To begin with, I read up on various Origami styles e.g. the Golden Venture Folding or the three dimensional one, Modular made into smaller units with cut pieces of paper, the Action model is interactable, Wet Folding is for a softer and delicate look, Kirigami involves both folding and cutting paper, while the one seen everywhere could be Fabric Folding of the napkins in the restaurants, and towels in spas.
Then connected with Aditi Anuj, who during our telephonic conversation spoke highly of her mentor and guide Ankon Mitra – “My journey cannot be mentioned without a nod to him.” That statement led to this uniquely traditional yet contemporary feature. It feels special because for the first time Marigolddiary has serendipitously celebrated our ‘Guru-Shishya’ tradition on its significant day in the Hindu Calendar – ‘Guru Purnima’ -16th July’19 .
So I’m sharing with you excerpts of our conversations regarding Aditi Anuj and Ankon Mitra’ s observations and journeys with this craft.
MD: Beginning with you Aditi, who are the people who have creatively influenced during childhood? And what is your design background?
AA: Both my parents had a very strong creative influence on me while I was growing up. My father is a doctor by profession but let’s himself be defined as a gardener, writer and a singer. On the professional front, he has vertically specialized in microsurgery of limbs, and treats this job like a fine handicraft. While my mother is an outstanding artist, an expert in making 3D models with clay painting.
While my formal education began with graduation in textiles from the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Kolkata 2005-2009. Then, to deepened my knowledge I did Post-Graduation in it from National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.
It was there that I picked up Origami from Ankon Mitra, a visiting faculty then.
MD: You are a landscape designer who has studied B. Arch from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi and M.Sc. Adaptive Architecture and Computation, The Bartlett, University College London. Narrate to us your origami journey.
AM: My journey is a decade old, yet feels like it started yesterday. I call it art, but is mathematics, geometry, science, technology, engineering and craft all rolled into one. In early 2009, a gardener in London introduced me to folds in foliage, flowers, tree branches and root structures. After that I began seeing folds everywhere. It was as if the universe had gifted me a new set of eyes. (Though, I regret not having asked his name) He was like a messenger from god, sent to enlighten me. I instantly fell head-over-heels in love with origami and all things folded. Almost immediately, took to creating an airport roof, using this newly acquired passion in my professional life as an architect. But that was fraught with many technical difficulties. So, decided to take it slow, building the romance fold by fold, material by material.
MD: Aditi, who/what inspired you to take up origami full time despite having studied Textile Design?
AA: I worked with an export house for a year after NID, but soon realized that I was not cut out for a 9-5 job, per-sé. It dawned on me that my passion lay in Origami – both practicing and teaching it. My family has played an important role in making me realize that it could be more than a mere hobby. Even though, I had begun folding a long time ago but didn’t take it too seriously as I wasn’t sure of its professional viability (there needs to be food on the table at the end of the day, you see!). It was not easy for me to take this leap of faith since I was entering a world which was not just new for me but also for my potential clients. As things stand today, I am thankful for the prodding of my near and dear ones which has helped in getting the better of my skepticism.
Origami by Studio Ankon Mitra
MD: Ankon, by virtue of being Aditi’s teacher, briefly educate us about origami and its history.
AM: Folding was invented with paper, in China, even before banana leaves, hemp and cotton fabric were folded in Egypt, India, Mesopotamia. It traveled with paper making from China to other parts of the world. But it is in Japan that aesthetics and culture of folding paper took root in a big way as paper making, paper crafts and the art of communicating nature’s beauty through paper figures became institutionalized and integrated with other rituals and cultural practices of Japan. The passing on of creasing steps to achieve a final model, continued well into the medieval times as an oral tradition, and then a slow decline set in. In the early 20th century, a revolutionary idea of diagramming the origami steps was pioneered by Akira Yoshizawa. When printing became cheaper, more people had access to these designs, available in books. Then, a master was no longer an absolute requirement to learn the art. It spread like wild fire around the world, with its introduction in schools as primary art education.
Also, in the last 30 years, with the advent of advanced computation and virtual modelling, Origami has moved far beyond animals, birds and representative art, making huge strides into all realms of engineering, sculpture, design, space technology and robotics.
Collaborative Origami of Suryansh Chandra and Ankon MitraCollaborative Origami of Abha Kohli and Ankon Mitra
MD: How do you see the craft being utilized today?
AM: We are in a cross-disciplinary age, and ideas from one field can significantly inform another seemingly and totally unrelated field. Origami is one such discipline which is becoming a linkage between numerous spheres of human endeavors, research and application. Material advances and abilities of machine age to fabricate folding patterns that would have been extremely tedious (or even unthinkable) in the past, now allow this ‘craft’ to work at the forefront of many new inventions.
And in the field of art, it has revolutionized the way we view surfaces, space and the three dimensions. The dimensions need not be constructed by joining a number of different surfaces at various angles. A single, two dimensional surface rises and becomes three dimensional, it can enclose space, and a flat sheet transforms into a volume – with no cuts, no addition or subtraction of materials. Notice the folds everywhere – in nature, our DNA structure, the coastlines of continents, to the structure of our brains, the way a ladybug folds and deploys her wings, sound and light waves, the very concept of gravitational space-time and elsewhere in the cosmos. It is only now that we are connecting the dots, starting to comprehend the truly endless possibilities of tapping into the strength and versatility of this technique.
Collaborative Origami of Ankon Mitra and Aditi Anuj
MD: How do you view the origamists in the art world? And who do you admire?
AM: They have a well-knit, open-source of network for ideas and patterns, globally. Coming from diverse professional backgrounds such as mathematics, botany, architecture, engineering, geology, medicine etc. they like to find linkages between folding and their respective disciplines. Their camaraderie is commendable. Pioneers have given their patterns for free. Often you’ll see the practitioners sharing, collaborating, and furthering other’s work, openly. Till now, the kind of animosity or cloak-and-dagger mentality that plagues the art world and design platforms, has not hit this community.
In the field of geometric tessellations (which is the area my studio works on most- Hexagramm Design), we admire the work of masters such as Eric Gjerde, Polly Verity, June Mitani, Tomoko Fuse, Erik Demaine, Ron Resch and scores of others.
Origami by Aditi Anuj
MD: Lastly, Aditi you too are an Origami teacher now. Please enlighten us with its benefits. And tell us how different age groups have taken to it in your workshops?
AA: One word – therapeutic. It is an immersive experience, excellent for developing hand-eye coordination, sequencing skills, mathematical reasoning, spatial skills and patience, which is what makes it so good for kids. It also allows you to develop fine motor skills and mental concentration. For someone like me who has zero patience and concentration, origami finds way to give this in abundance.
And as for the the different age groups, my last student was an eight-year-old boy and his septuagenarian grandmother. In my workshops I find it difficult to narrow it down to any age group. For learning origami age is no bar which makes it an ideal pastime for everyone, keeping into account its aforementioned benefits. Infact, last year, when I went to Japan to pay homage to the craft I saw men in their 80s, sitting at a table and folding away – it gave me goose bumps!
Though, very often, I’ve had children who’ve learnt faster than adults. I encourage them to go ahead and teach their elders. Origami is an extremely interactive craft which manages to break the walls of maturity, as everyone becomes a child for that time.
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