Fate is a funny thing. A few months ago I got ambitious one week, and wrote and published ( I thought) three blog articles. Unbeknownst to me, it was the same week that the STAR_Net blog was being moved to its new home on this website. For some reason, one of my articles made the move. The other two disappeared into the ether. I could have taken this experience as a reminder to always back up my work on at least one flash drive. Instead, I decided it was the universe giving me the opportunity to work harder on my article. It turned out to be a very interesting experience. When I started re-writing, I approached the subject from a slightly different angle, and learned something I hadn’t encountered the first time around. And while the acronym STEAM doesn’t include an “H,” I do believe history is something we should try to learn, understand as best we can, and always remember, so that we may benefit from the actions of our ancestors and predecessors.
Now, on to the article…
For kids (and libraries) who can’t afford to buy LEGO’s, there is something of a solution for their desire to build and create imaginative structures and sculptures – 3D origami, also known as Golden Venture Origami. It does require a lot of preparation for large pieces, but making the building blocks of 3D origami can be done just about anywhere and any time, and costs a tiny fraction as much as LEGO sets, foundation boards, tables, and other LEGO supplies and storage bins. The only cost involved is for reams of colored printer paper, unless you opt for using old magazines, junk mail, or even old books, which can lead to some very impressive works of art; glue for creations meant to be permanent; and scissors, which any craft program will already have.
Relatively speaking, 3D origami, or Golden Venture Folding, is very young step child of traditional origami. It is a variation of modular origami created by a group of Chinese detainees while they were awaiting asylum after the ship they were hiding on, the Golden Venture, ran aground on the U. S. coast near New York in the early 1990’s. Some of them were incarcerated by the INS for years before their release. While they were there, they created amazing works of art using countless small rectangles of paper. Many of their creations they gave away to the people trying to help arrange their release. Others they sold to raise money to pay their legal fees. Some of refugees were actually eventually given citizenship based on their “extraordinary artistic ability.” Later, there was a travelling exhibition, entitled “Fly to Freedom,” of the remaining creations, as well as other art pieces they created.
In the years since its creation, 3D origami has become quite popular in many parts of the world, and amazing works of art have been designed and created, using a multitude of tiny rectangles of paper which have been folded into triangles. For folks who don’t have the patience or time to fold their own pieces, they can buy them in just about any color online at Etsy or Ebay.
The basic building blocks of Golden Venture Origami are triangles of paper with two pockets on one side. The points of one triangle are slid into the pockets of others to lock them in place. It’s all easier to understand with pictures and video.
It doesn’t take long at all to learn to fold the pieces. Once the fold pattern is learned, pieces can be folded anywhere and any time your hands aren’t busy with other things – while standing in line (which I’ve heard we spend 1/3 of our lives doing) at the store, bank, movie theatre, restaurant, you get the picture; while watching tv; while being a passenger in the car, while on the phone, etc. The pieces can fit nicely in a normal sized pocket, so they can travel with you wherever you go. or they can be kept in a small box or (my personal preference) a ziplock bag.
Here’s a video of the process of folding the triangles:
Although this video mentions A4 sized paper, letter paper works just fine. Also, for younger children, I would recommend dividing the paper into 16 pieces instead of 32. That results in larger, easier to handle rectangles.
This video also shows how to make the individual pieces. It also shows a technique for shaping them, stacking them until needed, and how they fit together to build sculptures, with details on how to both increase and decrease.
Here’s a video demonstration of a method of making more pieces faster:
Once the pieces are made, the real fun begins. It’s amazing to see the multitude of things that people all around the world have created using 3D origami. What can be build seems to be limited only by the creator’s imagination. Here are some I found online, just to give the imagination a bit of a kickstart.
A simple internet search for “3D origami patterns” will bring up diagrams that can be followed to create specific designs, for those who’d rather try out something someone else has already worked the kinks out of. That would be a good way to start if one doesn’t have much time for the trial and error method of design.
When I did this craft program, I made the triangular pieces ahead of time, of course. Otherwise the entire program would have been spent making the pieces, not creating cool sculptures with them. I did, however, spend the first part of the program teaching participants how to make the pieces, so that they would be able to take home the skill and continue creating after they left the library.
Here is some more information about the Golden Venture and the Chinese refugees, as well as the resulting exhibit: