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Review: "It's Just a Bit of Paper: Vol. 1" by Donachie

Edited by Jason Ku


The book's cover art.

This is not your typical origami book.

To some extent, of course, all origami books are an expression of the author's artistic sense and taste, and they all give you at least some feel for the author as a person. In this book, self-published via Amazon.com's "Createspace" online publishing service, the author's style and personality are not just something hinted at or found between the lines, but instead come through everywhere. Whether it's his limericks and other poems sprinkled throughout the book, the unique symbols used (instead of text) in the instructions, or the artfully-drawn images of each finished piece, you somehow feel like Rikki has just left the room for a moment and will be right back to talk with you while you're working on the pieces.

Add to that the interesting mix of subject material - as the title says, it ranges from folded greeting-card designs, through birds and other creatures - and you've got a book that doesn't quite fit the yet-another-origami-book mold.


The Pieces


"Swallowtail Butterfly" (the piece I folded first, to no one's surprise) from Origamido Paper by Anne LaVin

The book starts out with two Peace Cranes, one a straightforward variation on the traditional orizuru, the second similar, but with an attached base (folded from a square with another bit attached, a la the Senbazuru Orikata). Then there is a selection of greeting cards, some of which have the origami figures built right into the card (Peace Crane Greeting Card, two Valentine's Cards, Christmas Tree Card, Grumpy Owl Card) and a couple of flat items to place on a card (Red-Nosed Santa, Rudolph [the reindeer]). For birds, there's a Swan, two Peacocks and a Duck; for butterflies: Post-it Note Butterfly, Butterfly, Swallowtail Butterfly, Janneke's Vlinder, Napkin Butterfly. Animals include a rhino ("Wahidukarne"), Hippo, Hallowe'en Bat, elephant head ("Njogu"), Perky Dragon, mouse ("Le Petite Souris"), Little Bat. Two fish, a goldfish and a dolphin round out the creatures, and last, in category "Other" we have Ghost, Goblin Gargoyle, £50 Jet and a Christmas Hat.

Though most pieces are folded from square paper, some (the crane with stand, the cards, Dolphin, bats and Jet) are from various other-ratio papers. (And any anti-cuteness purists should look the other way at the addition of eyes to a couple of the pieces in the cards section!) In difficulty, they range all around Intermediate, with the occasional slightly tricky maneuver, all well-drawn in the diagrams, however.


The Diagrams:


"Hippo" folded from commercial origami paper by Anne LaVin

As I mentioned above, the diagrams are just a little different than usual. They all adhere to fairly standard conventions for line types, arrows and the like. But rather than include descriptive text, the author has created a visual vocabulary of signs and symbols to provide extra information in critical spots. These range from a camel ("the model is no longer flat") to a helpful rodent (a "Right About There," i.e. "RAT" fold), and all are described in a detailed key at the beginning of the book.

The experience of following the diagrams reminds me most of using Akira Yoshizawa's books: the first time you fold a piece, you may need to carefully study the details of each step, keeping faith that all the information is there, and may sometimes be subtle. Add to that the number of folds with no concrete landmarks (the aforementioned RAT folds) and I found that these were pieces that benefitted greatly from folding more than once, and intentionally being experimented with. I'll admit that a step or two had me puzzled, and wishing very occasionally that there were a few more intermediate steps a time or two... but in retrospect, that's part of what I enjoyed about folding them. These are pieces that make you stop and think a bit about what you're folding, not just blindly follow a set of instructions.


"Wahidukarne" (rhino) wet-folded from Canson Mi-Teintes by Anne LaVin

As such, I don't think I'd classify this book as one for the absolute beginner, but any folder of at least low-intermediate experience should be able to work through the pieces. Interesting paper shapes, 3D moves and pieces well-suited to wetfolding make this a great book for someone looking to expand their folding-skills toolkit. The book will really reward the folder who wishes to try pieces multiple times, and start to learn to think about the structure of the piece while folding it, and how small changes in one place can affect the distribution of paper and shape of of the piece at the end.

In short, I highly recommend it for interesting pieces, and a well-produced book, definitely deserving of far more attention than it has received so far.


On the Web:


Details:


"Swan" folded from washi by Anne LaVin

  • softcover book, perfect-bound, 140 pages, 8.5x11 inches
  • English text
  • color cover, greyscale graphical table of contents and diagrams
  • published February 2013 via Createspace
  • ISBN-10: 1481017470; ISBN-13: 978-1481017473

Where to buy: