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Review: "Origami Odyssey" by Peter Engel

Edited by Jason Ku

Origami Odyssey is a remarkable book. It is, in a sense, a sequel to Origami from Angelfish to Zen, and is very much in the same mold. The first 35 pages are an extended essay, building upon themes that Peter first addressed in OfAtZ, but expanding upon them based on 20-something years of thinking, insight, and experience in origami and life. Themes of simplicity, creativity, light, shadow, economy, illusion, spirit -- these are all topics that he revisits, seeing some of these concepts in ways you'll recognize from his prior work, and others with new understanding and appreciation. You will read about the birth of his daughter, and the death of his good friend Mark Turner (author of Garden Folds), and explorations into origami plant life, entertainment for his children, and a search for the elusive origami Bodhi leaf.

Like his first book, this is most assuredly not just a "book of models." You will, though, find many sets of folding diagrams, to whit:

  • Sun, Moon, Stars
  • Squirrel, Bat, Great Horned Owl
  • Maple, Begonia, Gingko, and Bodhi Leaves, plus an Orchid
  • Stingray, Sea Turtle, Whale, Seagull, Waves
  • Forest Troll, Spinning Top, Cottage, Inflatable Egg, Sea Serpent

But the point of this book is not models. And it's not technical complexity. If you're looking for the next increment of complicatedness beyond his awesome Butterfly, you won't find it. That's not the path he traveled. Instead, you'll find designs of simplicity and elegance. Which is not to say that they're all easy; far from it. Many of them, particularly the leaves, require judgment and shaping, and are a reminder of what I might call Joisel's Dictum: if you expend all your energy on the base, you'll have nothing left for the emotion! As artworks, these designs require emotion.

The book is beautifully illustrated with artistic photos of the origami and of the many conceptual influences Peter draws upon: Hokusai's iconic magician, Yoshizawa holding his own work, Javanese wicker, Nepalese instruments, plants, artwork, and more.

As you might have gathered by now, I really like this book. (I was fortunate to receive a copy of the proofs.) So I encourage everyone who likes to think deeply about what origami means, who ponders the mystery of creativity, to buy this book. It's a worthy successor to his first masterpiece. There are still bits of the universe left to fold!

Buy it from The Source!