Otto Nordström

The family

Clearly a family with the talent gene running rich in their veins, the Nordström dynasty has made signifant contributions to mankind over the years.

His father, Otto, was chemist Here’s a patent he lodged relating to gas burners. If you speak Finnish, you can read about his father here. He was peripherally involved in the start of World War 1 and contributed significantly to the study of Balaklavian etymology. He was honoured when a newly discovered species of millipede was named after him (Tachypodoiulus Nordstromius). The insect was to form a vital ingredient of his infamous health tonic “One over the Otto”.

His Grandfather (also called Otto) spent a few years in South Dakota before returning to his native Finland. Here, he first developed his theory that electrical bills could be reduced by shortening the wires of appliances.

This theory, mocked at the time (electricity hadn’t been invented) has since proved to be a cornerstone of modern environmental economics. He was also three-times winner of the prestigious “Finlands Best Moustache” competition.

Here are some rare archive images of other Nordström family members.

And here are facsimiles of his legendary missives to the British Origami Society

BOS papers #1 – An Analysis of Three Paper-Folds from the Ancient Northern Finland

Hello : I am Otto Nordstrom from the Northern Finland. Like other likers of the paper-folding of ours, I think I know a lot about it. So I am going to tell you the most revelatory things that I know in three Reports, Starting now, below. My other two Reports will be revealed in the next two issues of this magazine.

I have done much remarkable research into the traditions of paper-folding here in the Northern Finland. The next two Reports will describe the two Schools from the great distant history of ours, but this Report will describe three remarkable traditional paper-folds which are lost in antiquity.

The most popular model folded by our ancient men (111. ‘1’) is a representation of Lake Porttipandan-tekojarvi in the Northern Finland. The ancient men would tell tales of their most hazardous walkings on the Lake in desperate persuit of the migrating reindeer, remarking on their great bravery and heroism. The model is a very accurate depiction like from Sky Lab of this treacherous, deadly death-trap and a great tribute to the extraordinary senses of economy, simplicity and abundant ingenuity, abundant in these ancient men.

Our second masterpiece (111. ‘B’) is a depiction of Mount Paeldoaivi. It is folded only by shepherds and swines who live near the Mount, because it is unknown elsewhere. the third (111. 111), is a topographical interpretation of the River Paatsjoki valley, and is of such amazing accuracy that it is still used today by Finnish makers of map-making. Mount Paeldoaivi is less accurate,but is considered of greater ‘artistic interpretation’ – so it doesn’t really matter. After all, it was surely beyond even the genius of our dim and distant ancestors to fold the legendary 27,226 fur trees on its upward slopes. Perhaps today, however, we might attempt such meaningful detail.

I believe that we have much to learn from these remarkable models (and others not 111. such as: ‘Fur Tree or Mount Nattastunturit’, ‘Edge of Melting Glacier’ and ‘Reindeer’s Rear Off Hoof’). Surely these masterpieces rival the traditional masterpieces of the East and even excel over them by their extremities of charm, delightful manipulations of the fingers, observation of Nature and that certain Je ne sais pas.

My Report next will bring up the ’16th Century School of Ultimate Realism’, Founded by the nomadic snow-shovellers of the Northern Finland in the 16th Century (A.D.) as food for thought. It is an incredulous tale. I will give vital details in my next Report.

An Account of the Sixteenth Century ‘School Of Ultimate Realism’ to be Founded in the Northern Finland

See last report explaining all about how I found out about the School (camp fires, ancient and old men, reindeer, etc). I here recite what I was told as I nearly can.

The nomadic snow-shovellers of Northern Finland were cultured. They knew all about the Renaissance, the invention of the wheel and camels. It was therefore inevitable that they should apply such profound knowledge to their own arts and crafts, such as snowman building, antler of reindeer tapping and paperfolding. Their philosophical adoption was that of Ultimate Realism, proposed once by their leader, The Lapp Of The Gods, one nice day in 1522. He said that art should look as much like what it was to look like to its best perfection. Everything should be put in and not left out. Detail was realism and realism was 0. K. because it looked good and impressed the plebs (the shovel-shiners). That kept the subjects quiet and submissive as they were awed. Aweness means no questions.

In what way did this philosophy apply to the paper-folding of ours? Here is the method as explained to me, as explained in the last issue (see also paragraph 1 above).

1. Take a grip of the subject to be folded (eg. reindeer, baby reindeer).
2. Take a further grip of a large square of paper, with which to fold the subject with.
3. Hold the subject still and press the paper to the surface with extreme firmness. Ensure all the hidden parts and ravines are impressed with the paper. The paper will show the outlines of the subject and can be removed from it.
4. We have created the Ultimate Realism in paper-folding. We have: 1) 3Dform, 2) detail, 3) accuracy of this and that length against each other, 4) proper scale and 5) life-like properties (which are very important, as we know, for real realism).

So, there we have it. The answer to the problem which has concerned all paper-folders ever since it began in the Eost and Northern Finland. Cunningly, it saves us having to bother with those baring folding sequences. Just press, and there it is. That is the paramount of the economy virtue: simple and direct. Also, each model can be different from all others and put in different positions. This will make them more real and therefore better paper-foldings, and therefore of relevence today, which is why I am writing this important Report for you.

I have tried this method myself, being interested in Ultimate Realism in paper-folding, because once achieved, I can give it up and do something else, My experience was profound and titillating. The problem of finding a piece of paper large enough to impress a subject with is solved by finding a piece of paper large enough or finding small subjects. Insects are a nice size but squash easily. Flowers are easy to do. Hens aren’t. Foil is the ideal paper to use because it holds its shape when pressed to. Unfortunately, it was not invented in the 16th Century, so the School Of Ultimate Realism could not use it, which is a big shame because it has so many remarkable qualities which make it ideal for its best uses in origami, such as colour and texture.
I hope that this Report has been a revelation to all the enthusiasts who read it and others too.

It shows a new way to solve the problem of the ultimate origami target, that of Ultimate Realism. I therefore look forward to seeing many new models diagrammed for the rear-end of this magazine, closer to the target than ever before. My next Report will account of the ‘School Of Origami Crushing’ in the Northern Finland of last Century. It is revelatory.

The Last Century ‘School of Origami Crushing’ in Northern Finland

At the remotest of all remotest places in the Northern Finland of last century, was a village . It was so remote that nobody ever went in or came out or even knew its name. This cultural isolation led the villagers to evolve their traditional pastime of paper-folding into a new creative philosphy. This became known as the ‘School of Origami Crushing’. I only learnt of the School by many coincidences and against great odds, which, by chance, is why they cannot be repeated here with certainty.

The School believed that it was better to travel than to arrive (they were interested in travel). Hence, knowing that travel broadens the mind and that the joy of death is in the dying, the Members decided to apply this belief to their practice of paper-folding. In translation, it proved that the sequence of the folds and their folding were more important than the folded model, which was therefore not worth getting to. They thought that travelling was so nice, it should never stop. Hence, each Member had one piece of paper which he always folded, unfolded and refolded until it was unfoldably tiny or it tore, never making a model or wanting to. When the paper was ended and a new piece taken, the old piece was ceremonially destroyed by being crushed in a series of delicate and specific finger movements, now lost.

This ceremony gave the School its name. Members believed that a model was the product of a frustrated ego, eager for recognition and praise. Their village was so isolated that they could now show their models (assuming they made any, which they didn’t) to strangers. The concept of model was therefore irrelevant to them. Also, in the School, no copying could be done, so that no origami experience was second-hand. All experience was first-hand and therefore more rewarding. This was because each Member of the School evolved his own travel-route and his own personally significant creative style, whether or not he had talent, creative flair or skill.

a rare example of Nordström artwork, crafted on dried moose skin

The purpose of a folding sequence therefore was to experience the activity of folding. Its purpose was not to achieve a model. This is obviously completely ridiculous. We, as experienced, dedicated enthusiasts in this era of common sense, know that the purpose of the folding sequence is to achieve a completed model. This can be proved in two ways:

1. Origami books and magazines show folding sequences from open square to completed model. Ethusiasts come to the art through these sources, and form their conclusions about the philosophy of the art from them. Hence, they believe origami to be about the achieving of a model and northing else. They are, of course, correct. They must be.
2. Exhibitions of origami concentrate on the display of completed models. This demonstrates to the public the unimportance of the folding sequence and the necessity of using pretty papers when making models to prove they are of high quality.
So, this discredits the ‘School of Origami Crushing’. They had got it wrong.

Did they know their philosophy was wrong? I think so. The School continued to exist for many, many weeks the Members began to use their papers to make role-your-own cigarettes with, after brave explorers had introduced tobacco in the village. To date, I have not found any evidence that the School survived . Perhaps this is a pity, because if still around today, it could have formed itself into an origami Society like everybodyelse does.

This Report, my last, has been written with the help of my friend Kurt, which is why the English is better than in previous Reports. If I find something else of interest, I will write again.

My First Mini-meeting with an Origami Friend

Hello again! My thanks to Dr. Morassi (page VII: “Annual Report and Accounts”, B.O.S. Magazine No. 81, April, 1980) for his compliments about my research into the remarkable origami traditions of the Northern Finland. What a nice man! How I envy his patients.

Well, my friend Kurt and I organised our first mini-meeting last week (you will remember Kurt from my previous series of Reports: he rewrites them into proper English). There are two of us now in the Northern Finland who do folding paper. We are getting big! Here is what we did for posterity.

Firstly, Kurt’s mum brought in some nice cakes for us. Later, we discussed the possibility of forming an origami society because everybody else does, and because we both want to appear on T.V., have headed notepaper, a nice badge and feel important. However, we decided to wait until we had at least a couple more members, so that we could form a committee and not have Kurt’s mum organise the food at all our meetings (incidentally, the cakes were delicious!). Instead, we decided to organise an exhibition in Kurt’s living-room window which overlooks a busy street. Any models will be gratefully received. We thought we would feature traditional Finnish origami (see Report No. 1), masterpieces by the origami superstars and lots and lots of nice paper to show how good the models are. I am making a sign which says: “The World’s First International Exhibition of Origami (Paper-folding) To have Ever Been Held in the Northern Finland”, which will be hung between the curtains. The Presss, T.V., radio and the Japanese Embassy will be informed.

Next, we discussed the badge for our society when we form it. Deciding what it would look like took up most of the afternoon, after which it was time for more of those delicious cakes.

After this (and a bit too much home-made wine!) we got down to some serious folding. Kurt was having trouble with the diagrams in the introduction to “Origami 1” showing him how to fold a bird’s head, so I helped him. This led to me showing him my model of “A Bird” and we discussed ways in which I might eliminate some of the cuts. We found a way, but the lumpiness of the glue wasn’t very attractive. I’ve worked on it a bit since then and am now happy with it. I enclose an example for your comments. Could you please unfold it and tell me how I made it? I think several stuck to a piece of cardboard would look very nice in Kurt’s window.

After this, we spent a funny half-hour thinking of Finnish “Ori-” jokes! Unfortunately, we could only think of three, none of which translate into English very well. Our favourite English “Ori-” is “Ori-nthonimus” by Sidney French in “Origami 1”. It’s very funny! However did he think of it?

Next, we had the last of the cakes and discussed whether, after Dr. Morassi’s nice comments, we should publish our research into the history of paper-folding in the Northern Finland. The fact that very few people except our friends and relations would be interested in buying copies seemed unimportant, so we are continueing our research because we believe it to be very interesting and important, especially to us. We will publish our remarkable findings in a year or so. They are revelatory.

Our next meeting is on October 12th 1980. All are welcome. Please bring some nice cakes and your show-shoes. My next Report in the next issue of this Magazine will give much detail about our first exhibition, mentioned above. It will be revelatory.

The World’s First International Exhibition of Origami (Paper-folding) Ever to have Been Held in the Northern Finland …..

…. was held between January 16 and 19 in Kurt’s living-room window (as explained in Report no. 4) and was a great success. Unfortunately, his electricity meter broke on the second day, so the exhibition could not be lit up to be seen except for the one hour a day when the sun was up. Fortunately though, the visitor could still see it if he shone a torch through the glass… and it looked very nice! Kurt had repainted the window-frame and sill, and his mum (see Report no. 4) had made some new curtains. A large sign (see Report title) hung in the window to attract passers-by, and also those waiting for a bus at the stop across the road.

The exhibition featured some of the traditional classics from the Northern Finland ( see Report no. 1), stuck on bits of cardboard. It’s centre-piece was an animal scene of elephants, polar bears and spiders with some pigeons, ostriches and other birds hung on bits of string above them by Montroll, Jackson, Wall and other origami superstars. There wasn’t much room left for anything else. Lots and lots of nice paper was used to show how good the models were. I gave demonstrations every day, sat on a chair facing the window, and was pleased to see that quite a crowd gathered until their bus came.

We wrote to the Japanese Consul informing them of our important exhibition. They sent us a polite letter back, enclosing a photocopy of an entry from a Japanese encyclopaedia which, we think, told us what origami was. The entry included a photograph of the traditional the Northern Finnish the “Flapping Duck”. The local press were also informed, but their reporter unfortunately came during the dark part of the day after the electricity meter had broken (see paragraph 1) and could not find it. A reporter from the national radio station was coming to interview me, b

ut got stuck in a snow-drift and has yet to arrive. Nevertheless, despite the lack of publicity, we estimate that some 193 visitors walked past the window during the time that the exhibition was up. A remarkable total!

Several people knocked on the door to ask questions about the show. Most wanted to know where could they buy the nice papers that we had used, and how were we coping with no electricity? Some said that they would like to know more about origami, but couldn’t be bothered to do so. One person was very interested and says that she might come to one of our meetings (see Report no. 4). A convert! Origami is getting big in the Northern Finland!

What did we learn from the exhibition? Well, we learnt that the electricity Council is slow in mending broken meters, that buses don’t run to time, that glass steams up when you breathe on it, that the ‘group exhibit was more popular than the individual one and that we didn’t use quite enough nice papers.

Our thanks to those folders who contributed models to the show. They will receive a photo of the window with Kurt, his mum and me in front of it, a comprehensive catalogue and instructions showing how they too can make an important contribution to the world.

My next Report in the next issue of this magazine will describe a teaching session that I did recently at the local Christian Magician’s Youth Institute for Women. It is revelatory.

My Teaching Session at the Local Christian Magician’s Youth Institute for Women in the Northern Finland.

My demonstration was given at very short notice to a group of about fifteen locals, Christians, magicians, youths,institutes and women in a school hut one evening as a replacement for a talk on how to lose weight by making jam in exotic parts of the world, which was cancelled when the speaker got stuck in a snow-drift on the way to the school, Kurt’s mum (see Report nos. 4 and 5) helps organise these talks, so, in a panic, she contacted me to see if I would give a talk on origami. I jumped at the oppertunity!!

Although I had only fifteen minutes in which to prepare my demonstration, it was a great success. Informality is very important on these occasions.

I began by answering questions about the art. What is it? Will I ever be any good at it? Is it cheap? How much money can you make from it? What are the politico/socio-economic implications of deliniating such gratuitously ongoing neo-Marxist ideologies? Have you got any T-shirts I can buy? Who was I? And so on.

Next I showed them what the different papers were like: how blue paper differs from red paper, thick paper from thin paper and big sheets from little sheets. They were amazed at how much one piece of paper could differ so much from another! This led me fluently on to asking members of the audience if they knew any models themselves, and if so, would they teach them to the rest of the group. We spent a happy two hours folding lots of different sorts of paper aeroplanes (an idea for a booklet?). What fun we all had! Mums, dads, children, babies, dogs, the criminally insane… everyone loves origami!!!

Unfortunately, my demonstration had to end at that point because the caretakers were locking up the building and we were still inside it.

The evening had been a great success. The fact that seven people stayed to the end proves it. It had been lots of fun and we had learnt exactly what origami is all about. They have asked me to go back soon, promising that next time they might be able to pay me. A memorable evening!

My revelatory series of Reports has now ended. My thanks to all those enthusiasts who wrote to me after the publication of my first series, expressing a deep interest in the fascinating and revelatory history of paper-folding in the Northern Finland which I revealed to an astounded world to great acclaim. Thanks also to Kurt for translating my Reports into proper English. I hope that my Reports have influenced your life as profoundly as origami has done, and that as a result, you are a happier and more fulfilled individual.

Good bye and bappy, happy folding!

Editors footnote: Otto was not heard from again for nearly thirty years.