Paper as a Sculptural Form


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One of my holiday excursions was to the Trout Museum of Art in Appleton, Wisconsin. (Art educators: scroll down to see a quick, paper sculpture application as a creativity project for your students.) (Handweavers: check out this origami interpretation of triaxial weave structure.) To my delight, I was able to catch the end of an exhibit, ORIcursion which displayed the work of Robert J. Lang, an origami master. He has been an avid student of origami for over forty years and is now recognized as one of the world’s leading masters of the art, with over 500 designs catalogued and diagrammed. His website is rich with information and resources, as well as photos of his amazing work.

The exhibit was beautiful! The display of his flower series were organized (left to right) with a photograph of an actual flower, a single sheet of paper with a portion of the photograph blown up and printed on the surface (and showing the crease patterns necessary to create the origami flower), the resulting origami flower created from the single sheet of paper, and a photo of the finished origami sculpture. It was such a clear way of helping the viewer understand the process from the beginning of the concept and the processes necessary to produce the finished sculpture form.

I was also very excited about this exhibit, because I had recently showed my art students a documentary film about origami, Between the Folds, that Mr. Lang is featured in. This award winning documentary gives an extensive overview of the history of the art form as well as the current trends in pushing origami to its limits. Here is a preview of this excellent film:

After showing the video to my 9th & 10th grade sculpture students, I challenged them to create a sculpture from a single sheet of paper. Before creating the form, they applied color to the surface of the sculpture with their choice of chalk or oil pastels. I loved the resulting forms they created. It was a short project, but one that introduced them to the 3 dimensional form in an easy and instinctive process.

student work montage

The Trout’s exhibit also streamed a NOVA PBS video, The Origami Revolution. This is an amazing video! The folding principles of folding used in origami is an fundamental process found in nature, in organizing new 21st century technological advances, and is even at the heart of the way the Universe is organized!

I encourage the reader to explore this exciting process by incorporating it into an aspect of your own creative expressions. If you do, please share your discoveries with us!

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