Kirigami & e-books

The digital era continues to bring us benefits that we couldn’t have predicted.  I was recently directed to the Borders web site, where it proudly trumpets “over a million free e-books”. These range from the obscure to the likes of Jane Austen, all now within the public domain and thereby free of charge. In 2012 they will be joined by music from the Beatles!

Searching for origami brings no joy, but “paper folding” offers the following three books. T. Sundara Row’s “Geometric exercises in paper folding“, “Paper folding and cutting; a series of foldings and cuttings” by Katherine M Ball and “How to teach paper-folding and cutting: a practical manual” by Norma MacLeod.

The latter two volumes were ideal for my needs, since I’m leaving (today) for a brief sojourn in Dubai, where I will be teaching ori and kirigami at the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization. I wouldn’t pretend to be an expert on cutting paper, but I have enough knowledge to teach a group of beginners. The event is part of the Jameel Prize, an international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition.

The books themselves contain little that is surprising to the modern eye, but have reminded me what a wealth of possibilities there are in a few folds and a cut or two. Indeed, I’ve decided to start introducing it into my work in schools, since a) it’s really simple and b) it has huge creative possibilities.

As self-respecting origamists, we often sneer at the use of scissors, but they were a perfectly acceptable part of origami for many years. I’m sure our ultra-complex afficianados would shudder at the prospect! Read Jeremy Shafer’s article on “origami purism” for more on the subject.

Origami, generally, doesn’t allow children to be creative during the folding process, (although decorating the model afterwards does). Kirigami, however, allows infinite opportunities to make new cuts and to see what the result is.

“Geometric Exercises” is a well-known classic dating from 1901.  It uses geometric proofs that even an algebraically challenged person like myself can almost follow. It is perhaps the first book to give a method for obtaining 60 degree angles and covers the full sequence through to decagons and dodecagons and conic sections. Fascinating material for the methematically inclined.

Nobody is likely to persuade me to ditch “real” books in favour of pdfs, or to dash out and buy a Kindle (Dennis!), but these free downloads are certainly worth taking advantage of. I might also point out that many of my books, along with huge swathes of others, are already available for download, but that’s another debate and anyway, we just don’t, do we?