I was sat folding at the train station by Barcelona airport when a curious child came to watch, so I quickly made her a flapping bird. Such simple pleasures make life so special…
Most of us with less folding ability than we’d like find reasons to justify our modest efforts – “I’m not patient”, “Life’s too hard”, “I’m not artistic”, “the diagrams are not clear” and even the old classic, “the paper’s not square!”. I suspect a lot of it is down to confidence and being prepared to put the hours in to refine our techniques.
Now and again, you learn about an individual who puts things in their proper perspective, for example Saburo Kase. Kase lost his eyesight at elementary school, but it didn’t stop him from becoming a gifted teacher and creator of origami. I was lucky enough to attend one of his classes at the COET and he was so calm and confident. At one point, his translator asked “Mr Kase asks if anyone has problems”. One eprson did and handed his model to Kase, who calmly and nonchalently unfolded the last step, corrected it and gave it back.
Ian died on 30th August, aged 74 and had been fighting cancer for several years. His son Mark writes: “His condition had been largely without pain, but he was very tired for extended periods of time. His death was peaceful which I think is all one can hope for at this stage.” His funeral took place in Daresbury, where he had lived for the last 4 years.
I knew Ian from his earliest days in the BOS, since we both were regular attendees at the North-West mini meetings in Hazel Grove. Ian was an articulate and intelligent folder, befitting his career in adult education. He favoured geometric designs, latterly working creatively in the field of 60 degree twist folds and tessellations. He was endlessly patient when teaching his designs and rarely showed any signs of frustration with less able students such as myself!
He was a very private man and it was hard to get to know him, or to learn anything about his private life, but his commitment to origami and the BOS cannot be doubted. For many years he was our Supplies Secretary and delighted in presenting a wide range of papers. Many of these he sourced himself as large rolls, then cut them down to (perfect!) squares and packaged them for sale to members. Even now, probably 10 years since he stepped down, you can still find his packs for sale and they still show a sensitive choice of folding material.
He sat on the BOS Council for many years and in 2009 was awarded the Sidney French Medal for his devoted services to the Society. He attended many conventions and was an “ever present” during the 10 years of my annual meetings in Wentworth. He always had something to teach, but never sought any kind of attention or acclaim for his work. He knew a great deal about geometry and was happy to share his knowledge. I remember once asking him why two folded corners came together in a sequence and he gave me a withering look and said “well, they have to”!
Here is a design of his that I drew up but which was never published.
I’m sorry to hear that Heide has left us at the age of 80. I met her several times at Origami Deutschland conventions and she was always friendly and courteous. She gave me (and others) a tour of Bonn on one occasion.
She was heavily involved in ELFA (Envelope and Letter Folding Association).
I’ve just finished the sorting out of Iris’ origami archives, a very sad task, although I learned a lot more about her, an amazing woman. Today I found this old photo of us…
I’m now the sole retailer of wooden folding tools from Hans Werner Guth in the known universe. Read more here!
We have said goodbye to Francis Ow, who is at peace after a battle with cancer. He was my friend for nearly 30 years, although sadly, we never met. His creativity was only matched by his courage and huge spirit. My heart goes out to his family.
You can leave a tribute on his website, which will continue to be maintained.
I’ll compose a proper obituary when I can think more clearly.
So sorry to hear the news that deg has passed away after a long struggle with cancer. His bravery through this period has been amazing. He was a good friend to many of us and will be much missed
In my research to get permission for using diagrams, I sometimes find sad news. I’ve just learned that Teruo Tsuji and Keiji Kitamura are dead. Keiji-San and I used to exchange letters & diagrams back in the 90s, he was an under-rated creator, perhaps best known for his cat and his book “Origami Treasure Chest”.
Tsuji, of course, came up with an superb “talking frog”.
I knew of John Smith from my first days in the BOS, when he was chair of the Council. His academic work on subjects such as the (in)famous “Origami Instruction Language” were way over my head and I was aware that he had a keen and challenging intellect. However, it wasn’t until I joined the Council in the 80s that I really got to know him.
His chairing of our meetings was a superb example of the required skills, he encouraged us to have our say, then at the end would offer a concise summary of what the choices were. I remember feeling somewhat intimidated by his thoughtful analysis of issues and (unlike myself) he seemingly wasn’t given to joking during meetings. I felt the Society to be extremely lucky to have him at the helm.
He worked hard to move both the Society and study of origami forwards and was a key factor behind the publication of COET, a collection of papers from the first International Conference on Origami in Education and Therapy in 1991. Other publications of his included: Notes on Origami and Mathematics, A Bibliography of Origami in Education and Therapy, Inspiration for Teaching Origami, Notes on the History of Origami, Simplicity & Realism in Origami and SNOW.
As the years rolled by, I grew to know him a lot better and learned that underneath his orderly and professional demeanour lurked a man with a child-like wonder at the beauty of paper-folding and a twinkle in his eye. When he was particularly impressed with a new design, he often turned to poetry (including haikus) to express his feelings, such as this, inspired by seeing Fujimoto’s Cube
I sit and look at you my friend, and marvel at your being .
From one perfection to another.
From the anonymity and illusion of the plane, to the reality of the cube.
Yet the two are one; it is time and space that have changed.
I sit and look at you, my friend, and wonder at your perfection
All is needed, nothing is wasted.
And what a journey from one perfection to another!
An instant of magic when anonymity changes to reality.
When the plane becomes a cube,
When nothingness becomes reality, with shape and space and meaning
Here is the mystery of our art.
We both shared a love of simple folding, which he expressed in his development of “Pureland Folding” and “Forgiving Folds” in which he hoped that the simplicity he so admired would help develop models suitable for children to learn. We also enjoyed computing, then at the start of the PC as we know it today. I bought my first “decent” computer from John, a green-screen “Apricot” with a (gasp) 20Mb hard drive, which I was utterly thrilled with.
He also contributed several essays and booklets about ideas that excited him, often bringing together origami and mathematics. Each had its own acronym such as “Curio” (Curve Induced Origami), and SNOW (Symmetric Nodal Origami World) and OIL (Origami instruction Language). His contributions to the early days of the Society were immense and will no doubt be documented elsewhere.
I spent many happy hours with John over the years, at BOS convention, overseas conventions and especially at a tribute to Thoki Yenn in Dessau (right). I set up and maintained a website for him, called “Bits Of Smith” (now hosted by the BOS here) and was amazed at the breadth of his knowledge and expertise.
As John grew older, his acuity inevitably lessened, but his charm only grew and he was able to really “let his hair down” from time to time. His phone calls were often to discuss some finer point of theory or to point me towards a new delight he had discovered.
In more recent years, his calls were fewer and often quite emotional, his mobility was on the wane and eventually he moved to a care home. By all accounts though, he was still alert and engaged with his fellow residents, although his physical health didn’t allow him to travel to the BOS 50th, despite our efforts to make it happen. I was delighted that he got to see the first copy of my tribute to David Lister, since he had (gently) nagged me for several years to produce it!
John was a towering giant of origami academia and his thought-provoking work will continue to influence future students of the art.