Origami: an eternal and pop-culture favorite

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 5, 2012 

There’s more to origami than cranes.

It started centuries years ago, likely in Japan, and has had widespread appeal ever since. New variations appear all the time. Traditionalists will enjoy “Amazing Origami” and pop-culture enthusiasts can try their hand at folding Darth Vader’s black helmet.

Chris Alexander, author of “Star Wars Origami,” had been enthralled by “Star Wars” since the movie entered theaters in 1977.

“I saw the original “Star Wars” when it first came out,” he said at Celebration VI, a “Star Wars” convention held in Orlando, Florida. “I have been a fan ever since. I started doing origami when I was 4, so that would be 1969, so I have been an origami fan since then. Everyone always wants to put their hobbies together, this is my result.”

Alexander, whose real life job is a Los Angeles air traffic controller, says, “The Internet made it really accessible to everybody. So, now it’s just getting more and more popular as time goes on.”

“Amazing Origami” takes a more traditional look at paper folding. The introduction points out that “in Japanese ‘ori’ means to fold and ‘gami’ means paper.”

With 144 beautifully patterned sheets of paper, you can make seventeen different origami models running from a Luna moth, swan, Magnolia blossom and even a goldfish Koi. The diagrams are by Michael G. LaFosse or Gay Merrill Gross.

All the authors point out that you need to practice, practice, practice, before trying out the enclosed papers. “Star Wars Origami” includes printed sheets as well.

Alexander fell into making “Star Wars” origami by accident. He was teaching children how to fold a penguin, turned it on its side, and realized “you have a B-wing starfighter” from “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi,” something in-depth fans of the films would recognize.

Visiting a friend who was also a big “Star Wars” fan, he showed off the B-wing and an X-wing fighter he’d folded. His friend told him to write a book about them.

“I said I can’t. I don’t know how to write, I don’t know how to invent, I don’t know how to design them, put them on paper, and he said, ‘so teach yourself,’” says Alexander. Fifteen years later, his book has been published. It has 36 designs including lightsabers, R2-D2 ‘droid, the Wookiee Chewbacca and an Imperial shuttle.

He’s made extensive origami sets for the stars of the movies including “an elaborate display I made to George Lucas. He said it was amazing.”

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