Do you do balloon animals as well?

I recently had the opportunity to work for the National Association of Paper Merchants during their annual dinner. The venue was the Park Plaza Riverbank in London, a fairly upmarket hotel on the banks of the Thames, near the (impressive!) Vauxhall tube station.

Comedian Josh Daniels was the formal entertainmentan engaging character, but sadly I had to leave before he started) and my brief was to demonstrate then hand out models before and during the meal. I travelled down by train in the early afternoon and arrived at the hotel. I met up with Tim Bowler (NAPM Director), who allowed me to shower and get changed into my smart gear. Those of you who know me well will understand my concept of “smart”, I had made sure what was expected before I came down and donned a pair of elegant black trousers and a pale blue open-necked shirt.

Imagine my delight when the toastmaster for the evening, Brian Greenan, came up to me and said “I’ve got somewhere you can get changed Nick!” “I am changed!”, I managed to reply. The horrified look on his face would have been a treat in other circumstances, but I persuaded him that a) I’d checked in advance, b) Tim had seen it and said nothing and c) as an artist from “oop North”, this was what people might expect of my fashion sensibilities. In the end, it turned out to be no real issue. Me? In a suit? There’s got to be a first time, I suppose!

Joking aside, it was a fabulous opportunity to expose myself to over 200 high-powered paper manufacturers, including Antalis (with whom I had worked before), GF Smith, Robert Horne, Denmaur, Howard Smith and many more. I made some wet-folded models in advance and left one in the centre of each of the 20 tables, alongside some hastily DIY’d calling cards. Little did I realise the waiters would simply put the bottles of water etc all over the table, often obscuring my little gems. However, as I merrily “table-hopped”, I pointed them out.

As always during meals, guests have only a certain tolerance for anything that interrupts the flow of alcohol and food, but they gave me somewhat curious attention.  I pointed out that everyone who I teach origami to is a potential buyer of their product, and this certainly warmed them to my demonstrations! With some I actually managed to discuss technical issues related to folding of paper. I trust (and hope) that some work may arise from the event.

I finished my duties around 9.20 and even turned down a free meal kindly offered by Tim’s delightful daughter who was acting as the photogrpaher for the evening (and whose name escapes me!)  since it was meat-based. I caught a tube back to St Pancras station, where the 10.25 train got me home to Sheffield at 01.25. I certainly wouldn’t want to make a living out of this type of event, but in moderation, they are fun!

Oh yes, the title of this post came from a slightly sozzled woman who thought origami was highly amusing, but really wanted something made from rubber…