Zen Origami: 20 Modular Forms for Meditation and Calm by Maria Sinayskaya

128 pages Race Point Publishing ISBN-10: 1631061976 16.8 x 23.8 cm

The author is a Russian living in South Africa and for several years I’ve been following her excellent work on goorigami.com and facebook.com/goOrigami (with over 11,000 followers). Some of this success can be attributed to her eye for presentation. Unlike many modular folders, who often post images of dodgily-folded designs lying on their kitchen table, Sinayskaya’s work is immaculately folded and thoughtfully photographed. Every image is a mini work of art. The same holds true for her first professional book, Zen Origami, where she designed the models, drew the diagrams and took the photographs, showing the same level of care and attention and eye for beauty.

The models, which variously utilise square, 2×3 and 3×4 proportioned paper, include a variety of Sonobe-based designs and several “kusudamas”, although no glue is required. The book opens with a few stars and a very elegant 4 sheet “coaster”. As any illustrator will confirm, drawing diagrams for the 3D assembly of a modular is no easy task, but the art here is of top quality and most folders will have no difficulty in following them. Given the plethora of modular designs “out there”, it’s hard to be truly original and I can see echoes of work by Ow and Fuse, but the models as a whole clearly have integrity and it’s clear that Sinayskaya is a gifted designer within the genre.

The beautifully packaged book comes with 400 sheets of gently patterned 7.5cm paper, which is just about OK for simpler designs but will undoubtedly require the eyesight of a hawk to fold the more advanced units with. I advise readers to use larger sheets to learn the skills for modular folding. Some useful modular-specific folding tips are included, as are guides to the underlying geometry of the designs.

So to the concept of the book, the idea that folding modular design can “bring you to a place of serenity”. This is a hot trend in books at the moment and I’m in two minds about it. I had a slight moment of anti-zen trying to extract the book from the tight packaging. Certainly the folding of the units is a repetitive process that can free the mind as you focus on crisp, accurate creases. However, I’m convinced that the assembly can, for most people, be a process fraught with tension and often frustration. That said, it’s true that the concentration required can help other matters to slip to the back of your mind, so I guess it is meditative at the same time.

We should, however, separate the packaging and concept, which are undoubtedly driven by the publisher, from the contents, which are of the highest standards. Sinayskaya has shown herself to be a consummate artist as well as a gifted designer of modular work.