Big Blue Box, Part 1

After one of our Magical-Return-to-Childhood Craft Nights at school I got a little hooked on origami.  We were making paper cranes, which I continued to do on my own, even though I pretty much suck at them.   I also learned to make little lidded boxes.  Adorable!  And if you make them in descending sizes, they stack like ziggurat temples.  Even more adorable!

Origami (which I made for Rachel) behaving as it should

Origami behaving as it should

And then I got the idea, which because it is summer vacation no one discouraged me from pursuing, of making stacking origami boxes bigger.  Much much bigger.  How cool would that be? I wondered.  I did a little math on my $5 Staples calculator (do not tell me my phone has a calculator.  I know this.  I prefer the bigger buttons).  If I wanted to make an origami box that was six feet across, I would need to start with paper about eighteen feet square.  Okay.  That sounded pretty doable.

Where were the critical voices then?  Where were the professors telling me that it was a stupid idea?  That it was meaningless art?  That I am not Japanese and therefore cannot use origami to express myself and my culture?  Well, they were on summer vacation, too. And I was left with my studio mates who also thought it was a pretty cool idea.  Tunnel vision.  Groupthink!

Big Blue Box Bottom (in process)  (Photo by Wei Xiaoguang.)

Big Blue Box Bottom (in process) (Photo by Wei Xiaoguang.)

The biggest floor in our studios is in the crit space where we have our workshop classes.  I carved out a large empty area and swept up the dirt.  I ordered a roll of paper nine feet wide by 36 feet long.  It was the biggest paper I could find.  Then I measured the crit space, only to discover that it was 12 feet wide.  Did this discourage me?  No.  But I adjusted my project to start with a five-foot box, which would require paper only 15 feet square.  I know.  I know.  15 is still larger than 12.  I could have started with a four-foot box, which would have needed a sheet of paper 11.5 feet square, but NO.  That was not big enough for me.  I decided to go with the 15 x 15, which I already KNEW wouldn’t fit in my workspace.

As I STAND under the paper I have my first inklings of disaster.

As I STAND under the paper I have my first inklings of disaster.  (Photo by Wei Xiaoguang.)

My friend Rachel announced that I couldn’t possibly handle this project all by myself.  She was completely right and generously volunteered to help me wrangle paper.  It took all afternoon to make the box bottom, during which process the paper got crinkled and torn as we pieced it, taped parts of it to the wall, folded it back and forth, and had to check the directions on making boxes.  When it was finally folded perfectly, it looked gorgeous – WHILE WE HELD IT UP.


Success!  (Photo by Wei Xiaoguang.)

As soon as we let go, it completely collapsed: an ocean-blue origami soufflé.  Not sure what to do next, we dragged it through the hallways (more damage) and deposited it in an empty studio, as I tried to convince myself and Rachel that putting a lid on it was going to give it structure.  Neither of us believed me.

Big Blue Box Bottom shows its true colors

Big Blue Box Bottom shows its true colors

So much hard work.  Not sure what to do next.  Warning: a five-foot origami box does not behave like a five-inch origami box.  Just saying.


Buying time

Buying time

Coming soon: Big Blue Box Part 2.

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