Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell


My Paperfolding Design Philosophy
My paperfolding design work is based around five straightforward aspirational principles which are briefly explained below. All five of these aims are not always realised in every design. Sometimes the nature of the design requires the abandonment of one, or more, of these aims, and in those circumstances I am happy to use techniques I would otherwise eschew.

Sufficiency: The ethic of sufficiency is that designs should be created just by folding paper. Folding the paper is enough. Nothing else is necessary. Indeed, adding anything else to the mix takes away the essence of what paperfolding is about. So, for instance, I try to avoid using materials other than paper, like, for instance, paper backcoated with metal foil, because they fold, and hold their folded shape, in a different way than paper does. I also try to avoid using techniques other than folding. In particular I try to avoid cuts, or any kind of adhesive or decoration (whether added to the paper before or after it is folded). This doesn't mean I never use cuts, adhesive or decoration. Sufficiency is an ethic not a rule. I sometimes use these techniques, or paper backcoated with metal foil, where the nature of the design requires this, but I am always conscious that the design would be a better design if I didn't need to use them.

Simplicity: While I admire the skill that goes into creating complex designs, that style of origami does not hold any fascination for me. I am not interested in producing designs that are challenging to fold or assemble (though some of my designs accidentally metamorphose into designs that are). Instead, I strive to produce designs that are simple but effective, where every fold counts and would be missed if it was not there. Not all my designs by any means would qualify as minimalist but I hope they generally use as few folds as is reasonably possible to achieve their effect. This is, perhaps, why I am drawn to modular and macromodular designs, where the combination of very simple paperfolds, the modules, produces something that is apparently (but not really) of great complexity.

Sincerity: By sincerity I mean that I try to make my designs true to the material they are made from - paper - and the process by which they are created - folding - and that I try as far as possible to maintain the qualities of the paper I am using - particularly its smooth flat appearance - throughout the folding process. This means that I shy away from techniques such as crumpling and wet-folding which alter the characteristics of the material entirely. Of course, any fold made in a piece of paper that is flattened to a crease causes damage to it. I just prefer to keep the damage to a minimum.

Elegance: Elegance is a quality of easy, graceful flow in a folding sequence that almost makes it seem as if the paper has chosen for itself what it wants to become, or a quality of an assembly sequence where the various elements of the design go together without apparent effort. An elegant folding sequence does not seem contrived. It comes naturally from the paper shape and crease pattern at each successive stage. I strive to produce designs that are elegant in this sense, and so are as much about the folding, and sometimes the assembly, sequence as they are about the final result, designs that are subtly enjoyable to fold, where the process matters for its own sake. These are the kinds of designs that can be returned to and enjoyed over and over again, not tackled once and stood proudly upon a shelf to gather dust.

Originality: Paradoxically, paperfolding is as much about ideas as it is about folding paper. A smorgasbord of ideas illuminates the history of origami and these ideas about what paperfolding should be and can achieve are what largely sets it apart from other crafts. I strive to be different, to find and explore new ways of looking at paperfolding, new subjects, new methods, new ways of working and thinking. This does not mean I do not gratefully acknowledge the work of other paperfolding designers who have gone before me. I do, but I strive to build on what they did and to use their insights and methods as a base for new departures. Consequently, you should not be surprised that among my designs you will find many odd and unusual things. If you are looking for conventionality or commonality ... please feel perfectly free to look elsewhere!