On Friday 22 February 2013, due in large part to a TedTalks lecture on the subject by Robert Lang, I decided I wanted to try my hand at origami. I just wanted a taste - nothing too fancy or in-depth, but just to try a few simple folds and get a very basic understanding and appreciation of the art.
I stopped by a local library that afternoon to peruse their origami instruction book collection, but much to my dismay, the instructions I found were absolutely terrible! All I wanted to do were a few basic folds, but even the most elementary patterns contained prohibitively awful directions. No doubt the folds themselves were easy, but the instructions of how to execute these folds were horrible: Instructions such as "Fold the flap over". Well, great - there are 8 flaps that could be folded over, which one do I fold? Where do I fold it to? And do I fold just the top layer, or multiple layers? Or my personal favorite: "Fold the flap at an angle." Okaaaaay, at how much of an angle? 45 degrees? 60 degrees? 120? Usually these directions mean an angle other than 90 degrees - but 90 degrees is just as much an angle as anything else. Technically even a straight line is a 180 degree angle.
Frustrated with written instructions, I visited YouTube and to watch visual instructions. This proved better and easier to follow, but still not good enough to produce the intended result. I assumed the problem was on my part - clearly this guy knew how to fold a paper crane and I didn't, so it seemed natural that the problem was mine, not his. But after painstakingly watching that video over and over and over again trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, I realized that the problem was not that I wasn't correctly following his instructions (in fact, it would have been impossible for me to follow his directions any better than I was), but rather that he made additional folds which he did not show or articulate. In other words, he skipped crucial steps that resulted in my failure. Video origami instruction is indeed superior to written origami instruction in terms of ease of comprehension, but the medium hardly matters when the instructions are poor to begin with.
My third idea was to try the children's section. Perhaps books written for kindergartners will be simple and clear enough for a 27-year-old with three collegiate degrees to understand. Again, this was a step in the right direction - children's origami books are substantially easier to follow - but I still found myself stumped and frustrated by unclear directions. Basically what I have found is that origami instruction - at any level, and through any medium - is agonizingly bad. These directions describe what to do instead of telling you how to do them.
My experience reading these origami instruction books reminds me a great deal of my experience reading Paul Hindemith's book The Craft of Musical Composition. After painstakingly wading through several chapters of The Craft, I began noticing a pattern: I would read the text and understand exactly his point, then look at the examples provided and realize that the text and the descriptions were not at all congruous. I had to deduce what Hindemith meant to say by analyzing his examples, and then - and only then - would his intent become clear. In a very similar way, I have had to deduce what these origami authors meant to say, and then - and only then - would I be able to produce the intended results.
Of course, all of this added to my frustration, and not being one to give up easily, it only increased my resolve to figure out this puzzle. It was no longer a desire just to learn a few basic folds - now it was a personal battle to prove to myself (a) I can learn origami, and (b) I can teach it better than any of the instructional methods I have used. There must, after all, be a more intuitive system for beginner origami instruction.
It seems to me that the easiest way to learn origami would be with pre-printed numbers and fold lines (as opposed to using blank paper and taking instructions from a book or video). That way all a user would have to do it match up point 1 with point 1 and fold them together, then match up 2 with 2 and fold those together, then 3 with 3, 4 with 4, et cetera. This seemed so obvious to me that I assumed others would have done this already, but surprisingly this system appears to be original. My online searches for comparable material have proven fruitless. It is with that in mind that I write this blog dedicated to my own original origami instruction sheets. They are available for download at no cost, and may be freely printed and distributed.
My 8 March 2013 blog about origami prompted me to launch a second blog, one dedicated solely to origami. This way, as I complete instructional sheets, I can post them directly to this blog and it will not interfere with my Beatles blog.