Origami Butterflies : Michael LaFosse

Tuttle Publishing softback 11″ x 8.5″ 112 pages ISBN 978-4-8053-1226-1

LaFosse and his partner Richard Alexander are well-known to anyone with more than a passing interest in origami. Co-founding the Origamido Studio in 1996, they have devoted their lives to creating, teaching and presenting origami, as well as producing hand made paper with which to fold. Inspired at a young age by the work of Akira Yoshizawa, LaFosse is one of a select group of creators who value artistry above technology and his work is often imbued with life in the same way as that of the late Japanese master.

Over recent years he has forged a close relationship with Tuttle Publishing and has driven their products forwards in a way I find astonishing, considering the average quality of some of their earlier origami products. The book is a delight to look through – beautiful images of models made from hand-made paper and photographed in situ on a variety of gorgeous plants, colour artwork throughout, plenty of “white space” and a cover where the butterflies almost seem to be embossed on the paper.

At 112 pages, it’s a significant book as well, with plenty of early pages devoted to the development of the design, its base architecture, wing styles and variations. This background adds immensely to the value of the book and is perhaps necessary where the contents could be seen from one perspective to be limited in range.

Throughout the book, you are aware of the attention to detail the authors have paid, nothing is overlooked; each step has carefully chosen words giving extra detail where required and the photographs reveal how beautiful a model can be made, given the right paper and a sensitive touch. We even have philosophical thoughts to consider, such as a section where the author invites us to consider origami as “poetry for the fingers”.

Many of the designs, perhaps “variations” is a better word, are dedicated to people who are (or were) known personally to LaFosse and who share his love of the subject. The experienced folder will recognise many of them and what a marvellous tribute to receive! For those who are used to an origami book containing a wide variety of subjects, this book will encourage you to rein in your ambitions subject-wise, but to expand your attention to detail and become lost in the world of subtle variations and being truly creative. LaFosse studied to become a biologist and here he can begin to explore the rich variety that nature has to offer us.

As if the book itself were not enough, inside the back cover you find not one, but two DVDs of instructional videos for every model in the book. Here you have the chance to be taught by LaFosse in person and boy, can he teach. Both his folding and his use of language are exemplary – you can learn a vast amount about how to fold paper regardless of which model you are learning. Combining the drawn instructions with the videos means that few people will not get great results if they concentrate and absorb the wealth of information on offer.

Reviewing an origami book can be tricky if you know the author personally, you’re always slightly wary of making critical comments. In this case, the opposite is true, this book is so wonderful it’s actually hard to find anything negative to say about it! Perhaps the only slight niggle I could offer would be that the diagrams use coloured lines for paper edges, so where the fill colour is pale, so are the edges. Black lines might have added a little more definition. However, that’s being really picky!

The US street price of $11 is almost risible – only a company with the high-volume resources of Tuttle could have managed to offer so much for so little. The UK equivalent of £20 ($31!) is perhaps more in line with what you would expect to pay for a book of such quality with 2 DVDs, but still excellent value, I’d argue.

So, the LaFosse / Alexander combo continue to raise the bar for origami books and this is one you really should add to your collection. For more information about the authors, visit their fascinating website www.origamido.com