Sunday, November 11, 2007

Origami Turtles by the Dozen

My latest origami project, soon after folding the Origami Crabs, is folding turtles -- twelve turtles, in fact. They are from the same John Montroll book that has the crab design. Here's the first four turtles that I folded:

Some time ago, I folded a bunch of these turtles for a grade-school class taught by a daughter-in-law. The kids had fun painting the turtles. This time, the turtles are going into shoeboxes that my church is collecting and sending to Samaritan's Purse for their Operation Christmas Child program. My wife and daughter figured that it would be more economical (and fun) to buy inexpensive children's toys by the dozen, and fill a dozen shoeboxes. My contribution was to fold a dozen origami turtles. Here's some of the boxes as they were being packed:

Monday, November 05, 2007

More about the Origami Crabs

Here's some more about my previous post Origami Emergency. If you haven't read it, you'll need to read it first for the following to make any sense.

The origami crabs have arrived safely, after a delay because the British customs office was closed for the weekend. Which reminds me: When I started telling a friend what I was doing, he asked, "What is origami?" So when I was filling out the export form to describe what I was exporting to the UK, I first wrote "two origami crabs", and then added "(paper, folded)" in case the export agent might think that origami is a species of crab.

I didn't quote from my email responding to Dave McKean, because I wanted to keep the story short and not boring to non-folders. But since many folders are reading this blog, I'll quote most of it here:

I have helped people with origami projects before, but not with such a time constraint! I think I can do it, though, but the requirement for white is a small concern, which I will explain.

Folding an object with many appendages, such as a crab, from a single square of paper without cutting is a complex process with many folds (424 steps for John Montroll's crab), which builds up many layers. To prevent bulkyness and a tendancy to unfold and look fluffy, such models need to be folded from a thin foil/paper composite. (On the Origami Database web page where you saw my model in gold foil/paper, there is a photo of a crab done in thin paper, which is not as crisp.) The malleability of soft metal and crispness of the paper combine for a good result.

I don't have access to white foil/paper, but the model can folded so that the white paper 'back' can be the 'front', and the foil side in back. I have 12 3/4 inch squares of silver foil/paper that I can use. (The foil side is actually a light-grey/silver speckle pattern.) My guess is that the model will be about 3 or 4 inches wide.

If you carefully examine the photo of the crab that I folded, you will see that a little white shows at edges at the legs. When I reverse the foil/paper, a little grey/silver will show in these places. From my experience in photographing origami, I predict that depending on the angle of the light, these edges will either look like grey shadow or silver highlights. I hope that this will be satisfactory. (You can daub these edges with thin white paint, if you prefer. I can include some extra paper to experiment with.)

If I learn anything more, I'll post it here. And if you find something, post a comment here. Details are often found in blog comments.

Another Update...

Thursday, November 01, 2007


That was the title of an email that I received recently: ORIGAMI EMERGENCY!!!! It read:

Dear Mr. Clark.

My name is Dave McKean, and I'm directing a feature film starting this weekend called Luna. A scene in the film requires an origami crab made from white paper. This little detail has been left to the last minute to source, and has proven to be a big problem. I found a beautiful paper crab on a website called ORIGAMI DATABASE which I believe was folded by yourself from a diagram by John Montroll. From there I found your blog and website, with what I hope is a correct email address for you. So, the reason for this emergency email; would you be willing to make me a couple of white paper crabs to use in the film and ship them to me in the UK straight away. I can pay you a small fee out of our props budget for your time, credit you as the model maker in the end credits, and give you a fedex number to use.

I hope you will be able to help us out,
Yours sincerely,
Dave McKean

I have about two dozen origami books in my library, and I made an index of the origami designs in these books to help me find origami designs. When I discovered the Origami Database website, I contributed my index to them, because it is built by volunteers. I also had many photographs of origami models that I had folded, which I also contributed. That is how Dave McKean found me.

That email came on Tuesday, and he wanted it for the 'shoot' on the next weekend. I agreed, and folded these, which have been FedEx'ed to the UK on Thursday:

It took me four hours to fold each crab, turning a 12 and 3/4 inch square of paper into a 3-inch by 4-inch crab. One crab will be a stand-in for the other. No, I don't think a crab will show up for work drunk, but somebody might accidently step on one.

Dave McKean is a artist that has made many CD covers, has illustrated children's books by his friend author Neil Gaiman, and more recently has been directing movies. I asked him if his new movie Luna was an English remake of the Italian movie La Luna by Bernardo Berttolucci, and he said:

Luna is not a remake of La Luna, a film I really liked being a Bertolucci fan.It is an original story, and there will be a website and IMDB page up soon. It is a low budget independent feature funded here in the UK. It is a contemporary drama, with a strange dream-like fantasy sequence running through it.

He then described how the origami crab is featured at the end of the film. I don't think I should repeat what he said, because maybe it will reveal too much about the ending of the story, but I guess it's OK to say that something magical happens to the crab.

So I'll be looking for the Luna web site and the listing on And it will be fun to see my origami featured in a movie!

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