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Review: "Spiral: Origami | Art | Design" by Tomoko Fuse

Edited by Daniel Scher

I rarely obsess about books, but Spiral: Origami | Art | Design by Tomoko Fuse is definitely one of them. There are nice, even beautiful books out there. Still, not often does a book blow me away like this.

It is the first publication of Viereck Verlag, a German publisher who is devoted to origami. Silke Schröder and Paulo Mulatinho, who are based in Freising (Germany), sell origami paper, (mostly Japanese) origami books, lead an origami gallery, organize an annual origami convention - and now have started publishing books. Their background shows in this exquisite book. The layout and print are gorgeous, and the details are just right. This hardcover book is bound beautifully and opens flat effortlessly no matter which page you're viewing.

Perhaps the most concise statement of the quality of the book itself is that it feels like an exhibition / photography book more than anything else. The quality is simply mind-boggling.

But see for yourself. For a first impression on what the book looks like, check out this video, which I recorded on July 2nd 2012, three days after I received the book:

Origami, Art, Design

There is much to explore in this heavy, 348-page book! Tomoko Fuse has of course authored many superb books, be it single-sheet or modular, boxes, kusudamas, geometrics, or spirals. But this publication is different. The title itself already summarizes it nicely: Origami, Art, Design.

This book is all about folding paper, no doubt about it. But some might say origami is about folding models from square sheets of paper without use of glue or cutting. Or they'd allow rectangles and perhaps regular polygons, but no more than that. This book features models folded from a square, or multiple squares (modulars), and in that stricter sense also includes diagrams for origami models. However, there's much more than that. The majority of the models is actually folded from irregular shapes - be it triangles, strips (long rectangles), or paper that is cut to very specific shapes. And if you want to construct the lamp shades Tomoko Fuse introduces, glue should also be in your list of tools.
Most origami books are about presenting diagrams, showing how to fold different models. Some books include nice photographs of folded models. But this book tops that by quite a bit. First off, this book presents amazing photographs in superb print quality - just like you'd expect from an exhibition guide. Additionally, the models presented themselves are art. Most are not representational, but more abstract. They are extremely expressive and amazing to look at, more so - in my opinion - than is usually achieved with representational folds.
Just like with "Art", this book fulfills the caption "Design" twofold. First, the models express design aesthetics, which closely relates to the artistic vibe they have. Second, Tomoko Fuse also gives insight into how the spirals are designed. She gives a mathematical explanation, defining spirals with a couple of parameters, and thus enabling you to vary those parameters to construct your own, unique spirals. In that she opens her world of thoughts to you and gives you the tools you need to draw even more from the book. This makes her newest publication extremely powerful.

The book is divided into five parts.

Part 1: Helices and Spirals

A spiral folded by Sara Adams. Rather than cutting the shape from a sheet and discarding the excess, nice effects can be achieved by leaving one side of the shape attached to the bordering paper.

Navel Shell folded by Sara Adams.

Whirlpool Spiral with the parameters 4 | 10 | 10, folded by Sara Adams.

A Coil Fold with parameters 4 | 30 | S, folded by Sara Adams.

This section features seven helices and 10 spirals. They are folded from rectangles, isosceles trapezia, and triangles. Of the 17 models presented, 9 come with full diagrams, for the remaining 8 crease patterns are provided. For all models instructions on how to cut the paper is given. Four work on rectangles, 9 on triangles, and three on a trapezoid (in essence a triangle with the tip cut off). One model (The Flying Bull) requires additional cutting.

Part 2: Spiral Shells

The second part of the book is perhaps the one most similar to other origami books. 29 different spiral shell models are introduced. 13 of them are folded from one square, four are modular (also working with squares), and a further 12 are folded from other shapes. For 22 models diagrams are given, for the remaining seven crease patterns are provided. But as they can be folded by the same principles as other models that are fully diagrammed, these crease patterns are absolutely sufficient even to those unexperienced with folding from crease pattern.

Part 3: Whirlpool Spirals

After a section full of diagrams and easy-to-replicate models comes a chapter that is quite the opposite. Tomoko Fuse gives a short explanation of the mathematics of her Whirlpool Spirals, explaining how three parameters determine the look of the final model. She gives guidance on how to construct crease patterns once you have picked your three parameters, and then provides crease patterns and photographs of 23 whirlpool spirals.

Then follows a section on lampshades, which use the same technique as the Whirlpool Spirals. To lock the lampshades, glue is used. Tomoko Fuse provides you with five crease patterns, and, as always, with exquisite photographs of completed lampshades.

But here it doesn't end. Taking it a step further, Biribiri are introduced. These are essentially several Whirlpool Spirals combined in one model. Four crease patterns follow. Finally, Whirlpool Stars, which are polyhedra with Whirlpool Spiral faces, complete this part of the book. Three crease patterns for these modular pieces are included.

This part of the book is going to offer an almost endless sea of inspiration especially for the advanced folder. As Tomoko Fuse gives insight into how crease patterns are constructed, it enables you to experiment with the parameters and discover your own versions of whirlpool folds. Note that all the Whirlpool Spiral models are folded from shapes specifically constructed for each model. This means no squares - but I do encourage you to broaden your horizon by allowing more irregular shapes for origami. After all, origami translates to "folding paper", not "folding paper from a square"! Or if you are more of a purist, simply appreciate the great art presented in this chapter of the book.

Part 4: More Helices and Spirals

In the final part on models Tomoko Fuse again presents an array of different designs, somewhat all special cases of models presented in the previous parts, or different applications of them.

Two right-angled spirals are diagrammed. Then follow crease patterns for 8 Spiral Towers. Next Tomoko Fuse explains the theory behind Coil Folds, which are a special case of Whirlpool Spirals. Crease patterns for 16 different Coil Folds follow, as always accompanied by photographs showing the resulting model. Additionally, crease patterns for two Pako Pako Play (action model Coil Folds) are provided. These require gluing to lock the models.

Last but not least there's another section on modular origami. Diagrams for two spiral-faced polyhedra are provided. Then models which represent solids enclosing helices are presented. First, modules for the frames are diagrammed. Then inserts in the shapes of helices and hourglasses are described. Again, details on how to vary these to achieve different models are included, so there's a whole array of models you can fold using Tomoko Fuse's explanation.

Some models in this part indeed work on rectangles or parallelograms, but the remaining again work on shapes specific to the model. It is a bit more work to cut the paper to the required shapes (just like in Part 3), but the gorgeous look of the completed models totally makes up for it!

Final Part: About Tomoko Fuse

The book is nicely rounded off by a section on Tomoko Fuse. It is a portrait written by Florian Aicher and gives a unique insight into Tomoko Fuse's personality, her focus, her life with origami. It is beautiful the book ends in this way - revealing relationship between "creator and the created", as Tomoko Fuse puts it.

Bottom Line

This is an amazing book, more so than I can express in words. I hope, however, that my review at least somewhat expresses how deeply I have fallen in love with Spiral: Origami | Art | Design by Tomoko Fuse. So the key question that remains is: Where can you get a copy? You can buy the book at The Source (99.99 USD), or directly at Viereck Verlag (78 EUR plus shipping).

Yes, the book is more expensive than your usual origami publication, but I assure you that it is worth every cent and more. Much much more!


On one of the origami mailing lists I am subscribed to someone asked:
How do the contents of this book compare with Fuse's two previous (but out-of-print) books on spirals? Does it include everything from those two books (and presumably a bit more)?

Here's what I found after quickly leafing through the two other spiral books I have by Tomoko Fuse ( and ):

Both books include some models that aren't included in "Spiral: Origami | Art | Design". For example, "Let's Fold Spirals" included quite a couple of boxes that aren't in the new publication, and "Origami Spirals" includes some star shapes.

Generally, though, much of the content in Part 1 and 2, and perhaps half of Part 4 were indeed published in the two previous spiral books. I think this is actually pretty neat, because those two books are much thought after, but essentially impossible to get a hold of these days.
I will point out that in all four parts of the new book models are presented which I couldn't find in the other two books. Moreover, Part 3 is completely original, and Part 4 has a good chunk of original content.

As a disclaimer, I don't know Japanese, so I cannot say what background information Tomoko Fuse gives in the two out-of-print publications. But I think even on the models presented in both the old and new publications she gives more information in the new book. For sure, the models are presented more beautifully.
Generally, in the old books I couldn't find much mathematical explanation on how the spirals came to be, or how you could vary the patterns to create your own spirals. While Tomoko Fuse doesn't elaborate on the subject super-extensively in the new book, so definitely gives all the details I needed to understand the concept and how to apply it. I checked whether I understood it when constructing the crease pattern for and then folding it. So I'm quite certain I "got it". So what Tomoko Fuse provides is definitely sufficient, and as mentioned in the review, will give especially the advanced folders much inspiration and joy. For beginners - sure, it'll probably be quite a challenge, perhaps too big of a challenge. But then again, we all progress with time, don't we? :)

-- Sara

Tomoko fuse seems to use a lovely vanilla colored paper with a tant-paper like texture throughout this book. Do you know what paper she's using?

I really like these whirlpool designs please post diagrams somewhere!