Jessica reading an origami book at the pool circa third gradeJessica's Origami Page

I've been folding origami for just about as long as I can remember. I really can't remember when the "first time" I got into origami was, because it pretty much has always been there, but I do remember very distinctly my favorite set of origami books by Atsuko Nakata that I've had since I was a kid.

My mom worked at a teacher's bookstore, so of course they had all kinds of good educational stuff like origami books! Each volume only had about 12 pages, so one by one I collected them all, and made every pattern from every book, always flipping through the rest of the collection in admiration every time I was at the bookstore.

My favorite from the series however, was probably one of the last ones that came out, the four christmas origami books. They had lots of pictures of beatiful foil ornaments decorating a tree, and there was one picture that particularly inspired me, a tree decorated in nothing but origami, with garland made out of gold foil origami cranes, stapled wing to wing.

My Origami Book inspiration for making Crane Chains

Needless to say I really got into it ;-) My mom got me a package of gold foil paper and a package of silver foil paper, and I went at it. In our apartment, there was a speaker-wire that ran across the ceiling of the living room, where it wouldn't be a tripping hazard. At my dad's suggestion, I made a whole strand of crain chain to disguise and decorate over the speaker wire, and my dad helped me attach the cranes to the speaker wire. I think the cranes stayed up pretty much until we moved out of that apartment.

Living Room Crane Chain (disguising speaker wire)

And along with making the crane chain for the living room, I actually had enough leftover that I made a matching strand for my room, and hung them across the window of my room.

Bedroom crane chain

Oh, but don't think the origami in my room stopped there. My bookshelves were literally covered in origami, as was my bulletin board.

My Bulletin Board in Junior High

And then of course, I continued folding and folding. How could I stop? Its a fun hobby.
Origami is very exacting, you have to make your folds very precisely where they're supposed to go, if you're sloppy, it comes out looking bad.

And then I got into miniature origami, making teeny tiny origami. That was almost more fun than the big origami because it had an added challenge of nimble fingers, and resulting in origami that fits in the palm of your hand.

Miniature Origami

And then somewhere along the line, I got various encouragement that I should fold 1000 cranes, because, you know, that'd just be cool. And who hasn't read the legend about the sick kid in japan who folded 1000 cranes? Its kind of the tradition. For a while I wasn't counting. I made about 25 to 50 for a chain of cranes that got hung in the school library in junior high--I can't remember whether it was for a special occasion such as Japanese History Month or just because Mrs. O'Leary, our librarian, said "why not?". Of course, those ones weren't out of gold foil paper, like my chain at home; this was public school, there I used ordinary colored copier paper in assorted colors from the school office, cut square. I never took a picture of that chain, because who would have ever thought to take a camera to school? It just wasn't something kids did in those days. But the image of my cranes strung across the sliding door window of the library is permanantly etched in my memories. I think I might have even saved one or two of the leftover cranes.

There were plenty of other origami things I folded in that library. When I was in seventh or eighth grade they upgraded the libray to start using this high tech computerized bar-code system that required scanning our names out of a three ring binder when we checked out books. The result was stacks and stacks of old library cards, perfectly spare and otherwise going to waste. So I did what an origami hobbist would naturally do, I folded them into origami jumping frogs! 3x5 Library cards have just the right balance between paper-weight and size to make competition-worthy jumping frogs. These days I mostly make jumping frogs out of the small rectangular post-its, but the library card ones were sure fun! Of course, the library cards were just fun to read anyhow becasue it was always neat to see who else had checked out the book before you--sometimes they hadn't been checked out in almost ten years, or maybe more. Whole generations of students at our school, names etched onto the card in ink of varying colors and handwritings.

Origami jumping frogs made out of old library cards

Post-it note origami jumping frog family
Jumping Frogs Made out of Post-its

And then there were the cranes I folded in the car on long rides to my grandpa's house in high school--he'd just moved into an assisted living home and the house needed to be cleaned out to be sold, so we spent two and a half hours in the car for many weekends, to go up there to clean out his fourteen tubes of toothpaste and twelve rings of house-keys and so on. It was quite a bit of work. But when I wasn't working on my German homework, I spent a lot of the time folding cranes out of some assorted patterns 3" paper my grandma had found, mostly making them by feel, not by sight, so I could keep my eyes on the road. Then when I got home, I'd open up the wings on each crane (because a crane isn't really done until its wings are unfolded) and add them to my box of cranes.

Crane BoxEvery now and then I'd dump out the entire box to see how close I was getting to 1000, I could see progress, but it took a long time. It wasn't even in college that I finished--well, maybe it was, but having my cranes split apart between littering my desk in my dorm room and at home in the closet at my parents house, it wasn't like it was easy to count them all, and I was only counting cranes that hadn't gotten thrown out or lost over the years. "I've probably folded 1000 by now, but I only have 700 in this box".

But sometime after college I decided to count them again and finally was over that magic threshold...and over it with at least 100 cranes to spare. There were cranes of all sorts, big cranes, cranes as small as (or smaller than) a penny, cranes from the original crane chains, cranes made out of maps, cranes made out of foil paper, cranes made out of scratch paper, cranes made out of wax paper and tin foil and wrapping paper (yes, the foil paper really did work best though). There were cranes in all colors, cranes out of patterned paper, out of paper printed with gradients, irridescent paper, notebook paper, you name it. But they were there, all well over a thousand of them. But don't think that's the end, I still fold them, mostly in miniature, whenever I get the urge.

Page with Pictures of all 1000 Cranes

Really old page with pictures of mini cranes

Of course, these days I occasionally try some more difficult designs, like this dragon I made at work, but mostly I seem to stick with making cranes and pigs and whatever is on my origami page-a-day calendar....

Origami Dragon
Origami Dragon

Red Robin Origami
Mini Origami made out of Red Robin Napkin Rings

Jessica's Website -> Art -> Origami