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Origami Challenge #8 – Initial Concept

The previous seven challenges have used known elements of origami as the genesis for creating new models. Rather than starting with something from the common origami vernacular (a traditional model, classic base, specific folds and maneuvers), the inspiration for this challenge comes from the subject itself. It starts with having a notion of how to accomplish some element of the model and building the rest off of that. It could be how to accomplish the general shape of the model (i.e. using a Kite Base to make a Swan) or how to make a specific feature (i.e. choosing to use two flaps of a Bird Base to make wings).

By now, whether you’ve been working through these challenges or learning the bases, folds, and models I recommend in the Origami Design Toolbox, you’ve seen a number of ways to manipulate paper to create different features and effects: Different structures that give you certain kinds/numbers of flaps to work with, ways to thin out the model, ways to use both colors of the paper, etc. Now, if you start with a specific subject, you can use that Toolbox to start manifesting it. 

I had to design a simple Skunk for a project. What immediately jumped out to me was how to make the big stripe that would run down its back. I wasn’t sure what I’d do for the rest of the Skunk, but I figured I could start with a variation of a Fish Base, leaving space between the two Rabbit-Ear folds to get both the stripe and the color change. I also figured the Rabbit-Ear flaps could be legs, and the pseudo-diamond shape would generally work well for the overall shape of the Skunk. But the initial concept was about the stripe. 

My encouragement for this challenge is to initially pay attention to your curiosity (“I bet I can make an elephant’s trunk by Kite Folding one end of a Pig Base”) rather than problem solving (“I want to make an elephant. How do I do that?”). I once set out to fold a Crocodile on the notion that I could use a miniature version of a Frog Base (something I’d seen other artists do as well) for the head, giving it the long snout with upper and lower jaws. I recalled something similar to this in other Crocodiles, but couldn’t recall the whole sequence. I started with the head and figured out the rest of the model from there. That also gave the design a focus. Once I had the head, I just needed the rest of the model to support it. Another Crocodile model might focus on having toes, or tessellated scales, or spikes on its back. If I figured out how to incorporate those elements, it would have been icing on the cake. In the end, I figured out a relatively simple Crocodile model that I enjoy folding.

I’ve used this Initial Concept approach in my live-folding event work. I usually work these events with a pre-determined menu of models to choose from, but people often ask for custom requests. If I don’t already know a simple model for that subject (and choose to accept the challenge of coming up with one on the fly), I need to work quickly and intuitively. In some cases, I can transform a similar subject into the requested one – a Fish into a Dolphin, a Dog into a Dachshund, a Pig into a Rhino, etc. In some cases, I figure I can get the necessary features from a particular base – i.e. Birds from a Bird Base or Sea Life from a Fish Base. Sometimes I build on models that I’m familiar with but don’t know by heart. I was once asked for an Owl, and remembered the general idea of how Yoshizawa made a simple Owl from a Kite Base and used a bunch of Pleat Folds to make the eyes, beak, and tail. That was enough of a launchpad to go from. But if I don’t have anything to go from, I clock my intuition and see if I can run with it. Often, it’s about focusing on one iconic feature of the subject and allowing the rest of the model to be simple. For example, if I can make a Cow with a decent looking head and horns, the body doesn’t have to be especially detailed. (All of this being said, I usually don’t accept these requests and offer up similar subjects that I do know how to fold).

This challenge is about capitalizing on creative intuition. Whatever the subject may be, you don’t need to worry about creating the most extraordinary, innovative version ever folded from a sheet of paper. It’s about following your instincts to get started. Getting started can be the hardest step in the creative process, especially if we’re worried about the quality of the outcome. Quality will come in time. For now, run with your instincts and get the wheels turning.

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