied to consider it good-enough-to-be-published.
When thinking about the models I designed in the last few years, on the other hand, I realize that most of them are figurative, but they are mainly unpublished, with some of them shown only to very few close friends.
This kind of models, which are usually less technical and can be composed by just a few folds defining a volume, is the most intimate part of my work, and I have difficulties in showing it to others, also because it's hard for me considering these models tcompleted... each rendition is different, it adds or changes small details, and it's always possible to find another rendition which looks better than the previous one!
The inspiration may come from a book or a painting, from someone's request, from the desire to create a present for someone I love or from a dream; it's really hard to say where the ideas for new models come from, because each one has its peculiar history.

You are a young designer. You have just started to create, and everything is still fresh in your head. Try to explain to us your process of creation. Do you see the finished model in your head first? Or is it trial and error? Do you use CP to refine your models?

“Crimpellation of squares and diamonds”,
a tesselation formed only of crimp-folds,
from a single 35 cm square of Fabriano paper, 220 GSM.

Alessandra: Depending on the type of model, the creation process can be very different. In the case of figurative origami, I usually start by thinking to the subject that for some reason I decided to portray, I look at some photos of the original, and then I try to imagine it in a simplified form, composed only of volumes, shadows and a few essential details that characterize it. Then I try to "wrap" the paper around this ideal image and to understand which folds are needed to make the desired volumes; if necessary, I work separately at some details and then I join the different parts considering the correct proportions.
Tessellations come usually from a fold that fascinates me or that I find particularly amusing, as the crimp-fold; they are often awkward to fold and their realization is for me like a game in which I fight with the sheet as in a wrestling match to persuade it to satisfy my desires. If in the end they show volumes and interesting shadows, then I consider the job well done and I take note of the sequence, otherwise their life ends in that moment of fun.
Some geometric models, such as vases and various boxes, were born playing with structures or polygons fascinating as pentagons, without having a defined project in mind; in other cases, such as the recent series of models based on the optical illusions of Escher, I started from the vision of a very precise idea and the creation process was similar to the one that I usually apply for figurative models.
Lately, after a model is finished I try to think about a folding sequence or, if possible, I draw the cp with Oripa. In this manner I try to better understand the model and evaluate other aspects that I had not considered during the creation phase, which is for me more instinctive.
Another aspect that I really like is to try to create models in collaboration with others; this is a very uncommon practice in the world of origami, but extremely interesting and useful. This is why, starting from last summer, Alessandro Beber and me organized a convention/vacation in the Italian Alps that had this among its main purposes Mountain Folding.

What papers do you usually use? Why? How do you decide what paper to choose? Do you try to match the paper to the model?

“Dogs in love”
Image by Alessandro Devinu

Alessandra: Generally, I prefer to use heavy papers with a rough surface, and I believe this is strongly connected with the kind of models I usually create. This kind of papers gives me a pleasing tactile feeling, my fingers are always happy to fold it, and therefore I try to create models that are foldable with these; on the other hand, I'm mostly interested in creating models using few layers of paper, with good volumes and playing with tensions and shadows, for which heavy and rough papers are best-suited. Obviously, depending on the properties of the model, I can choose different and thinner papers, or try unusual combinations, as paper coated with felt or fabric. Usually, when I begin thinking on a new design, I immediately visualize it with a specific texture and then I try to find the material best matching this idea. During origami workshops in kindergartens, I prefer colored copy paper because it offers greater resistence than traditional kami and it helps the kids enhancing their fine motor skills; this is also my favourite paper for doodling with new ideas and folding prototypes of my new designs.

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


Alessandra:It's not really a motto, but I believe in what I call GMB, "Breton good mood". I believe that if you want something with great intensity (and of course you are prepared to make serious efforts to obtain it) many favorable opportunities can easily arise for moving toward that direction. The name came for kicks during a holiday in Brittany with a friend, to indicate positive and surprising effects of a fair amount of light-hearted optimism.
GMB is also the name of the first complete model that I invented, a spinning top inspired by the initial folds of Chris Palmer's Flower Tower. One day, for some personal reasons, I decided that it was the right time to commit myself seriously to create a new model and I sat down at the table with the intention of not getting up until I had reached a satisfactory result; the model arose from my fingers even before I decide what I wanted to fold, with a surprising ease and a speed that I never experienced again... and I was very happy that this was also my first model published, accepted for Tanteidan Book 20: I usually say jokingly that this is an irrefutable proof that my theory is correct and it works!

I am sure there is one model of yours that you would like to point out for us. Which one is it, and please tell us why you chose it?

The Rebirth of Ofelia
Imgae by by Alessandro Devinu

Alessandra: Among all the models that I invented, the one I'm most fond of is an unfinished that accompanied me for years. It's called "the rebirth of Ophelia" and it represents a female figure that rises from the paper. Over time I tried many solutions for the face of this figure, some more technical, others more minimalist, but none of them has ever stood out as the final one or satisfied me for a long time. I think it's because this model is in some way a representation of myself, and my identity, both as origamist and as person, is constantly evolving and it does not identify with something fixed.
Ophelia is part of a series of models called "Escape from the Flatness" which consists of figures that emerge as bas-reliefs from the open flat sheet, with only a few essential folds to define a volume and represent an idea.

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

Alessandra: What is your next pipe dream that you want to turn into a project to make it real?

Name Alessandra Lamio
Place of residence Pavia, Italy
Profession origamist
Email alelamio [at]
Website Click here

Square Spaceness, inspired by Escher's optical illusions.
Folded from a 70 cm square of Canson paper, 220 GSM.


To really know a designer, you must fold her models. Here are the diagrams for Square Spaceness.

Click here to download the diagram.

-Ilan Garibi