A space of my own

I think it would be fair to say that most artists and crafters dream of having their own work studio. A space separate from their living area whether it’s a room, the basement, or even better, completely detached from their home.


Well, that dream is becoming a reality for this origami artist. Earlier this summer the ground was broken (and graded) to accommodate the 16’x20′ build site where I will have not only a work studio but a screened porch (to protect me from the mosquitos, noseeums, deer fly, and black flies) as well.


I am fortunate that some of Fred’s friends (now my friends too) are helping Fred with the build. One has come with a tractor and back hoe, professional equipment to finish the concrete for the foundation, and his invaluable expertise. Oscar has made many long trips out to Greenville to burn and oil the wood siding. He will be a Shou Sugi Ban expert by the time he’s done. Scratch that. He already is🙂 I cannot thank them each of them enough.

The walls went up…


And then the rafters and roof over the studio area…


The cedar boards and windows arrived. The cedar smells sooooooo good!

My favorite window is this one…


It’s a 5′ round window to evoke the “moon” windows and doors in Japan. The round shape is used as a frame to create a vignette through which a beautiful garden view can be enjoyed in all four seasons. It is going into the large square framed area below. Basically, I’ll be sitting right in front of it almost level with the bottom of it because my work area will be on an 18″ high platform which accomplishes two things:

  1. The platform will create storage space beneath it because storage space is hard to come by in the 8’x12′ I’ve designated as my work area.
  2. Because even as I type this I am sitting on the couch as if I’m sitting on the floor, and because I even sit at the dining table in a chair as if I’m sitting on the floor (legs tucked beneath or in front of me) I decided to forego having chairs and simply install a dropped foot well in the platform, like in a Japanese restaurant tatami room. Then if I want to sit upright I can. Having a soft cushion to curl up or sit on instead of a chair will save a lot of space!


For the exterior we are using a Japanese wood preparation/preservation technique called Shou Sugi Ban (pronounced: show-sue-gē-bawn). Everywhere I’ve read about this technique (aka yakisugi) it is said the treatment leaves the wood fire, moisture, and insect resistant and the benefits can last as long as 85 years. The tung oil can be reapplied as needed to further protect the wood. Fred suggested using cedar shiplap siding vs tongue and groove as most of the tongue and groove is beveled on the side edge and wouldn’t look flat like this.

The steps go like this:

  1. Burn board with a propane tank weed burner – Video on Instagram
  2. Scrubbing off the charred wood with a brush
  3. Rinse board with water
  4. Allow board to dry
  5. Brush board with tung oil and wipe with rag
  6. Allow oil to dry
  7. Repeat step 5

It is labor intensive but the results are beautiful. The burnt wood is dark brown and blackish when the sun isn’t shining directly upon it. With direct sunlight the wood becomes almost metallic looking with a rich organic appearance as the oiled finish highlights the natural wood grain and knots.


Eventually the brown in the boards will fade to grey the way cedar naturally fades and the blackness will soften as the particles of soot still trapped in the wood grain weather off over time.


We opted to leave the porch posts, beams, and rafters unburnt to create contrast with the siding. I didn’t want things too matchy-matchy.


Right now the warm red color of the cedar provides a sharp contrast. I’m looking forward to when it greys and the contrast isn’t so pronounced.


To date everything I’ve made for ArtPrize the past three years has been made working at this 2’x3’coffee table in the living room with my supplies divided between two upstairs rooms and the basement. It is organized chaos. It will be so nice to have a formal workspace sometime next year🙂


But even more important than having my dream studio come to life is that I’ve found a place (The Place) where my creativity isn’t crushed or stifled because of my environment. Instead, or maybe I should say finally, it’s been released in a torrent of ideas brought to fruition.

Above is the pair of Sandhill Cranes that nest in the marsh behind the property I live on. Sometimes they call to each other from the marsh before and as they leave in the morning. When I hear them I rush out to the back deck to watch them fly away for the day.


It took my whole life, many mistakes, self-reflection, learning how to let go of fear, and a giant leap of faith but I’ve finally found true happiness out here in this beautiful landscape I now call home❤

Origami Iris Crane

There’s a saying if you don’t like the weather in Michigan, wait 10 minutes. LOL. But in the past week we have had unseasonably bizarre weather. It was 19º (F) out just a week or so ago and a few days later it was 70º (F).


Yesterday I noticed the new bulbs I purchased at Hollanders last autumn were breaking forth and pushing up through the softened, warmed dirt. “Hmmm” (I thought to myself) “I wonder when the iris’ will make their first appearance?”



Which got me thinking about flowers and the traditional Iris origami model. I’d always wanted to make one and add the yellow beard to the petals but just never got around to it. But last night, just as I was falling asleep, I saw a picture in my head of a dark purple origami crane with finely cut yellow paper attached to the wings, neck, and tail to create the beards. So this morning when I awoke I made it.

I have no doubt the inspiration and gumption to actually make it came from following Cristian Marianciuc (aka icarus.mid.air) on Instagram. Cristian creates the most incredibly creative embellished origami cranes you can possibly imagine. If you’ve never seen his work CLICK HERE to go take a peek, I’ll wait.

I did make a couple of large iris decades ago but none since then. I went on Google to find instructions and took two practice runs (they aren’t very pretty but they are what they are) before creating the final piece.


Gluing the beards, made of finely snipped paper, down was fairly simple.

It kind of made the crane look like a horse with a mane. Or a really funky crane wearing a mohawk. Either way, I loved the way it turned out. I’m always so happy when the pictures in my head are brought to fruition. It’s a very good feeling. This morning I said to Fred “I think my creative mojo is back!” After showing him this piece he agreed.

To show scale (2 5/8″ high) I used a wine cork as my planting medium. So cute! It even stands up on its own. The leaf and stem combination is an original design. It’s true what they say about necessity being the mother of invention.

You can expect to see a field of theses little beauties incorporated into one of my ArtPrize mobiles this fall. I’m very excited to make more of them!

Surprise! It’s a box!

After sending out a dozen or so Tinygami gift boxes I realized there was a perception problem. . . Or is there? I came up with a solution for what I now think may not be a problem at all.

I’d given my tiny boxes cute and clever little names like “Littly Lily Box” and “Bunny Box” when I should have just called them “Accidental Surprise Boxes.”


My friend Mark calls it “The curse of knowledge” when you assume others know what you know. Turns out unless people had been following my Tinygami Instagram feed or Tinygami Facebook page they most likely weren’t going to realize that the origami box they received was, in fact, a box. I think most assumed it was a display stand and the tiny model on top was a decoration I had sent them.


The funny thing is that some even took them places to show people, like a dear friend who took hers to work, never realizing the box was filled with tinygamis! I understand how it happens because even though they’re full of miniature origami models everything is so light you can’t tell by weight there is anything in the box.

Think The Tardis effect. The boxes are so small expecting there’s more inside just isn’t the natural conclusion one would jump to. It’s rather fun really. It’s like they’re little magic boxes.


And one of the first patrons to my Etsy Shop messaged back to say the person she had me send a filled Bunny Box to as a gift had no idea there were more surprises inside. Which made it all a lot more fun for her to be on the phone and hear the astonishment in her recipient’s voice when she realized the stand was a box and there were more tinygamis yet to be discovered. LOL

So now there will be two options going forward:

  1. People can order their boxes with a small lift that raises the lid and distinguishes the lid from the bottom of the box. I’ll probably make those in contrasting papers as well like in the first photo.
  2. Or, you can order a surprise style box and call or message your recipient after to ask “Did you look inside?”


This photo was posted on Instagram by my friend Shellie after she received her Tinygami gift box🙂

Because the tinygamis are so small the boxes can be filled with an incredible number of items even though they are only 1″x 1″ or 1/2″ x 1/2″ in diameter. The one that surprised me most was this Little Lily Box. It held 6 tiny origami frogs, a tiny paper heart, an Itty Bitty 3/8″ crane tucked inside a menko to protect the crane, and a fortune cookie style banner with my website address on it. All inside of the 1″x 1″ x 1/2″ box!

What I have learned is regardless of whether people realize they boxes are boxes (or not) the one thing that has been 100% is that they’ve brightened the day of everyone who has received one. Which means a lot to me to know my work is out there in the world making people happy🙂

If you’re curious you’ll find the boxes and more are now available at my almost complete Etsy Shop.



Years ago I purchased a book that featured the Japanese art of “Renzuru” which is to fold multiple, connected, origami cranes from a single sheet of paper. When I saw @kenji_kujime‘s Instagram feed it reminded me how I had experimented with renzuru in the past but that was many, years ago.


I was inspired to try again but this time to be a bit more creative and combine two of my favorite folds being the tiny 3/4″ origami frog with a paper crane. The smaller (1.5″ high crane) on the right was my first attempt which led me to try a second time making a larger crane (2″ high) and suspending the frog by its front leg rather than its rear leg. Am quite happy with the result. Not sure how this will factor into future designs but it’s always fun to challenge myself with things I’m not certain can be done.

The finished models remind me very much of when I used to visit the Colusa Wildlife Refuge in California and Monterey Bay and would see herons and egrets catching their meals in shallow water.

Wishing you a Valentine’s Day. . .


An original design idea inspired by a piece of gift wrap cellophane that would be going into the trash. Could I make a crane from it? It turned out yes, yes I could! My very next thought was: “Hmmmmm. . . What can I put inside the hollow of the body?” Immediately I realized I wanted to fold a tiny origami heart and slip it into the crane. I tried it just in time for Valentine’s Day and was very pleased it worked!

This is a design idea I will be exploring further. There are so many possibilities! The cellophane is difficult to fold, as was the 1/4″ diameter origami heart. But the moment I finished the first one all I could think was it was well worth the effort.

How to open an origami crane


If you’ve ever received a Tinygami crane that was folded flat you may wonder how to spread its wings without damaging it.

The picture above on the left shows how even when unopened the crane will usually stand on its own. But the picture on the right shows how you are able to appreciate the delicacy of this model when its wings are spread open. The problem is once you spread the wings apart the crane (often) will no longer stand up and tips to one side or the other.


The trick is found on the base/underside of the model. When folded flat the base of the wings are parallel to each other which won’t always give enough stability for a crane to be able to stand on its own.

Three things must happen to create the same stable base once the wings are opened:


1. The wings must be pulled both down and outward. I do this by placing my thumbs on the topside of each wing right up against the body to add some support as I gently pull the wings down and out. Pull too hard and you can tear the wings where they attach to the body, so slowly and carefully is the best way to do this.


2. Once the wings are down the body should have inflated with air to create a pillow effect.


3. Whether the wings are closed or open the base needs to spread open (a little or a lot) to create the four contact points that stabilize the crane. I create them by gently pinching the base of each wing between my thumbs and index fingers at the same time to create this pronounced X shape.


The wings will look like the top right figure above just after pinching the base because doing so pinches the wing to its tip. To flatten out the wing I simply smooth the crease out, again pinching with the same two fingers but this time above and below the wing to flatten it. But be careful not to lose the X shape at the base.

Some papers are easy to re-flatten the crane again. The now inflated body will simply fold back down along its original creases. But others aren’t so pliable and the body will crush instead of re-fold so be careful if you decide to flatten the crane again once you’ve opened it.

I hope this tutorial is helpful to you. If you have any questions or need clarification feel free to leave a comment or contact me privately by CLICKING HERE.

Working on my Etsy shop

Aside from making dozens of crane and menko sets I’ve been a busy bee both shipping some out to thank friends who gave me product feedback I had asked for late last week as well as figure out how to photograph my offerings on Etsy.


I’m happy to say I think I’ve come up with my “look” on Etsy.


What do you think?


I’ll be offering up several different standard products:

  • Tiny Cranes that are 3/4″ high
  • Itty Bitty Cranes that are 3/8″ high
  • Tiny Frogs that are 3/4″ in diameter

There are two basic options that will determine price:

  1. “You pick the color and I pick the paper” (value pricing)
  2. Individual listings of already made pieces (standard pricing)

Why are there two options? Because if you let me pick the paper based on your color preference it saves me the time of having to photograph each order, edit the photos, upload them to Etsy, and create a listing. So I’m passing that saved time on as a discounted price.

All orders will include:


A menko envelope to protect your order during shipping. That is the “Tiny” sized crane and menko pictured above.


2. A personalized note (especially nice if you’re giving a gift)!

At the encouragement of friends I’m adding in the option of a complimentary (free), personalized, fortune cookie styled note (3/8″ high and no longer than 3.75″) that is folded and tucked into the menko. I thought I’d have to come up with a portable laser printer for the job but I was told a handwritten note is more personal. What do you think? I think I’m going to have to work on my penmanship a bit!

3. Free shipping within the U.S. (and no charge for additional items after a small fee for international orders)

It’s progress!