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Origami Designer's Secrets: Rui Roda

Edited by Linda Yau

Rui is a designer. He, himself, is not sure about that though, but I insisted and managed to convince him to participate in my ongoing research to decipher the mysterious process that makes a passive folder create his own models. Since this transformation is still happening with Rui, I felt the need to document and share his experience.

Who is Rui Roda? Please tell me in five sentences what I must know about you.

Rui: I’m married and have two amazing boys already grown up. I have always had a passion for arts; in fact, a while after enrolling in my law degree, I opted out of it and decided to pursue a career in music, which I already was studying on the side by then. I’m a very curious, emotive and playful person. I love diversity and one of my dreams is to live in a world where differences may coexist in harmony. I truly believe that everyone can and should do art.

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


Rui Roda, Portugal.
Photo by Maria José Roda.

Rui: Origami instantly turned into a passion when I rediscovered it at close to 50 years of age. “Rediscovered” because I do have some memories from my childhood and adolescence connected to origami, like I’m sure many other people do. The oldest are from my grandpa making me hats and boats from newspapers; I also hold memories of myself, as a kid, folding planes and boxes. But only a few years ago origami came into my life to stay. My youngest son had an origami activity in school, I joined him to help him out and for about a month we folded origami together.

I believe, the first model I folded in this rediscovery period was a traditional penguin. Since then I have never stopped folding daily, and when I say daily, I really mean daily. After a certain amount of time I started to try and produce some models employing techniques of designers whose work I love. My first attempts at origami as a designer were with minimal faces inspired by Simon Anderson, but I am very grateful to many other creators for the motivation that their work gave me. After folding thousands of models after that first traditional penguin I still am fascinated with all the things we can do by just folding paper. Origami is a marvelous art. It has a language (an encrypted one), it is cheap and gives huge possibilities of expression.

On top of all that, there’s the web and and the way to discover through distance learning, the amazing art of folding and sharing generosity of origami artists through video tutorials. I have met or became aware of amazing people because of it. Origami undoubtedly changed my life. Although I love my work, I have a need of expression that in itself is not satisfied by my day-to-day job; I can achieve that through origami. I may see myself as an amateur in origami but I take it far too seriously to see it just as a hobby. I constantly try to find free time to practice, that even my professional activity will resent this attention. The reality is that nowadays I get grumpy if I don’t fold.


Minimal Face
All origami pictures are by Rui Roda


What is your muse? What drives your creation process? Do you fold other people models? If so, do you have a favorite designer? A favorite artist? If you could go back in time, which art era will you choose to go back to? why?

Rui: I mostly fold other people’s models. There are so many wonderful creations to fold, from simple to complex and across all genres. Fortunately there is always something I’m eager to try. Besides I am lucky enough to have the opportunity of doing many test folds and it is lots of fun. Since I began working for AEP with Carlos González Santamaría, I’ve been getting more and more requests for testing models. Only around 5% of my gallery is comprised of actual models I have created and what generally moves me to make them is a technique or a base I found in another designer’s workbook. It may be a pleated tessellation, a corrugation, a modular or a representative figure. There are so many outstanding and inspiring designers in all origami genres, each one with its own particular language and contribution to art, that it’s quite hard to select one, but I have a special admiration for Giang Dinh. I love his simple structures and magnificent shaping.

Answering the last part of your question. I love variety so the first half of the twentieth century, when artists explored extreme and varying themes in the years before and after World War I, should be the art era I’d choose. We may find in this era Stravinsky and Picasso in great activity, two amazing artists I admire very much who explored many genres.



Owl – Giang Dinh; folded by Rui


Why do you see yourself as a folder and not a creator? What is missing? Any artist uses techniques, most of them are not his own; he learned them from another master. What do you need to be doing in order to see yourself as a creator? an artist? Are you trying to achieve that missing part?

Rui: I agree with your point. Nobody creates from nothing. Everyone has a heritage even if the creative attitude is of rupture with the past. I believe that the appropriation of someone else’s techniques is what may make the difference, turning the created products unique and allowing the birth of a personal style. I don’t feel a “Rui Roda style” yet. As in music there are composers and interpreters; in origami there are designers and folders, and as an Origami artist I see myself mostly as an interpreter. I believe I have to invest more time and effort creating to change my self-definition.

My dear friend Yara Yagi is always teasing me to design and I have been progressively working more in this area, but I still have to increase my workload in it. I know your question is based on text I wrote a long time ago in my own designs in the flickr gallery and I believe I have to change it, just slightly. At this moment I’m probably an interpreter who occasionally designs.



Full Moon



Chubby Checker

As a young creator, I can see you are not sticking to a single genre. You flutter from masks, to tessellations, to modular and figurative, either very simple, iconic even or intermediate, more sophisticated ones. What makes you so jumpy? Is there a field you prefer? What are your preferred subjects?

Rui: As I said before I am constantly fascinated with the variety of things we can do with paper and that’s why I jump into different styles as a folder and as a creator. But no matter the field I choose, even if the model looks more sophisticated, I make simple structures that may be folded by everyone. Sometimes they may be a bit more time consuming but they aren’t hard.

The reality is that most of my designs can be folded in a few minutes, especially my minimal faces. I am very prone to designing figurative models and most of all masks and faces.

Being a non creator, it should be hard for you to answer this question. (Yes, I am teasing you.) Please tell us what is your creative process. I know you doodle a lot, but did the Grazing Bull came out of nowhere? Did you first play with a 1:5 rectangle, and suddenly you saw the potential, or were you seeking to make an animal with horns, and the fine details came later?

Rui: All my animals come from a first doodle that is improved later. When I start I really don’t know how it will end. I almost let the paper lead me. From a base I start transforming, making some random fold and step by step I look at the paper from different angles searching for a suggestion that “it” may give me. Sometimes I end up with a fold that I find that has some potential and the next step is to be able to reconstruct it again.

After that I will make some improvements to it. Sometimes I have to do several versions until I get satisfied with it. The Grazing Bull really started from random folds and I don’t remember having any intention of doing it at the beginning.


Dall Sheep

What papers do you usually use? Why? Do you prepare them yourself? How do you decide what paper to choose?

Rui: My paper choices will depend on the model I want to fold. If the design is based mostly on the shaping, then the choice will generally be of a heavy paper (good to wet fold), but if it’s one that is based on the details, then I’ll choose a thin and big one. With tissue foil we can in some way satisfy these two needs, but very rarely I choose to use foil, since I usually like to paint paper. Acrylics and spray inks give amazing effects. And in countries like Portugal where it isn’t so easy to buy exquisite origami papers, they are a great solution when, for example, you need urgently to make a testfold and you have a nice paper with all the features you need but that isn’t bicolored.



Playing With Curves II

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

Rui: My motto is that passion and hard work are always needed if you want to make the difference. It doesn’t matter the area. It may be arts, science, sports… Talent may help but it’s never enough. We live in a global society with lots of competition, so you’ll have to work hard and remain focused for a long time (perhaps during your whole life), and you’ll only be able to do so if you are passionate about what you’re doing.

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?

Rui: That’s tough to answer. I will use the “voice of the people” to answer this and therefore elect my “Seated Lion”. It’s one of my most folded models, and I think it’s because it has all the essence of a lion though the design and the folding process are quite simple. Besides I feel a great deal of ownership over this model as it isn’t based on or influenced by any other designer’s work.

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

Rui: Do you have a new origami project in mind at this moment?



[Left] Seated Lion [Right] Rhino

Name Rui Roda
Place of residence Oeiras, Lisboa, Portugal
Profession Teacher
Email ruimfroda [at] gmail.com
Website https://www.flickr.com/photos/62572859@N08/


Cattle

Diagrams!

To really know a designer, you must fold his models. Here are the CP and instructions for the Cattle.

-Ilan Garibi