Folded calligraphy

A few days ago, in browsing the Roku for something interesting to watch, we happened across the documentary Between the Folds, by Vanessa Gould. This is a short film about the art and science of paper folding. I have played a little with origami in the past, but the level of skill and the intricacy of the patterns shown in this movie was so far beyond anything I had seen before that I felt an irresistible urge to pick up a sheet of paper and start folding.

As it happened, the closest sheet of paper to me was a piece of scrap paper on which I had been sketching ideas for a envelope design for my nephew Matt’s upcoming birthday (Happy Birthday, Matt!). I just started by making semi-random folds, not trying to create anything in particular, but folding the sheet into a fan pattern in one direction, then un-folding it and doing the same with the sheet turned 90 degrees, and finally, I started throwing in various folds that I remembered from simple origami patterns I had learned years ago. My main thought was just to create something with enough complexity of facets and textures that it might enhance or add interest to the calligraphy. Here’s a photo that suggests what can emerge from this process:

This was just a preliminary experiment, but the result intrigues me, and motivates me to want to learn more about the current state of the art in paper-folding. If any reader has had experience in combining calligraphy and folding, I’d be particularly interested in hearing from you!

4 thoughts on “Folded calligraphy

  1. I, too, have origamied! Picked it up in Okinawa.
    What I did was to fold the paper into a frog. Decorate the frog with detail, then open it up & make a calligraphy piece using or around the marks. It was quite challenging! Deciding whether to make a line or pattern a letter or use it as a form! What a blast!
    The amazing thing was when the recipient unfolded the frog to find that it turned into a poem. Instilled wonder! They thought it was done the other way around!
    Thanks for bringing up the memories!,

    • Thanks, Richard – I enjoyed the story, and was interested in your process of folding, then unfolding, decorating, and re-folding.


  2. I, too, enjoy both origami and calligraphy, cometimes both together.
    One piece was a kaleidoscope flower, on plain paper, with a series of
    repeated words as it opened through its cycle. One opening to Peace,
    next to Hope, etc., “ending” love. Didn’t take the concept into and
    under the folds. There’s a whole series of moving origami pieces –
    but the Vanessa Gould’s free-folding is a great thought.
    Something I’ve been pondering is folding implied by calligraphy on a
    flat surface.

    • Thanks for the comments, Vera. I follow the kaleidoscope flower idea, but am not sure I understand the bit about implied folding by calligraphy on a flat surface. Perhaps you’re suggesting that parts of words could be hidden by other parts of the piece that appear to have been folded over? That would be very much like taking a photo of a three-dimensional piece, as I’ve shown in the post – except that you could make the flat calligraphy the original. It would probably be hard to design without actually doing a calligraphic piece and folding it first, though.

      Please tell me more!

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