Filmmakers@Google: Between The Folds

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 09.11.2009

The process of making is the point of it. This needs to be a kind of ballet.
>> If anybody can copy [indistinct], it's not art.
>> There's no carving in wood or in stone or knots on a rug that are going to look anything
near like what pleats do when they express a line.
>> Lots of people talk about the reality of a [indistinct] elephant in origami.
Does it look real? Does it look like an elephant?
But, it's a piece of paper, and, of course, it can't look like an elephant.
>> I think, at heart, one of the things that makes us human -- that's both our strength
and our weakness -- is a need to change things. It's also the heart of the appeal of origami,
exploring the surprising magic of just how far you can change that square only by folding
>> What are the limits -- the physical limits -- of this art form?
>> When you put a crease in the paper, you're essentially changing the memory of that piece.
>> Origami is just a way to get your hands dirty with math.
It becomes your laboratory for doing mathematics.
>> Whenever there's a need in the industry to take a flat sheet and somehow make it smaller,
there is potential for origami to have an application.
>> In science, this is the most creative you can be.
We are artists whether we do science or whether we build sculpture.
>> Well, first, thanks to everybody here and Paul and Brian, it's a real pleasure and we're
flattered that you were able to make this happen today.
I don't want to take up too much time myself, because, really, the people who you want to
ask questions to are the artists who are in the back.
First, actually, I'll call up Sally Rosenthal. She's the executive producer, and she's an
amazing person. And then, Bernie Peyton.
Please, you guys should just get up. This is informal.
Yes. Chris, Jeremy, Robert, Michael, Richard.
Did I miss anybody? We've had a couple.
You guys actually are -- yeah. This is quite special to have all these people
here. We have a bunch of local people and that have
helped. There's an enormous amount of brain talent
right here. So, and many of them have actually brought
some of their work. I know Chris Palmer has some new things to
show you. And Michael has Wilbur.
And I think, Chris also has a flower tower here.
Jeremy might have a flasher. This is the papermaker; is that you?
>> Can you describe what's involved in making paper, and what's special about the paper
that's used for this?
>> Sure. When I first became inspired to become an
origami artist, it was because of the work of Akira Yoshizawa, who we saw in the film,
and his work just had that artist touch. So I tried to do this as a young boy with
ordinary paper. First, I thought it was me, and then I thought,
"It's the paper." I luckily lived in a papermaking town, and
I began to study it, and realized there was chemistry involved and material selection
and paper-forming techniques. So, over the years, my three goals in the
papermaking, starting from age 16, were: the foldability.
I wanted it to respond to my touch, so it worked like playing a fine instrument.
I could put the expression I wanted. I wanted the works to last a long time.
You know, you put a lot of work into these things, and maybe people buy them, and they
should not crumble and fade. And then the third thing was, of course, I
wanted to be able to do this whenever I really needed it.
I had to set myself up to make paper on demand. So, I did a lot of research.
Essentially, we use plant fibers, abaca, which is from a banana plant, or hemp -- really
good, long, strong stuff, like they use in paper money.
You grind that up in water. And then you can color it, use permanent pigments.
You float the stuff in water and use various size screens to screen out layers of pulp
-- thinner or thicker -- press it and dry it, and you've got paper.
So, our paper can be as thin as tissue and as strong as paper money at the same time.
Wilbur is folded from thicker paper, and when we fold the paper, we moisten it slightly
sometimes. That's called "wet folding."
You can see the stylistic difference. But that's in a nutshell what paper making
is all about. Richard is our other papermaking master.
>> Most people associate origami with origami paper which was developed in the 1800s to
support the Froebel Kindergarten Program, where they did a lot of paper folding in Europe,
and then it spread through the U.S. and Japan. And sure, you can make origami from anything
you can fold, but to make origami art, you need to use artist materials that are going
to last. That's the difference.
>> I've seen some images floating around the Internet by artists who, instead of fold paper,
they just make creases. And they use these creases in such a way to
make -- usually a representational scene. Have you seen this type of art that, again,
instead of actual folds, they're just like minor creases in what remains a flat piece
of paper, and do you consider that origami?
>> Have you guys seen that?
>> So, just the crease pattern, and then, it's folding up to make a geometic pattern?
Or what is it making?
>> No folding. Usually it looks like a room or maybe like
an outdoor scene. I mean, lots of, it kind of tries to use
-- painterly three dimensionality but again they're not really folds.
It's just a series of creases on an otherwise flat pieces of paper, that create a picture,
or something like that, but it doesn't actually fold up into anything.
>> Like a relief kind of? >> Yeah, kind of.
>> Robert.
>> So, I've seen this. Oh, sorry, I'm Robert Lang.
So, I'm one of the artists in the film. I've seen this, and for those who haven't,
it is low relief. Effectively, they're scoring the paper, the
artist is scoring, making shallow creases in the paper.
And so, the image that you get comes from both the fold lines itself, and the slight
changes in angle of the paper, when lit appropriately, give height and contrast, so you can see representation
images. And, to me, everyone has a different definition
of origami. My definition of origami is, It's an art form
where folds are the primary means of creating the structure.
So it doesn't have any rules about whether it's one or two sheets, or whether you can
or can't cut, but folding has to be primary. And so, in my view that type of folding, as
well as the nondeterministic folding, otherwise known as crumpling [indistinct] is, in fact,
another branch of origami.
>> I think this doesn't really answer the question.
I think the root of the question is, How are they made? Right?
>> Well, that's another interesting question.
>> And I have my own -- I mean, who knows for sure, but I've looked at them really carefully.
And I would suggest there's some sort of laser work, you know, scoring -- that's just my
own personal thing. I have no proof, so anybody -- that's everybody's
to their own personal interpretation.
>> Well, the word "origami" is gradually, in my opinion, becoming equal to the word
music. By the way, I'm Michael LaFosse, the papermaker,
designer too. And today, we realize that whatever anyone
wishes to call music, or even the word art for that reason, might really be up to their
own decision. So, when Robert mentioned that, the thing
that occurred to me is, I wonder what the folks who actually make that work of art wish
to -- or decided to -- call it. That might be a bit more interesting to hear,
you know, their answer of what they're calling it.
Maybe they don't want to call it "origami." I don't know.
I think of it as origami, because as Robert said, if its primary expression is folds in
paper, no matter the method of getting them into the paper, that can categorically be
origami, like the word "music".
>> Hi my name is Natalie Su. My question for all the artists is, "Once
you have the final product, is there anything that you either spray on the product to make
it last for a long time? For example, lacquer or, is it more like determinant
on the paper that you use final pieces it's?"
>> Yeah. Well I'd say that's -- there is some people
in the wide world of the craft of origami that have been known to paint their final
thing with lacquer. It's a small set of people.
And it makes it much different object. It kind of freezes it in place, and takes
it away from that idea that that process brought it there, in my opinion.
>> And, well, yeah. Sometimes, in order to make it more durable,
it is necessary. And, Jeremy has some examples of that sort
of thing for performing. If it needs to actually open and close many
times, then some treatment is necessary. That's kind of an interesting subject that
has movement.
>> Hi. Richard Alexander.
We do some commercial installations, some which are permanent.
We have to spray the tops of the origami mobiles with maybe an acrylic spray that will allow
the workers to clean them and keep them dusted so they look fresh.
Window displays are often up for a short period of time, and there's a coating.
When people make origami jewelry, depending on the age of people that are going to be
wearing it, jewelry sold to younger children, they will dip in two-part epoxy to make it.
>> That's what I was referring to that some people do that.
>> Here's some examples of paper that's been treated for utility with tape.
>> And so this is -- okay. So, this one is first folded out of a large
sheet of paper. I couldn't find that big one, so I pieced
several together to get this big of a square. And then after I folded it, I did paint it,
and I reinforced it on the back laminating.
>> So, there's some plastic in there.
>> Yes. And this one has lasted me a few years, actually,
opening it during all my performances. And these are some other ones that I laminated.
And, with acrylic paint, which is also -- acrylic paint is also very flexible, so that's
what I use.
>> It was hinted towards earlier, but I didn't get the chance to follow up.
You mention, or said with some disdain, that they might have been using lasers in that
paper-creasing process. I didn't see any tools or maybe I missed it.
I didn't see many tools in this video. Is it kind of looked down upon in the origami
community to use like the small hooking tools to make these teeny creases?
Or did I just not see that part of the process?
>> I think you just didn't see that part of the process, and also different people do
-- some people use bone [indistinct], and some people like to laser cut or etch a little,
very lightly, with very little power, to make creases.
So, it's there and around. And people use small tools for fine work as
>> I just want to clarify, since I made that disdaining comment.
I just think that origami, it's okay to use tools, but if it's.
It's sort of important to present like -- if you use cuts, for instance, then you would
put a work on display. And maybe, people in this day and age might
consider that that model doesn't have cuts. And then, when -- I mean, that happened to
me the first time I made a crab. I wanted to make a crab.
I saw it in the book, and I was really excited to make it, and then it sort of turned out
it had cuts and I was like. [disappointed sound]
And so yeah, it's just presenting things, I think, it's important to have some sort
of description of the medium, the method in order to really present an artwork.
And that's just my own personal opinion.
>> I was just going to mention: A lot of people, including myself, do use tools.
I use anything, ranging from tweezers, glasses, reading glasses sometimes, [laughter] and
on some pieces, I've also used laser-scriber to scribe creases.
My view is, if tools help you create a better artwork -- and what Jeremy alluded to, you're
not claiming that you are doing something different than what you are doing -- then
I think any tool is a good thing, just as if you are a painter, using a brush to apply
the paint, rather than spitting it out of your mouth like the old people did, is a good
thing as well.
>> I've seen images floating around of someone who used toilet paper rolls to create faces.
Have you seen this? Is that artist up here?
Or do have you an opinion of using found objects to?
>> That artist is Junior in France. He's a member of LECRIM, and he lives in Paris.
And I personally met with him and saw his paper rolls and tried it myself as well, I
must confess.
>> We have somebody, who's name is Linda Miyahara, and she delights in having contests at conventions,
and she will give us things like a tortilla, a piece of plastic wrap, a toilet seat cover,
a towel, a paper pack, anything that she can come up with to fold.
And you'd have to sit there in front of judges; you have one minute to make a creation.
It's rather exciting. So, yes, anything can be folded.
>> Sounds like an Iron Chef of paper, kind of?
>> Yeah, in fact, you know, the origami community worldwide is very well-connected.
It's a small group, but it's a huge group. And we all know each other, and many of us
here for years, Vanessa was able to learn about each of us by the recommendation from
one of us to another. So, it just went around the world.
That also happens when it comes to commercial jobs.
Maybe somebody contacts somebody and says, "Oh, you know who you have to contact to get
this done?" And if that person is too busy or contractually-obligated
to something else, you say, "Oh, I know just who you should go see."
That kind of thing is actually very common. And speaking of the toilet paper tube thing,
Richard and I have had to engineer parts folded from crafton plastic, that are collapsible,
and ended up in satellites in orbit now right now.
So our fingerprints, if they didn't clean them up very well, they're in orbit right
now -- similar kind of shape, about the size of toilet paper tube, and geometrically-designed
to collapse a certain way. Hand-folded, sent off for gold coating.
And, there you go. So from toilet paper tubes to orbit.
>> Hi. This is Sally Rosenthal.
I have a question and a comment. Vanessa, I don't think people saw you when
you first went up there. And since you're the director.
Would you get in the camera frame please so people know what you look like who are on
the other side of the world. Just be in the frame so they can see you.
And then, the other thing I have an unfair advantage because I know what's going on,
but Chris has some hats that I know people want to see.
And I have one on. Would you show that?
>> Yeah. I do have a collection of silly hats.
>> Thank you.
>> I'll get that.
>> Yeah.
>> And can you repeat the question please?
>> So, yeah. There are other things that get folded besides
paper. Jeff was indicating that I could talk a little
bit about folding in other mediums, specifically textile, and a little bit of the history and
relationship of how paper folding and textile folding have crossed in my work.
So, well, here's okay. Small side thing on silly hats just for a moment here.
They make people look silly, but they do have some fun math behind them.
And they also have a technique for expressing -- now, this is called "paper engineering."
This is cutting and folding. Cutting and folding.
Paper engineering. And this is a way that meshes and computer
3D models can get out of the computer in a way that wouldn't happen if it was happening
with glue, which is a way that people do paper engineering and cutting and putting things
together. These are, instead of accumulated air that
happens when you glue tabs together to make 3D models.
Like, we're wearing these 3D models on our head.
This is self-correcting. So, it's accumulated perfection.
Just kind of a nice thing. People aren't used to that.
They're used to little errors getting worse, most of the time.
So, these adjust, because they move a little bit, because there's no glue on them.
It's a little far away, but you can see the connection in here.
It's a little bit like a zipper, and it allows for, as you put each little piece together,
they can still move a little bit. And they want to move towards the perfect
place of the two edges of the face of the mesh.
So, I'd encourage that, when we do a little mingling here, that everyone come and try
to put these hats on, please. I like to collect silly portraits with the
hats on, so I'd encourage a bit of that later.
>> Yes. So, here's a little bit of -- kind of, how
do things get folded in other mediums, textiles, and some cross-relationship?
And also, a little bit of backwards process, because this is a special demonstration piece
that we can see. It looks -- I could have pasted these things
on here. After watching this movie, you're probably
guessing that it's one piece of cloth, but I could have pasted them on.
If you'd never seen the movie, you might have thought I pieced them on, lots of little pieces
to get this pattern on, but we get to see the reverse process of this ordered thing
go to chaos and flat.
>> And here's the -- we can see in low relief the crease pattern.
Yes? And then it goes back, and this going back
part is not exactly like what I see when I'm doing this cross, when I'm folding this.
And this is a, kind of, classic folding of where the lines of a tiling are expressed
as pleats. And this style of folding is from a Japanese
teacher, [indistinct]__ Fujimoto, and I figured out after sometime of doing the paper folding
style of these kinds of patterns where every line becomes a pleat, there's some interesting
things about pleats expressing tilings and lines because funny things happen at the vertices
that are unique to this expression of a folded plane whenever the plane is paper or silk.
One of the most remarkable and interesting things about folding a piece of paper to do
this, and folding this silk is that, a piece of paper is highly technical to do this because
we saw, as it came apart, there was all this distortion.
And if you try to fold this in paper and you make all the creases and then push it together
there's a lot of distortion and the paper needs to go through a very complex kind of
state before it gets to this final state. And paper doesn't really want to do that and
so only 30, 40 people in the world are really good at doing that in paper.
It's a highly technical, special niche in origami.
This is another, kind of, pleasant contradiction or -- in that, this technique in cloth, if
you do it a different way and take advantage of the fact that cloth can be distorted, it
becomes a counter-example to, when we see something complex, we always think it needed
something complex to do it. And this is the counterexample.
This is not a complex method. It doesn't take skill.
I can take a roomful of eleven-year-olds, and they could walk away with a piece of folded
silk in a very complex thing. You won't exactly believe me, because a lot
of crafts people will say, "Oh, my thing is easy" and 30, 40 steps later it's not exactly
easy. I could very well be one of those.
But, this is a beautiful counterexample that's a kind of an amazing thing that pulls down
a highly technical thing so that many, many people can do it.
It's a little bit like the right technique like -- many people can do knitting.
It's a simple little thing. It produces complex things, and it has levels
of complexity within the activity, but the right medium in the right kinds of expression
for that medium are coming together in a way where, in cloth, that is true.
And part of the interesting -- to tie back to the origami story -- is that in order to
get to this cloth and this work and have it be able to have its technique to be shared,
it needed to come first from paper. And that's an interesting story that's a little
more detailed. But I'm glad to let you know a little bit
about that and share more than what's in the movie and what's in the wider world out there.
>> How did you plan to make this movie?
>> Well, perhaps this would be relevant to some people out there, who have a fascination
about something. I first learned about mathematicians doing
origami about five years ago, and I was in no shape, way, or form a filmmaker at that
time. But I'd always had a kind of amateur interest
in math, and generally more of a mathematical person, but was looking for a way to explore
the connections between math and art, and how general creativity could be applied in
both ways, you know -- together or separately. And so, when I heard about the mathematician
in the film, Tom Hall, who was making, as you saw, some modular pieces that were so
mathematically-based, but also so beautiful to look at, I thought that that would be a
nice, short film. So, I decided to visit him, and I had hoped
to make a 7- or 8-minute movie about the mathematics of origami.
At that time, not knowing anything about what I was about to get into.
But as time went by, Tom Hall introduced me to Michael LeFosse.
And I slowly began to understand that what fascinated me most about the art form was
not that, in fact, either mathematicians were doing it, or heavy scientists or sculptors
or artists, but the fact that it was a medium that drew all those people together or, at
least, attracted them because of its qualities. And therein, I decided to explore the kind
of creativity that the scientists and the mathematicians and the artists applied to
the medium itself. And I felt that the metaphors about a square
of paper and the idea of this uniform accessibility and democracy of the medium itself had a lot
to explore. So that's how it happened, and then, five
years later, here we are.
>> [clapping] >> Thank you.
Richard Alexander here. We just -- as artists and people involved
with origami -- we just want to thank Vanessa for the wonderful story that she's told about
this group of people. Going back several years, a lot of these people
were folding in relative isolation. There were small conventions and a few publications.
And when Michael and I opened the Origamido Studio in 1996, I searched the word "origami"
on Al Gore's Internet, and I got about a million hits.
And, when we opened our show in Waikiki last year, I did a Google search and found 32 million
hits -- something like that -- on the word "origami."
>> Well -- not to sound too self-congratulatory up here -- but, it's obviously an honor for
me to be able to work with the artists and their artwork.
We did put information about all of these artists on the film's website, which is
So if you go there, there's links to pretty much everybody up here.
So, oh, that's right. They're in the area -- in the Bay Area.
In fact, Robert, maybe you want to talk about -- I don't know much about PCOC.
>> So, there are origami conventions around the world.
And there is one called the Pacific Coast Origami Convention.
It's in San Francisco. It's November 5th through 8th.
About two hundred people, origami classes at all levels, from beginner to extremely
advanced. And, if you want to learn more about it, go
to the Origami USA website, or Google for "PCOC," "peacock," and you'll
find out what it's about and how. Oh, yes.
There is an exhibition, and that is open to the public.
So, you can just come to the exhibition if you want.
>> We get asked a lot if the DVD is available. And, as of about four days ago, we are thrilled
to say, "Yes, at our website,"
>> The very first question -- I think it was Jessie -- asked about papermaking, and the
DVD has a lot of extra footage that you didn't see here.
So if you are interested in the details, Vanessa has provided information such as drill down
into the DVD. Thank you.