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.”

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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.

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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.

tinygami-inside-miniature-origami-gift-box

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?”

 

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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.

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Packing & shipping

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Because some of the miniature origami pieces I create have very delicate points and tips to them (think crane head and tip of tail and frog’s feet) I needed to figure out a way to protect them during shipping once I begin selling them from my Etsy shop.

Then I discovered this Paper Kawaii tutorial that shows how to make a menko, which is a traditional origami fold that can best be described as a very ornate envelope, of sorts. My tinygami pieces will be tucked safely inside the menko then placed in a regular letter envelope to ship them to their new homes.

I’ll be individually photographing each of the above ensembles and will be listing them on Etsy in the coming days.

Very excited to be moving forward! 2016 is going to be a great year 🙂

Tinygami Origami FAQ’s

These are the questions I am asked hundreds of times a day during the three weeks of ArtPrize. Since they are pretty consistent I thought I’d compile them together into an FAQ post. If you don’t see the origami related question you may have wondered about feel free to leave a comment and I’ll reply there or add it to the post if it’s a popular question I’d forgotten about.

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Question: Do you use tweezers or tools to fold the cranes?
Answer: No. I only use my fingers. Seriously! 🙂

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Question: How long does it take to make a mobile of 1000 cranes?
Answer: In a perfect world I’d have 3 months for each mobile. But on deadlines I can finish them faster. Steps involved include:

  • Concept development
  • Sourcing materials for structures
  • Shopping for paper
  • Cutting paper into 1000 tiny pieces with a metal straight edge and X-acto knife on a self healing cutting mat
  • Folding cranes
  • Building mobile structure
  • Hanging mobile structures
  • Dividing cranes
  • Hanging cranes
  • Finishing details

Question: How long does it take to fold one crane?
Answer: Just a few (2-3) minutes. But some of the thicker, softer, more fibrous papers will strain the tendon in my right forearm very quickly requiring me to take breaks every 20 minutes or so for at least that long or longer.

origami-papers-imported-japan

Question: What kind of paper do you use to make your mobiles?

Answer: Almost all of the paper is imported origami paper from Japan. There are exceptions such as the white paper in the Mochibana piece which is tracing paper because I wanted a translucent quality that evoked the translucence of mochi, the dessert made of pounded sweet rice.

When I lived in California I was able to shop at a multitude of Japanese and art paper stores to find my origami paper.

Here in MI I’ve been to Hollander’s paper store in Ann Arbor twice and have resorted to ordering online.

I also receive very generous and thoughtful gifts of paper from time to time (thank you EmiInk!). They are always the most special papers of all.

Question: Where do you buy your paper?

Answer: I’ve been collecting paper since 1995 and have accumulated what I call my “stash” that I add to whenever I see beautiful paper for sale. Craft stores (think Michaels, Hobby Lobby, etc.) often have a nice selection but this is a list of my favorite specialty paper sources listed by state:

California

Nikaku Japanese Arts
Address: 615 N 6th St, San Jose, CA 95112
Phone: (408) 971-2822
You’ll find squares of paper in the center island display and rolls of larger paper along the same wall as the stairwell after you enter.

Nichi Bei Busan
Address: 140 Jackson St, San Jose, CA 95112
Phone: (408) 294-8048

Maido (There is more than one location)
Address: Santana Row, 378 Santana Row #1125, San Jose, CA 95128
Phone: (408) 213-1985

Kinokuniya (There is more than one location)
Address: 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129
Phone: (408) 252-1300

Miki’s Paper
Address: 1801 Fourth St, Berkeley, CA 94710
Phone:(510) 845-9530

Michigan

Hollanders
Address: 410 N 4th Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(Next door to the Ann Arbor Farmers Market)
Phone: (734) 741-7531

Washington

Spokane Art Supply
Address: 1303 N Monroe St, Spokane, WA 99201
Phone: (509) 327-6628

Question: Where did you learn how to fold cranes?
Answer: My maternal grandma from Japan taught me as a child.

hanging-origami-crane-needle

Question: How do you hang the cranes?

Answer: I use very small sewing needles to string the cranes. Usually they are “sharps” or “betweens.” For the smallest 1/4″ high cranes I use the thinnest beading needles I can find. I like to thread the cranes from the top to bottom of both each crane and each strand. This allows me to make certain no two matching papers are next to each other, meaning above or below vertically or side by side horizontally in neighboring strands.

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Question: What kind of thread do you use to hang them from?

Answer: My favorite is Madeira’s Supertwist metallic blend embroidery thread. It is more soft, flexible, delicate and shimmering than other metallic threads I’ve found at most fabric and craft stores. I order it online and have it shipped out to me.

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Question: How are the cranes suspended on the thread?

Answer: In 2016 while preparing my ArtPrize entry I discovered a new way to hang cranes (and frogs and rabbbits) using no glue. Going forward I will use this technique whenever possible including for the individual strands I offer in my Etsy shop. The process may take longer but I love that it allows me to hang strands even when there is no electricity (that I used to need to run a mini glue gun).

Previously I used a low-melt temperature glue gun to hang each crane to the thread. High-melt will burn straight through the thread. The seam allowance tool in the lower left corner is to make sure each crane has the same amount of space between them to keep the length of each strand uniform. The tweezers I use to pull glue off/out of a crane that didn’t attach to the thread in the correct direction, meaning no two cranes hang facing the same direction as the cranes above or below them. I also try to set them at different angles to the cranes that surround them on each side.

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Question: How do you decide where the colors go?

Answer: It takes far longer to prepare the cranes for hanging than most people realize. The process begins by dividing out the 1000 cranes into piles of matching patterns and solid colors. Once that’s done I divide the cranes by pattern and color into equal piles. Each pile represents one strand. There are never even numbers of anything so after following simple division it becomes more intuitive dividing them out in a way where colors or patterns are as evenly dispersed as possible so the overall color scheme will be balanced from strand to strand.

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Once the cranes are divided into equal piles of mixed colors and patterns I drop them into small circles made of paper to keep them from mixing together until they’re hung.

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Question: How is your vision?

Answer: Honestly? Not as good as it used to be. I now need reading glasses and good light. They’re both crucial when working in miniature formats whether using a swing arm lamp, natural light or sometimes at night I often use my camping headlamp in the house. Clear, bright light is imperative for me to be able to see as clearly as possible when folding the tiniest of cranes. For the headlamp I do use rechargeable batteries in an effort to be as eco-friendly as possible.

Question: Are you worried about arthritis? Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? Do your fingers hurt? Do your hands hurt?

Answer: No. No. No. No. But, I do worry about tendonitis as my right forearm will get sore if I fold thick or soft paper or very tiny small folds (think frog legs and feet) for too long. Then I have to take frequent breaks and stretch out the tendon that gets stressed by putting my art out to my side at a 90º angle to my body and bending my wrist upward so that my hand is at a 90º angle to the arm (now parallel to my body). It’s a little trick a Physical Therapist told me about at ArtPrize that has done wonders to reduce the strain in my forearm.

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Question: How do you transport the cranes from your home to a venue?

Answer: It isn’t terribly elegant but to protect them from light, dust, weather, and general damage I use customized cardboard boxes. The trick is adding a cardboard tube at the top to roll the monofilament they hang from onto to keep it from tangling during transport. The strands of cranes can puddle in the bottom of the boxes. My main goal is to keep the structure from crushing the paper cranes. This protects the structure from damage as well and is how I store the mobiles when they aren’t on display.

In 2015 I came up with an alternative, but similar, method to transport the mobiles to my ArtPrize venue using plastic garbage cans. If it rains I can simply pop a plastic kitchen garbage bag over the entire container. It’s not as protective but is easier and faster to get the mobiles in and take them out and allows the strands to hang longer during transport.

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Question: How long have you been folding tiny cranes into mobiles this way?

Answer: Since 1995 but for the first 19 years they were pretty much a hidden hobby. ArtPrize in 2014 changed all of that and I am now busy creating a business model that will allow me to pursue my art as my full-time career both while at home and on the road traveling in my tiny trailer 🙂

ArtPrize 2015 Japanese Culture

Washi Origami Squares

For ArtPrize 2015 I will again create four thousand tiny origami cranes.

Because the many visitors to the Grand Central Deli & Market in downtown Grand Rapids were so enchanted by the tiny crane mobiles representing the four seasons last year, I decided to do another series this year introducing visitors to elements of Japanese culture they may be unfamiliar with.

The first set I am working on represent the Daruma (pronounced Dah-roo-mah with a rolled “r”).

Daruma

That’s him painted on a utility box in San Jose, California’s Japantown. Considered a sign of perseverance and good luck the Daruma doll represents Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism. When you purchase a Daruma doll they are usually made of paper mache and one (or both) eyes are painted white and left blank. The idea is for the recipient to create a goal. Once the goal is created you color in one eye with a black dot. When the goal is accomplished, you color in the other eye.

Washi Origami Paper

The color palette I’m using is predominately red and black, the traditional colors of the Daruma doll’s robe and beard. Now, where to get red and black origami paper in Greenville, Michigan?

Washi Origami Paper

My inspiration for the “good luck” a Daruma doll represents has already occurred. I can’t tell you how touched and appreciative I am that Stacey, Owner + Principle Designer at Emi Ink, a custom invitation + stationary store in Honolulu, Hawaii sent me an incredible gift: A care package of scraps of fancy washi paper, leftover from projects for her clients, to use in my ArtPrize entry this year! If you’d like to see the work she does just visit her website by clicking here or using the ad I’ve placed for her company on the blog sidebar under “Companies I Love.”

Miniature Origami Crane

I don’t recall exactly how and when Stacey and I connected online other than it was years ago and through a mutual friend. I think. We began interacting more last year via Instagram. It was there, when I saw the photo below , that I inquired if I could purchase her scraps. Instead of messaging me a price she insisted on giving them to me. I will do my best to give her paper a new life worthy of her kind gesture.

Emi Ink on Instagram

After spending a day hand-trimming all of the remnants to 1.5″ squares using an X-acto knife, self healing cutting mat, and a metal straight edge I ended up with 222 sheets of paper for the Daruma mobile. I’m not sure how many cranes I have folded so far. I’d gues I’m about halfway there. I’ll reveal the other three themes in upcoming posts as well as how I will be creating the structures the cranes will hang from.

There will definitely be more updates in the very near future.