Origamics in Future

Forecasting is not difficult for the person who can read the signs of the time, it is said.

Forecasting requires not only an open-minded interpretation of the present, but also seeing what is missing right now from all the abundance in the world. Indeed, in the short-term, commercialism operates under the principle that people exchange their old things for new ones, even though the old things are fine. With regard to the sensible progress of the world of things, a change would mean giving up static thinking of shapes entirely. It would mean adopting a new design concept based on a changing structure. That progress would require geometrically different digital programmes, which would be based more on the analysis of the changing of a live structure based on the principles of paper folding called origami.

This kind of leap in progress has previously taken place before the computer age in the 1920s Europe, when Albers and friends were developing the paper plastic teaching methods of Bauhaus.  It was always temporally tied to the place where design flourished at the time. In Japan and China as well, the knowledge of structures and the ability to use information is a tradition, seen also in the direct contact of designers to working artisans. In Catalonia’s Barcelona, I recommend visiting the Antonio Gaudi museum established underneath Sagrada Familia, which presents his infinite knowledge and ideas about structures. A limited concept of shapes and structures and the lack of education are the greatest obstacles to an advanced understanding of structures in design, for example in Finland. I am not aware of many designers, architects or engineers, who are interested in those things as a whole, even though the creative advantage against competitors would be disproportionate. The change in the geometry of programmes is already taking place now in computers, because it is possible and there is a need for it in different areas. Hopefully the best experts are now designing those tools that design is done with in the future.

In the 1970s, I found some basic origami folding models almost by myself. It took me an awfully long time to try to fold those structures in the best way, but I learned quickly because I was interested in the fact that it opened up a new understanding of the reality of the world. I thought about what kinds of applications based on origami could originate outside of packaging design and art. Architecture is one endless area of application. Furthermore, one obstacle has been the initial basic limitations of 3D drawing programmes. They do not know geometry based on origami, or you must know what you want. One of those models is a contracting and expanding origami flower that turns around itself geometrically through its centre point. Flowers like this with very different shapes can be built. It is a sculpture structure with no permanent static shape. The shape of an organism living in nature changes when it uses its musculature/springs and skeleton when moving. Thus, a structure that creates shapes is one of the most important things in the world.

I vaguely understood then at the end of the 1970s that paper design is a key to understanding the importance of structure. It leads to much bigger alternative paths and achievements essential to the development of society than only better packaging design. Paper is still by far the best material for presenting the functionality of a structural idea. Perhaps specifically because of the immateriality of paper, it provides an opportunity to test the flexibility and geometry of interrelated networks in practice. I still do not know a better way to do it.

All the same, times have changed and research has already progressed to serious applications.

The Origami Revolution video gives a good overview of all the good things the future can bring when it is observed from an entirely new viewpoint created by current needs. Origami Revolution In art, we can marvel at the spontaneous and magical applications of Theo Jansen as an example of a vividly moving structurality, because a movement and transformation is a characteristic of structurality.

Origamics & Paper geometrics

Josef Albers Discussing Paper Sculptures presented by his students during the Preliminary Course at the Bauhaus, Dessau, Germany
Paper folding was studied in Bauhaus workshops of  basics studies. There are some pictures where I have seen some familiar geometric constructions and forms. I have notified here where you could find those geometrically folded shapes. 
Some geometric research of 3D-modular units which could shape regular polyhedrons or more organic continuing constructions.

History of Curved Origami Sculpture Erik Demaine and Martin Demaine The earliest known reference in modern time Europe of curved-crease sculpture is from a student’s work at the Bauhaus, from a preliminary course in paper study taught by Josef Albers in 1927–1928. Polyhedra origami (from one sheet) This origami resource center provides information about the art of paper folding. We provide links to diagrams, databases, book reviews, and ways to be a part of the paper folding community. Miyuki Kawamura: Polyhedron origami for the beginners

Extreme Origami – Kunihiko Kasahara from New York Origami Center made a new book about his works. Daniel Kwan foldings shows what an elementary origami could be.

In old Japan the mass production of paper spread allover the country during the Edo period (1603-1868). So it was easier for ordinary people to study paper folding and enjoy the art of origami. The world’s oldest book on origami (1797), is titled “How to Fold a Thousand Cranes”. The book includes detailed instructions for folding paper cranes. In the following Meiji period (1868-1912) origami began to be taught widely for children in Japan, as in elementary school drawing classes, and became extremely familiar for people.



Paper History links & activities

Amalfi Paper Museum near Salerno, Italy, almost 1000 years of making paper.
This is actually not an article but a list of handmade paper activities and places connected to historical matters of paper. There are some museums and old mills which still are quite active. Then I have listed few organizations that might interest you as International Association of Hand Papermakers & Paper Artists.

International Association of Hand Papermakers and Paper Artists (IAPMA) has 465 members from 38 different countries. Iapma is the one organization that support and present  new activities and exhibitions in paper art internationally and they even have a nice net gallery.

The International Association of Paper Historians (IPH) integrates professionals of different branches and all friends of paper within the field of paper history. It coordinates all interests and activities in paper history as an international specialist association co-operating with international, regional and local organisations not only of paper historians but also of keepers of archives and libraries, conservators, arthistorians, specialists in books, printing etc, associations of the paper industry, the publishing trade etc., including handicraft and artistic activities in connection with paper. Look also very active site of National Association of Paper Historians in Spain.

In Catalonia there is The Capellades Paper Mill Museum which is located in the town of Capellades (60 km from Barcelona, Spain) in an old 18th Century paper mill known as the “Molí de la Villa”. The building has a surface area of 2200 m² spread over four floors and a cellar.
Next to the “Molí” is “La Bassa”: a natural source of water from which flowed twelve million litres a day. This was used to drive the sixteen paper mills which operated in this area.The museum’s mill continues to make high-quality handmade paper, using different fibres, sizes, colours and watermarks. The paper produced in the museum is ideal for graphic work, book publishing, diplomas, etc. The museum also manufacures a line of products of paper that combines handmade paper with designer characteristics.

Amalfi Museum of Paper is located in southern Italy in Salerno coast The place was the oldest one of the Middle age Sea Republics of Italy and  held intense trade relationships with the Orient and therefore they had learned the art of papermaking without any problem from Arabs and the Orientals. There have maybe situated the oldest paper mills in Europe. For Italy there are mainly two cities to contest to be first in paper making; Amalfi and Fabriano…

Handmade Paper Mill in Velké Losiny in Czech Handmade paper mill was built at the site of a former flour mill by John younger of Žerotín. According to the testimony of springs paper mill started production as one of the companies developing the suzerain economy sometimes between the years 1591-1596. The Handmade Paper Mill in Velké Losiny of Šumperk, belongs among the oldest handmade paper mills in operation in Europe.

In France The Moulin du Got, whose construction on the Tard is authorized in 1433, is active for paper manufacture as early as 1522. It allowed an average of 2,400 sheets of fine square paper to be made each year for Parisian printers…

The Angoulême Paper Museum opened its doors  in 1988. The Museum was previously used by the famous local paper firm « Le Nil », closed at the end of the 70’s. It was in 1537 that Maître Thérot-Texier launched the manufacture of fine paper known as “l’Angoumois”, which was highly prized by the Angoulême Cathedral Chapter…One place to find an excellent handmade paper in net is Ruscombe Paper mill Traditional handmade paper with present day methods

Awa Washi paper Japan – Traditional handmade japanese paper Established in 1989, this non-profit museum (also known as Washi Kaikan) is dedicated to the preservation of the techniques and skills of Awa washi for future generations as well as the expansion, promotion and introduction of Awa washi to the general public through workshop, demonstrations, exhibitions, lectures,etc. See also: Glossaire du papetier / French/English paper dictionary

Paper journeys

About backrounds of handmade paper in Europe

During the past few years, I went to see paper mills and paper production in different places in Europe. I read somewhere at the time that paper production was learned in Spain (Catalonia) sometime in the 11th century from the Moors and then spread north, so that paper mills, where production began already in the 16th century, still exist in France, Germany and, for example, Bohemia. Paper was mainly produced from rags, in other words clothes made from cotton and flax fibres by grinding those vegetable fibres into a mass, whose thickness was regulated with water.

My own view of the start of paper production became more precise and diversified all at once when I visited the Amalfi Coast in Italy in December 2016 to see the oldest functioning paper mills in Europe. http://www.museodellacarta.it

Inside of over 1000 years old paper mill/museum.

Amalfi is located in the Salerno Bay in southern Italy. It was one of Italyís early four city-states along with Venice, Genoa and Pisa. In the 800-1300s, Amalfi had good cultural and commercial connections with Venice and Constantinople. It had a navy, which traded, for example, in Lebanon and the coast of Syria. It competed bloodily for Mediterranean trade with other Italian city-states and Cataloniaís Barcelona. For that reason, in the beginning of the 1000-1200s, many centres and paper mills specialised in the production of paper and ceramics were founded in Amalfi, of which a few still operate in the area. Neutral high-quality acid-free Amatruda paper meant for watercolour and other art use, for example, is produced in Amalfi.

This hard wooden press (with felts) takes water out of paper and those sheets start to dry.
On the roof of the mill water is guided to deep hopper wells which leads the flow to rotate the whole mill.

Being introduced to an old hydraulic paper mill in Amalfi was an unforgettable experience. The mill did not have the large visible wheel or millstones that I would have expected. The river that streamed down the valley from the mountains was directed to the roof of a stone mill building, in which water ran through to a winding open riverbed. The water was cleansed there due to a few trenches and gutters. The clear surface water flowed onward to a few deep wells, which narrowed down into funnels. The funnel well’s narrow lower end could be opened from below from the millís production space by twisting the crank, whereupon the water was released to the wheel built from metal/wood ladles with the pressure of the entire well. The wheel started to turn the axles of the large wooden hammers grinding the rags. The extra water disappeared or was directed into basins, in which the paper mass refined by the grinding hammers was mixed for lifting the sheets.

I was honoured to see how a technology based on the powers of nature (hydraulics), which was still functional, reliable and useful, was able to be created a thousand years ago. Of course the operating principle and structure of the mill had to be changed in the North, because Amalfiís system does not withstand the freezing of water. It could, after all, be that paper making skills spread specifically from Amalfi through Italy to elsewhere in Europe, because in the 1100s, the Vikings, among others, stayed in Amalfi for a long time. More on the history of paper production can be found, for example, here:  http://www.paperhistory.org/index.php

The Czech cubism poster of the permanent exhibition in Black Madonna House. The “cubist cube” in the middle is a typical abstract origami paper object but also a source of innovation in new ceramic art.

Another fine but different kind of destination with regard to paper production is in Bohemia, the current Czech Republic, where a paper mill was founded at the turn of the full Renaissance at the end of the 1500s. The Velké Losiny paper production museum located in the eastern JesenÌk mountain valley is a good destination, even though the travel time there from Prague by car is over 3 hours.

In Prague, the Museum of Cubism is well worth visiting. There, one can hypothesise on the impact of the geometry of paper folding on Czech constructivism, architecture and design, even if one does not pigeonhole them in Cubistic art. (they do not belong in it anyway!) One can participate in all of these experiences by visiting the web or even physically visiting a few interesting paper mills in Europe. See also the websites Paper mills/Museums link list regarding other destinations.