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.

Renzuru

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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.

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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.

How to open an origami crane

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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.

underside-origami-crane

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:

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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.

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

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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.

tinygami-how-to-open-origami-crane

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.

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

miniature-origami-crane-tinygami

What do you think?

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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

 

All orders will include:

origami-menko-etsy-step-by-step

A menko envelope to protect your order during shipping. That is the “Tiny” sized crane and menko pictured above. To open the menko simply pull free any section and it will unfold. To re-close the menko fold it back down to the picture on the lower left then choose any section and press it flat. Follow folding the rest down in clockwise order and tuck in the fourth section beneath the flap of the first one you folded down.

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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. (This promotion has ended as of November 2016) Free shipping within the U.S. (and no charge for additional items after a small fee for international orders)

It’s progress!

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 🙂

Origami OCD

I used to tell people (and I sincerely believed) that I had some bizarre form of what I could only call Creative OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). What else could explain why I would and could fold thousands upon thousands of origami cranes? I never thought about it hard enough to make the distinction if (for me) committing myself to origami was a decision or a compulsion. I was just grateful that if I did have OCD my energy was channeled into something with an end result that was beautiful.

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Current set of 1000 origami cranes I’m working on for ArtPrize 2016.

Though I’ve read books and articles about mindfulness and meditation I can’t say I’m one who has ever fully embraced the idea of the act of setting aside time to meditate as a normal part of my day to day life. I understand that the goal is to achieve a state of consciousness in which one is aware of but not connected to one’s own thoughts, feelings, and/or self. It’s a type of clarity that is created when you are able to let go of your “self” and observe rather than get caught up in what is happening in your own mind.

tinygami-miniature-origami-paper-crane
This 5/16″ (.793 cm)  high crane is still larger than the 1/4″ cranes I make.

Folding has never made me feel frustrated or impatient, quite the opposite actually. When I fold I feel nothing but calmness. Because the precision of each fold is the most important thing, even when folding the most simple of models, it creates a mental space that requires a single focus. The byproduct of this clarity is that all other thoughts (in my head) and distractions (in the environment around me) are left unnoticed.

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Batch folding the first four steps of making paper cranes.

I do recall it was years and years ago (well over a decade) that a person who saw a set of my tiny cranes for the first time and stated: “I’ve heard of working meditation before but never understood what that meant until now.” With that a new concept was introduced to me that the focus, time, patience, precision, and repetitiveness of folding tiny cranes was creating a benefit I wasn’t appreciating beyond the finished cranes themselves. Had I in fact been meditating for years without realizing it?

DIY Origami Paper Cup Tutorial

When I was asked to teach an origami class to preschoolers I instantly recalled the paper cup as being one of the first things I learned to make as a child. It’s both easy to make and functional. You can put things inside of it!

origami-cup-tutorial-10

It’s what I call a forgiving fold meaning everything doesn’t have to be absolutely precise to create a successful cup. Made from a small piece of paper (we used 6″ sheets of origami paper) the cup becomes a container. Made from a large piece (like a newspaper) it can be a hat! One of the things I love most about origami is that you can use any kind of paper, not just origami paper. Some to try would include:

  1. Note paper
  2. Gift wrapping paper
  3. Newspaper
  4. Magazine pages
  5. Scrapbooking paper
  6. Wax paper
  7. Kitchen baking parchment
  8. Tissue paper
  9. Tracing paper
  10. Gum and candy wrappers

origami-cup-tutorial-1
1. Begin with a square piece of paper. Fold in half from corner to corner to create a large triangle.

origami-cup-tutorial-2
2. Now fold the right side of the triangle along the dotted line the goal being to keep the top edge of the section parallel to the bottom. Set crease. See below.

origami-cup-tutorial-33. Now do the same with the left section folding it across and over the right section you just folded. Set crease.

origami-cup-tutorial-44. This next step you can fold both of the upper flaps at once or do them individually as you fold and tuck them into the cup. Either way you fold them against the top of the cup along the dashed line. I prefer to do that individually which is how they are pictured in the tutorial.

origami-cup-tutorial-55. This is a guideline fold to make it easier to tuck the flap into the cup so once you fold the first flap down, immediately unfold it back to its original position. (I used a more decorative origami paper with one printed side and a solid color side instead of the more typical colored on one side and plain white on the other.)

origami-cup-tutorial-66. It should look like this.

origami-cup-tutorial-77. Now you tuck the flap into the front pocket of the cup. This would be the left front section.

origami-cup-tutorial-88. Now fold the remaining flap forward and up again like the last one if you didn’t do them both at the same time and tuck it into the large opening to form the cup.

origami-cup-tutorial-99. That’s it! You’re done! Congratulations and thank you for visiting the Tinygami blog 🙂

 

DIY Origami Swan Tutorial

Just the other day I did something fun and new. I taught tiny humans how to fold paper and make origami models. There were two classes consisting of 10 preschoolers each. I hadn’t ever taught origami to anyone so young before so I wasn’t sure how things would go. I did a lot of research to look for simple, beginner level, origami model instructions that 4 and 5 year olds would be able to master in 15 minutes. LOL. I wanted two so that if they breezed through the first one we could try a second.

origami-swan-instructions-2-stacie-tamaki

All I can say is they were ADORABLE! I don’t usually spend time around children this young, especially so many at one time, so it was a lot of fun. First of all, their little voices are so cute. They were happy, curious, and very creative. When I asked if anyone had any questions after showing them my work no one said anything. All of a sudden one little girl walked up to me and hugged me *melt*. SO SWEET!

I laid out 6″ squares of origami paper for them and invited them to each choose two they liked. Fortunately there were plenty of grown ups on the field trip with the class so they were my impromptu assistants.

The kids really loved making the swan. I made this photo tutorial so that if they wanted to continue they would have a reference guide to fall back on.

You can try to if you want to just for fun. You can use any size and really, any kind of paper keeping in mind that thicker papers are harder to fold.

origami-swan-instructions-31. Begin with a square piece of paper. Here I’m using a 3″ square of origami paper.
2. Face front (printed) side of paper towards tabletop and fold in half at center to create a guideline fold.
3. You’ll end up with a large triangle shape. Then unfold.

origami-swan-instructions-44. You’ll use the center crease as a guideline and fold the right outer edge towards the center guideline.

origami-swan-instructions-55. Now fold the let outer edge towards the center as well.

origami-swan-instructions-66. Your model should look like this.

origami-swan-instructions-77. Turn over your model and repeat the same two folds to narrow the shape. Pictured above fold the right outer edge towards the center line.

origami-swan-instructions-88. Now fold the left outer edge towards the center.

origami-swan-instructions-99. Your model should look like this. Note the dashed line at the center of the model. Fold the model in half taking the point on the bottom and folding up to the point at the top.

origami-swan-instructions-1010. After the model is folded in half it’s time to fold the head. I like to visualize an imaginary line from the edge of the top corner of the white triangle (the backside of the paper) and fold the paper downward.

origami-swan-instructions-1111. This is what your model should look like. Layered upon itself accordion style is the body, then neck, then head.

origami-swan-instructions-1212. Now lift up the model and holding it accordioned  together you’ll fold the model in half following the arrows so the left edge and right edge meet together creating the base of the swan.

origami-swan-instructions-1313. Hold the base with your fingers and use your other hand to gently pull the neck upright away from the body.

Folding Tip: Do not set the neck at a 90º angle from the base, it will be top heavy and have a tendency to tip over. If you fold the neck just before it reaches 90º(pictured with the dotted line at the back of the neck above) or even sooner the weight of the head and neck will rest over the body and will be more stable. Aim for 11 O’Clock or just a bit more instead of all the way to 12 O’Clock. 

origami-swan-instructions-1414. Once the neck is pulled upright be sure to pinch along the base to set the fold in place.

15. Then use the same process holding the neck with one hand and using your other hand to lift the head away from the neck.

origami-swan-instructions-1516. Then pinch the top of the head to hold the fold in place.

origami-swan-instructions-16

17. Gently push the body apart to create the base the swan sits upon and set on tabletop.

18. Woo hoo! You just made an origami swan!

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.

color-sorting-1000-origami-paper-cranes

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.

transporting-art-installation-origami-artprize

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.

transporting-miniature-origami-mobile

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 🙂

#OrigamiInMyHand

tinygami-miniature-origami-frog-hearts-shrimp-flower

A fun thing I was participating in before my dad got sick was an invitation by another one of my favorite Instagram origami artists white_onrice. Ross Symons started the hashtag #origamiinmyhand and asked people to fold something, photograph it in your hand, then tag and share it.

Of course in keeping with my Tinygami name I had to fold things miniaturized. That is the smallest frog, heart, and shrimp I had ever folded.

tinygami-miniature-origami-crane

The crane in the lower image is only 1/4″ high. I’ve decided to call this size “Micro” because it is my smallest. It goes along with “Itty Bitty” my medium size at 3/8″ high, and my large “Tiny” size at 3/4″ high.

If you’re also a folder I invite you to join in the fun 🙂