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Origami Challenge #4: Start with a Blintzed Base

There used to be a lot of origami animals with three legs. If you wanted your quadruped to have four legs along with a head, a tail, and any other features, you either cut one of the flaps in half to split it into two legs or used multiple sheets of paper to make different parts of the model, either locking or gluing them together. Akira Yoshizawa made quite a few two-sheet animals early on, with one sheet for the front legs and head and the second for the hind legs and tail. But eventually he wanted to make models from a single sheet of paper without any cuts or glue (which he also used early on), saying that compound origami should rather be considered “mosaic or paper craft.”

In the early 1950’s, origami enthusiast Gershon Legman had the idea of Blintz Folding a sheet of paper before folding it into the classic bases, which would give the paper more flaps to make more features without cuts or needing multiple sheets (Legman was a fascinating fellow – in addition to his interest in origami, he academically studied eroticism in folklore, worked for the Kinsey Institute, and published two books of bawdy limericks in the 1970’s). He shared this idea with his colleagues, including sculptor George Rhodes who used it to come up with a series of models with the Blintzed Bird Base, including his famous Elephant. (The Elephant diagram would eventually be included in Samuel Randlett’s The Best of Origami, along with models using other Blintzed Bases and even Double Blintzed Bases. The Brontosaurus above is from Blintzed Fish Base). 

Many classic models already utilized the Blintz Fold/Blintz Base. In the Japanese “Ranma Zushiki,” printed in 1734, there are images of the Sanbo (a box with legs) and Yakko-san (a classic servant-clown character). The Sanbo starts with a Blintzed Preliminary Base and Yakko-san is made by Blintz Folding the corners multiple times before Squash Folding three of them. The number of petals on the traditional Lotus Flower depends on how many times you Blintz the paper. There are Patenbriefs (or “Godparent Certificates”) from the 1700s on that were folded with Blintz Folds, with the crease pattern incorporated into the illustration. And the Salt Cellar/Fortune Teller is Blintz Folded twice before it’s collapsed into a Preliminary Base. 

The Blintzed Bases opened up more options for designers. Yoshizawa eventually made a Crab with eight legs, two claws, and two eye stalks using a Double Blintzed Base. When origami artists in the 1980’s and 1990’s started challenging each other to come up with increasingly complex and anatomically accurate insects (known as “The Bug Wars”), one way to get more appendages was to use Blintzed Bases. The Cicada above is folded from a Blintzed Double Boat Base.

Going back to our discussion of traditional bases, remember how Bird Base has five major points – from the corners and the center of the square? When you fold a Blintz Base, the paper is square-shaped, which allows you to see it as if it were a new sheet of paper. If you fold that new square into a Bird Base, you still have those same five points, but you also have the original four corners of the square tucked away in the center. Those corners can be untrapped to make additional features. 

However, this challenge isn’t explicitly about creating models with additional features. Just like the previous challenge with Traditional Bases, starting with a Blintzed Base gives you your core structure to start with so all you have to worry about is the shaping. You could keep some of the raw corners trapped if you don’t find you need them. If you’re working with duo color paper, you may be able to use the color change to your advantage. You could play with the direction of the initial Blintz Folds. Kunihiko Kasahara has a great Panda Head model that starts by Blintz Folding the top two corners to the front (Valley Folds) and the bottom two corners to the back (Mountain Folds). You could also Blintz only some of the corners, not all four, and see what that yields. Using Blintzed Bases is a way to build on what you’re already finding with the Traditional Bases while doubling your arsenal of Bases to choose from. 

Bibliography:

  • Dybkjær, Hans. “The Complete Blintz Part 2, Expanded: The History of the Blintz.” Origami USA. 2022. https://origamiusa.org/thefold/article/complete-blintz-part-2-expanded-history-blintz#endnote8
  • Lister, David. “Gershon Legman.” British Origami. 1996. https://www.britishorigami.org/cp-lister-list/gershon-legman/
  • Mitchell, David. “The Public Paperfolding History Project.” Origami Heaven.  http://www.origamiheaven.com/historyindex.htm

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