“The first time I folded anything was in 2002 when I was asked by my brother to fold a crane for a project he was busy with. Since then all I ever did was fold crane after crane. Why I did this all the time and why I stayed so interested in it is a mystery to me…”
INTERVIEW: RICK DE LA RAY
PHOTOGRAPHY: OCKIE FOURIE
Folding origami requires a lot of focus and patience. Do you feel these traits came from being a web developer and do you find any similarities between the two in the way of approaching certain challenges?
If I am interested in something, regardless of what it is, I can sit and do it for hours on end. I am able to focus on something and block everything else out until I get it right or at least see myself getting better at it. Both web development and origami require a technical as well as a creative mind. But I’m sure there are hundreds of other activities that require the same abilities. I just happened to do these two during the same time in my life. But yes, there are definitely similarities in both of these types of fields when it comes to problem solving. There is a set of rules, which you need to understand. You start out to achieve a goal (build a website or fold a rabbit) and based on the rules you then use the tools available (computer programs or a sheet of paper) to create what it is you’ve set out to create.
Do you always start with a square piece of paper and are there any basic or signature folds that run throughout all models of origami?
Generally you would start with a square but you can start with any shape provided it is a single flat, uncut sheet. There are a few folds or models called “bases” which can form the starting point of many models, but these bases are not used in all origami models.
When was the first time you recall being introduced to the art form and what do think kept you interested with the medium?
The first time I folded anything was in 2002 when I was asked by my brother to fold a crane for a project he was busy with. Since then all I ever did was fold crane after crane. Why I did this all the time and why I stayed so interested in it is a mystery to me…
Is there a certain size and weight of paper, which is standard to the medium or does each artist just find their own, preferred method of executing their models?
The less steps and detail there is in a model, the less specific the paper type needs to be. It’s not really a preference but a technicality when choosing paper. Insects can have hundreds of details and small antennae which would generally require very thin, strong paper, when a bear or bull which is bulky would require a thicker more malleable type of paper.
On your website you mention that you are folding paper for a living now. What would be a typical day in your life and how do you market yourself as an origami artist?
Being an artist is the same as running a business. I have to answer emails, fetch samples and goods from suppliers, do filing, drop off goods to send to clients etc. So I try and get all of that out of the way in the morning, but as emails come in, I answer them. If a task takes me less than 5 minutes to do, I will drop what I’m doing and do that to get it out of the way. I try and set aside time in the afternoons and evenings to do any folding or designing. I find those are the most creative times for me. Instagram has been the only form of marketing I’ve done and it’s happened by default. I started a 365 day project at the beginning of last year (2014) where I posted one new origami figure every day for a year, and it was that project and me connecting with so many people, that allowed me to market what I was doing and do it fulltime. I spend at least 5-10 minutes every 3-4 hours on instagram, every day. I don’t post more than twice a day and I try and respond to every comment that is made on my posts.
Did you use instagram from the beginning to exhibit your models online and when was the initial surge in followers on instagram? What do you feel led to the number rising so drastically on the platform?
I already had an instagram account, and I’d always wanted to do a 365 day project and document it. So instagram was the logical option for me to document the project. The first big spike in followers was in august 2014 when I went from around 2500 to 10500 followers over a few weeks. And then at the end of September I was featured on instagram’s blog which pushed me to over 40k followers. I was featured by instagram and also put onto the instagram suggested user list as a result of me being very active and also because my photography skills improved during the course of the project.
We live in a time where new content is what we are constantly looking for, particularly online content. During this project I was providing a daily dose of something new and different and people knew that it was going to be there everyday, so they started following me.
You have done quite a few projects from shop windows to different brands now like red bull and Adidas, to name a few. How did you get involved?
Everything has transpired via instagram. I keep putting my ideas out and when brands and people see that there is something different about what I do, they want to work with me. And this is true for anyone doing something unique and different. I also make a point of responding to everyone as fast as possible. In this day and age if you take too long to respond you’re gonna lose the potential work.
Red bull is usually associated with extreme sports, what is your involvement with them and do you consider your-self a sort of extreme origami folder?
I was recently involved with red bull and their paper wings campaign, which was a paper jet throwing competition. I judged the Cape Town leg of these events. I will hopefully do some work with them in the future again. I think that what I’ve brought to many people’s attention is that something as simple as folding paper can be turned into a fulltime gig and that might be what is seen as extreme. Origami is sometimes seen as a children’s activity and that it’s limited in what’s achievable, so I think I’ve just helped many people see what can be done if you add a bit of time and creativity to something simple.
There are many types of origami techniques. From action, modular wet folding and pureland origami – it seems that your work incorporates quite a few of these disciplines?
Although I’ve tried all these techniques out, the only one I really use often for my own models is wet folding. The rest of the techniques are generally used when starting out with origami.
In terms of tools, do you use any ‘bone folders’ and paperclips with complex folds while you are working and do you use any form of ‘kirigami’ (paper cutting) in your work?
If the paper gets really thick I do use a bone folder. It helps get crisp folds yet it’s softer on the paper. It also helps with scoring, which is good for making a groove in the paper so it’s easier to fold. I have used paper clips and masking tape to keep the models in place if they get a bit complex. Tweezers are something I like using if I’m folding a model with a lot of detail. I don’t often use kirigami unless it’s a paper-craft (box-like figures and shapes created using scissors) project that I’m working with. The challenge with origami is to create shapes and forms without using cuts.
I read that some purists believe that no tools should be used when folding and prefer to do it in the air without a flat surface to work on?
Haha! Yes, the purists do say that sometimes. Folding a model using all those techniques is an art on its own :)
What made you decide to take on the 365 day challenge? How difficult was it to choose your particular characters and models that you had to make each day?
For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to do one thing every day for a whole year. I was really enjoying origami so I decided that I would do that for a year and track my progress using instagram.
It was difficult at the beginning to choose models but once I started doing a theme each week it became easier to find designs. All I had to do then was choose a theme each week and find 7 models in that theme instead of finding a figure each day.
How many paper cuts did you get and were there moments where you thought of throwing in the towel?
Not one single paper cut, that’s no lie! I decided from the beginning that I was going to complete the project so I never had the urge to call it quits. I had moments of “aaaaaaaahhh dammit!!!” But I never wanted to quit.
How do you store the work and is there a lifespan to the sculptures in terms of it losing its shape and crispness?
I only store the figures I sell in a proper case or frame. The figures I fold for design purposes or just for fun, I often give away to friends or just keep them in a cupboard somewhere. If the correct paper and technique is used to create them, the paper sculptures can last for years. They would also need to be kept in an environment where not much light or damp can get to them.
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