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Folding a Simple Blank, Uncut Square


The word "origami" brings much to mind...paper planes, folded dollar bills, cranes, and frogs. Yet, a great amount of mathematics underlies the world of origami.

Curious...Want to know more? On Tuesday, January 18th, PBS is scheduled to repeat the documentary Between the Folds. The focus is the science, art, creativity, and ingenuity of origami, as seen through the stories of ten origamists and their art.

They are an interesting or unusual bunch...almost eccentrics: former theoretical scientists and respected artists, abandoning their careers to focus on the wonders of origami. As the advertising blurb states, "Together they reinterpret the world in paper, creating a wild mix of sensibilities towards art, science, creativity, and meaning."

Filled with interviews, examples, and insights into the minds of a dedicated origamist, the documentary begins with a focus on three of the world's foremost origami artists: (1) a former French sculptor who folds paper structures akin to the creations of artists such as Daumier and Picasso; (2) a former physicist dedicated to investigating the "physics" of origami; and, (3) a craftsman who not only creates paper but also creates interesting worlds from that same paper.

The documentary uses origami principls to explore the abstract concepts of minimalism, deconstruction, and empiricism. This leads to some interesting discussions with advanced mathematicians, especially Erik Demaine, who recently won a MacArthur "Genius" Award for his work in Computational Origami.

If you cannot watch the documentary...or it is not shown in your area, then consider these two options:

  • Buy and watch the Between the Folds DVD; the cost is $25 but currently is on sale at a 20% discount
  • Visit PBS's online content, which includes some history and overviews, plus the interactive game Match the Folds, where you are challenged to pair-up finished origami creations with the associated "fold pattern."
My hope...that my local PBS station airs the documentary! Remember, that's Tuesday evening, January 18th.