Little Red Riding Hood Goes to Queens

...EAT YOU WITH!"IMG_3409 copy

Here’s something new I take with me to schools and professional development workshops, and I just started offering in hard copy or as a download on my new ETSY shop Merch Dog. It renders:
a traditional origami figure: House,
and an origami puppet: Fox…only in this case it’s Big Bad Wolf
and a lesson in Story Structure, most especially the essential element of Conflict.

A couple of weeks ago I took Little Red with me to teach a session at the Origami USA Annual Convention, and my friend Kuniko Yamamoto threw down the gauntlet and double dog dared me to enter it in the Saturday night Oversize Folding Competition. Each team of 4 folders is given a 9′ square of paper and 45 minutes to fold it into something silly or spectacular. I told Kuniko there was no way I could enter the Oversize Folding Competition, because I don’t draw and the thought of transferring all those images onto a 9′ square of paper made my teeth hurt. She said, “I draw!” Bluff called. Kuniko, Kathy Stevick, Sherry Moman, and I were Team Riding Hood and the 5-minute farce you’ll find below is the result of our efforts, filmed by Judith Powell.

— This is how ladies of a certain age amuse themselves at origami conventions.


…and p.s.: please don’t judge my ETSY store too harshly. It’s an incremental building process, and my graphics skills come in the teensiest little bite-sized pieces. Whatever you pay your photographers, whatever you pay your graphic artists, they’re worth it!


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Cold Alchemy

Potters. What they do with mud and fire is alchemy.

What do you call it when transmogrification happens cold and naked? No molecules messed with? Nothing added. Nothing taken away. Bare hands. No tools.


The way I fold it, the way I photograph it, it’s not all that spectacular. Similar to the way I used to play 2-part inventions. The music should not be judged by my musicianship.

This morning over my second cup of coffee I figured out the diagrams for an origami bowl. To me, bowls, boxes, vases — vessels — are wombs. In my imagination I cast myself into them and go “back to the garden,” before that story about the snake and the woman and the apple. Vessels, for me, represent innocence, gifts, and possibilities.

My love of vessels, I guess, is why I feel affinity toward potters.

Last night I tried, unsuccessfully, to fold this bowl. I followed a creasing pattern that created spider webs and varicose veins across the paper, and just trying to figure which intersection I was supposed to be working on made my brain hurt. That attempt went into the recycle bin. It was after midnight. I was running on fumes.

This morning I found new diagrams created by the guy who invented the bowl. They were poetry. They were a two-part invention. They were spare and simple. Not easy. But clear. A square of paper held all the information I needed — no tools, no guessing — to find the exact point that divides the side of my paper into 3/7 and 4/7. And the next fold gave a wreath of 3:4:5 right triangles — Hello, Pythagoras! — offset and elegant. I marveled for a moment. I rhapsodized.

And then I scolded myself — All well and good, but it’s not getting you ready for next week’s gigs. It’s not getting any laundry done. It’s not nailing down that appointment. It’s not going to get you any more work. What are you going to do with it when you’re done, anyway? What’s the point?

Mid-scold, I told my Inner Censor to be quiet, I was having a little epiphany. In that moment I sort of understood what I was doing. I was taking care of myself. It’s a form of meditation. It’s my way of finding balance here in the middle of a construction zone. In this square of paper, I’m creating a molecule of order and a Note to Self: This is ephemera. It is a song. It’s all ephemera. It’s all music. It’s all you have.

The point is: the process.


This is the part that brings tears to my eyes. And I’ll never be able to explain why, because in order to get my head around this eloquence, I have to quit thinking in words. When I try to describe it, all I do is stutter and flap.

Zhoudi  Bowl
Philip Chapman Bell
Copyright 2009
These diagrams are licenses under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.”

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