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Creating with paper

Published September 11. 2010 09:00AM

Regular readers may recall in an earlier column I wrote about the Japanese art of paper folding known as Origami. If you remember the word origami is derived from the Japanese words "ori" for folding and "kami" for paper. There are related arts though to just paper folding which have interested me through my life although I learned about them through origami. In this column, I want to discuss an interesting new pastime that has piqued my interest in recent years. At least the art is new for me, but in reality it is not "new" in that it has been around for ages.

I'm not a great carpenter. I can do basic things with wood and as far as metal goes, I'm a total novice. When it comes to paper though, I find it is a medium that is interesting and versatile. All of us at one time or another have taken a piece of paper and folded it into a triangle to cut a snowflake. If you are one of the few who haven't done it put the newspaper down and fetch a piece of typing paper and a pair of scissors.

Do you have them? Good. Fold the piece of paper diagonally bringing one of the short edges up even with the long side and crease. This creates a folded triangle of paper with a single width strip across the top of the paper. Cut the strip off the paper and open the triangle. At this point you should be viewing a square of paper with a diagonal crease. Next, fold the paper in half to form a rectangle. Make sure the crease is at the bottom edge of the rectangle.

Fold the rectangle in half book-fashion that is from left to right and unfold. Next, fold the right short edge to the center crease and unfold. Now, fold the lower left corner of the rectangle up and to the right so the crease it makes runs between the mark made by the center crease and the upper edge. The corner should make contact with the last fold you made. Next, fold the lower right corner up and over the folded corner so that the folded edges meet. Fold the triangle shape in half and cut the edge end opposite the point at an angle you chose. Next cut interesting shapes out of the sides and when done, open the paper and you should see a snowflake.

This art of paper cutting has different names in different cultures. One branch of my family descends from Germany and in that culture as well as the Swiss, this art is known as scherenschnitte. In my wife's Polish ancestry, the art is known as wycinanki. One of the most popular forms of paper cutting though that has enjoyed a cultural rise among crafters is the art of kirigami which translated means "kiru" for cut and "kami" for paper.

While German cuttings are usually intricate scenes and often found in cards such as Valentines as well as wall sculptures, wycinanki is more a sculpting with paper that includes cutting, tearing, gluing together layers and carving them as well as other types of sculpture. Kirigami is a blend of folding and cutting paper into intricate patterns that are symmetrical like scherenschnitte but the big difference is that while scherenschnitte can be cut from different shapes of paper and sizes, kirigami usually begins using a square or hexagonal base which is folded, cut, opened and flattened to make designs, flowers or other symmetrical patterns. The snowflake we formed is essentially most similar to a kirigami project.

It is interesting and at times relaxing to me to begin with a square of paper, fold it in some symmetric pattern, make some intricate cuts along its edges and then open it to see what type of shape or design the paper has become. The more initial folds made in the base, the more sides the finished design will have. The biggest trick is to make sure the creases are not inadvertently severed or the design will fall apart. Another common beginning mistake is to fold with the point at the open edge instead of the folded edge which also causes the design to fall apart.

Give it a try and if you need some inspiration search for Kirigami or "paper cutting designs" online to get some ideas.

I can't let this column slip by though without making a callout to some special people who are celebrating a very special time in our lives. Unfortunately, I am unable to be there due to a long time previous commitment I made before I knew about the reunion, but I want to wish all of my fellow alumni of the Class of 1985 the very best as they gather today to celebrate our twenty fifth anniversary of our graduation. It was a crazy year, but we were one of the most close knit classes I'm aware of and I am proud to be part of them. Have a blast and know that I am there in spirit as you reminisce and mingle today. And remember the best is yet to come.

Finally, today is also a sad day for many of us and our families who mark the ninth anniversary of the worst attack on American soil by foreign criminals. Remember in your prayers today, the families and friends of all who lost someone on 9/11. This is a sad sorrowful day for them and know that there are millions of us who stand by you with love and empathy. We must always remember.

Til next time…

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