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Origami Designer's Secrets: Francesco Mancini

Edited by Jason Ku

Francesco Mancini, image by Nicoletta Maggino
Non-credited images by Francesco Mancini

Modulosca, by Mancini. Fold and Photo by Yara Yagi

K2, by Robert Lang. Fold and photo by Mancini.

Mother Star, a model you can try!

Francesco Mancini is not a person you can ignore when you are in his presence. He is big, (well, bigger than I), both on the outside and inside, always smiling, always eager to show and teach his latest model. We met at a CDO convention, and it took me about 1.2 milliseconds to like him. Creating modulars and puzzles, a subject I love, made him a perfect person for me to spend time with. Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to Francesco Mancini.

Who is Francesco Mancini? Please tell me what I must know about you.

Francesco: You can always see me with paper in my hands. I started reading from a very early age and my family fed me books and crossword puzzle magazines. About ten years ago a friend taught me Sam Randlett's flapping bird, and since then I can't help but fold a sheet of paper. My girlfriend always says to me, "Stop harassing the paper!" Or you may even see me with wood (not quite paper but very close) because I also like to build puzzles and mathematical shapes.

What is origami to you? Why are you interested in origami? What was your first model to fold? What types of origami do you like to fold? And to create?

Francesco: When I was a kid I knew some traditional models like the plane or the boat, but the one clearest in my mind is a kirigami, a bunny with moving ears. Maybe that's why I like to learn and fold action models or toys, to recreate for me and for other kids that wonder and that surprise. That is origami to me: a smiling kid. I also like to fold simple models and modulars but when we're talking about creation, my field is modular origami. Even when I designed a one sheet box, I find a way to connect more boxes together.

What is your muse? What drives your creation process? Do you fold other people's models? If so, do you have a favorite designer? What one origami book would you take with you to a stranded island? If you don’t fold other designers' models, why not?

Francesco: In the beginning, I was a lone folder. Then I joined the Centro Diffusione Origami and started to join a group of local folders to attend annual conventions. When I'm alone, I like to concentrate on my own models. When I'm in the company of others, I like to fold other designers’ models. I love the models designed by Tomoko Fuse, Miyuki Kawamura, Tom Hull, Robert Lang; they are beautiful, clever, and challenging. For representational origami authors, I like the work of Roman Diaz, Jun Maekawa, Hideo Komatsu; it's a pleasure to follow their folding sequences. If I had to choose one designer and one book to take with me to an island, it would be Dave Brill's Brilliant Origami.

Puzzles, modulars, polyhedrons: you rule them all! Why is that? Have you tried other fields of origami?


Francesco: I think I was immediately attracted to modular origami because it gave me the possibility of creating a huge number of geometrical shapes with a simple and easy, affordable medium. My favorite polygon is the pentagon; most of my designs have five-fold symmetry or incorporate five-pointed stars. They come naturally to me. Once at a convention, a guy looking at my exhibit asked me, "Are you an astronomer?" because of all the stars. I publish a lot of puzzles in The Fold, but this time I chose to include a diagram of a star.

Your models seem to have been planned carefully. Is it so? Do you see the finished model in your head, or is it more a trial and error process? Share with us some tips for creating original models.

Stella Pitti

Francesco: My creation process is very simple, I doodle with paper. I take a sheet, and I let the inner geometry of it drive me. I simply follow the paper until I see something that I like or that I can work with. I folded a lot of other designers’ models before I started to create my own, so I think I learned the tools to finalize an idea. Accordingly, while most of the time my models are not planned, we can say that I'm not looking for them; they are looking for me. I use calculation only for the puzzles because they need to obey particular rules.


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?

Francesco: My doodles are made with copy paper. In Europe, the A4 size is very common, and you can easily find a sheet to play with. I also like the geometric possibilities of the square root of two. When I'm happy with a design, then I choose a better paper. I love the texture and colors of Tant and Elephant Hide. If I need a thinner paper, I use Kami or colored kraft, especially if I have a model with color change.

Vertigo, my favorite model

Your models are mostly mathematically based and still their beauty and elegance say a lot. What do you try to tell us through your origami?

Francesco: I don't try to tell a message through my origami, at least intentionally. I just follow my passions, and I'm very happy when someone likes my works, or folds my models. I am fortunate to have a friend like Francesco Decio who is able to translate my rough sketches into beautiful diagrams. In my place of work, we use origami as a teaching device. There the message is: Math is fun, but with origami it is even more fun!

Love Is Blind, by Francis Ow. Image by Roberto Morassi

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

Francesco: It's difficult to choose one model, just as it was difficult to choose one origami book. They are all my "babies," and I'm attached to all of them. I can point out 'Vertigo.' It's an action modular so it combines my two loves: action models and the modulars. I taught it at the last Italian convention and it was very successful.

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

Francesco: What would you have missed without origami?

Name Mancini Francesco
Place of residence Firenze, Italia
Profession Educator
Email fmancini [at]


To really know a designer, you must fold his models. although Francesco has posted many puzzles here, this one may be more representative of who he is.

Click here to download the diagram.

-Ilan Garibi


Five fold symmetry is one of the worst origami puns I have ever heard.