I have been on and off origami for a couple of years now and I’ve achieved a fair amount of dexterity when dealing with paper. I’ve been particularly interested in geometric folding which is mostly a tessellation of similar elements either repeated over the entire sheet of paper or similar elements cascading on top of each other.
I was making Muiras, inverted pleates, waterbombs, all sort of repeated pattern and creating some of my own fold. Then I came across this very interesting channel on YouTube called HappyFolding (Sara Adams). I saw the Hydrangea fold (Created by Shuzo Fujimoto) video, which was brilliantly done. I was a bit apprehensive when I started the fold as it involved pushing, pulling and folding paper on itself. I had done these sort of processes on paper earlier but not on a single sheet of paper in one particular fold.
I started with a fairly big (A3 square) tracing paper and heard Sara explaining and demonstrating the fold. One thing which I would recommend a lot of people who are trying intermediate level of folding is that if they are watching a YouTube video, then reduce the speed of the video to 0.75 times if the pace seems to fast. It helps a lot as you can actually get a decent pace and match the instructor. The first ever Hydrangea I made took me around 45 minutes and it came out pretty decent. I used a rosewood folder and a modified stainless steel dental pick (a wooden tooth pick’s blunt end can be used as well).
I became more curious about this absolutely amazing cascading tessellation as it could go on growing in the levels of petals until it became too small to fold and collapse. I thought that lets give it a try and make the smallest one I can. So, I sat the next day and made one which was 4.5cmx4.5cm and felt really good and thought that even smaller ones could be done. It took me around an hour to make this 4 layer Hydrangea.
I became more courageous and adventurous and thought that it would be really challenging to make something which is under 1cm when folded. Hence started my obsession with making a sub centimeter Hydrangea. I took steps to do this. I moved from a 2.20cm to a 1.4cm, 1.4cm to a 1.10cm, 1.10cm to 0.85cm and finally from a 0.85cm to a 0.75 cm.
All this while I was experimenting with various types of paper to get the one which can be used to make the tiniest Hydrangea. I used rolling paper and tracing paper for making the 0.85 and 0.75 respectively. Making the smaller ones took a lot of time as i had to extend the working and dexterity of my fingers to a pair of tweezers and picking tools.
To make the 0.75cm Hydrangea I used a square sheet of tracing paper approximately 1.5cmx1.5cm. As such small scale, paper behaves in a totally different ways. The crease lines become so small that it gets difficult to distinguish and then on top of that the first collapse is the most difficult cause you need to use around 6 to 8 of your fingers and paper this small cannot be so easily manipulated. It was one of the most challenging and delicate thing I’ve ever made in my life. I wasn’t afraid of tearing the paper, I never had that fear as I knew I’ll start over again and try once more.
While I was reducing the scale of Hydrangea, I was actively posting my progress on Instagram and Facebook, a lot of people were really encouraging and some of them even messaged saying that they believed that I can make a sub centimeter Hydrangea. It was really nice of them to put their faith in an unknown person.
After I got done with the sub centimeter Hydrangea, I started folding other folds on smaller scales and it was interesting to see that I started using the tweezers and picks as an extension of my hands and it became easier as I made more and more folds.
One day I thought let’s try making a big Hydrangea with as many layers as possible. I picked butterpaper as I wanted to have translucency in the model and to be able to see various layers when kept in front of light. I ended up making a 8 layer 25cmx25cm Hydrangea. I found making the bigger one far more difficult compared to the little ones I did before.
After a few weeks I thought that now it’s time to make a tessellation of a tessellations. I started looking at high density Hydrangea. One day I started making crease patterns on my own and tried to make a grid of 2×2 but made a mistake, but the mistake also turned out to be a nice hybrid pattern of square and stars grid.
I found a pattern for tessellation in Shuzo Fujimoto’s book (Japanese instructions) and got down to making it. I used tracing sheet to make a 4 layer 2×2 Hydrangea tessellation and this endeavor took me around three hours.
This gave me a bit of confidence on making a tessellation and my next big plan was to make a 5×5 one and I again picked tracing paper but it was a bad choice. When you try to fold and collapse 25 hydrangeas simultaneously then a paper like tracing sheet might not work as it’s not stiff enough to create a crease memory. I took around 6 hours in folding the crease pattern and then trying to collapse it. But it didn’t work out. I thought maybe it was me being over ambitious in trying a 5×5.
In the meanwhile I came across this beautiful black paper which could hold creases very nicely and not tear at the same time when folded multiple times on the same crease or when being pushed or pulled. I thought this is a good paper to try a tessellation’s tessellation. I made a crease for a 3×3 grid this time and this time the paper was just perfect for the application and it took me around 4 hour and I ended up with a 3 layer 3×3 Hydrangea measuring 8cmx8cm.
I still hadn’t given up on my challenge of making the 5×5. So, one day I sat and made the crease pattern on my favorite unknown magical black paper and tried to collapse it. It took me a total of 5 hours to make the basic 1 layer 25 Hydrangea tessellation. I was so tired by the end of it that I left the pattern untouched for another 10-15 days. It took me another 11 hours spread over two days to make a 3 layer (middle Hydrangea being 4 layer) 5×5 measuring 12cmx12cm. This has been the longest (duration) single piece of folding I’ve done in my life and it was worth doing.
There were a couple of things I learnt in this entire crazy process of getting curious about a fold to a sub centimeter to a large one and finally a 16 hour 5×5 tessellation. Some of them might seem philosophical but they make sense (at least to me)
- Origami makes you really calm as you are dealing with a medium which is fragile and resistant at the same time. It teaches you to deal with things which could have contradictory characteristics in a very calm manner. I’ll make an analogy of “Responding” rather than “Reacting”.
- It makes you a patient person. You cannot rush into making the fold as one wrong move could end up puncturing the paper and lay waste to the effort you had put. Things take time and you need patience to go through them and it’s fine if you take your time.
- Things might seem crazy but if you can keep calm and have patience, you can break the crazy things into deal-able chunks of growing complexity and deal with them one by one. I moved to the sub centimeter and the 5×5 Hydrangea in a evolutionary way and not in a brute attack mode. I built the complexity and dexterity of my hands and brain to deal with the crazy task of doing 16 hour long folding.
- There are a lot of good people around who share common interest with you and they will encourage you and put their faith in your capabilities. Times when I thought it might not be possible to do a fold, someone sent me a message or told me that they think that I can do it. And this made a lot of difference.
- Personally origami gets me into a state of Flow and engages my brain and mind. So, a lot of people who find getting into flow difficult can try out origami and once your flow is maintained you can shift to other activities.
- I experimented with a lot of papers, plastics and structures. Now, I know what sort of paper will work for what sort of folds. So, doing experimentation is really important if you want to optimize and enrich a process.
- I made a lot of bespoke tools for doing origami, which would otherwise have never happened because there were times when my fingers were too big for the size of the sheet. So, making your own tools is a crucial part of experimentation.
- I think (or would like to think) a lot of people got interested in origami after I started posting the pictures. Some of them had been doing origami but had stopped and some of them tried it for the first time and were delighted beyond measure.
- I made a point of giving Hydrangeas to a lot of people. At one point, I was folding around 4-5 Hydrangeas everyday and giving it to people. They were so happy to get one. So, one motivation to get started with origami is to give it to others and to see them smile.
It was an interesting time experimenting with this ONE beautiful fold done by the great Shuzo Fujimoto. I’m deeply indebted to him.
You can check some of the folds on my Instagram handle or see them personally if you are around Ahmedabad.