Origami Engineering (to build bridges and stuff, really!)

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I had a really neat “small world” moment yesterday. A family friend, who I’ve known for longer than I can remember, sent me a link to an article about paper engineering. That’s pretty neat, but happens with some frequency since everyone knows I like paper. This particular article, though, happens to feature some really exciting work being done in my home town, at the University of Illinois. They’re using origami folding techniques to prototype structures that can fold down flat for transportation, and then pop up into things like bridges and buildings.

Watch this video to see them in action – it’s totally worth the three minutes of your time!

Watching this makes me want to get my paper out and start playing around with this technique!

Reflections on 100 days of paper folding

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I had so many intentions going into this project, and pretty much all of them fell by the wayside as I focused on scratching out enough time in each day to take a deep breath, find a piece of paper, and fold something. I had grand visions of regular blog updates to reflect on the process and all of the amazing, life-changing things I was learning…reality won out, though, which is probably for the best. My life wasn’t profoundly and dramatically changed. I learned some really good lessons, yes, but I am still pretty much the same person doing the same things I was doing 100 days ago. For posterity, and for myself when I forget that I do actually have the power to commit to something and follow through, here are my major takeaways, in no particular order:

1. It is possible to form new habits! The challenge ended on Tuesday, and each night since then I’ve felt like something is missing from the pattern of my day. Granted, it means my bedtime routine has gotten approximately an hour shorter, which is awesome, but I am feeling compelled to come up with a new daily Instagram-for-accountability creative practice, because I have a hole/space in my life formed by doing the work to make the paper folding thing a habit.

2. Taking 20-30 minutes each day to go through the process of “What should I make? How should I make it? How do I photograph it? What should I write about it?” was an oddly magical thing. I think it checked off a few boxes for me that I don’t always prioritize, but because it was compulsory (and often 11pm and the thing I had to do before I could go to sleep), I was forced to just do things without overthinking or being too fussy. I really value the space it made for self-reflection, and especially enjoyed the process of writing my little blurbs about why I was folding an origami crane at 3am (yes, I had a little break with reality that night, not my finest hour). One of my goals this year was to write more, and I haven’t been able to figure out how to make longer form writing (like I’m doing right now! yay!) a regular part of my life, but writing a sentence or two for 100 days was awesome.
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The 100 Day Project: 100 Days of Paper Folding

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The 100 Day Project: "Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too"

This has the potential to be a longer, sappier story, so I’ll just stick to the facts here. Stay tuned for more reflection and philosophizing.

I’m participating in The 100 Day Project! I will be repeating a creative action (in my case, folding paper) every day for 100 days. The project kicked off on Monday, April 6, and will wrap up on Tuesday, July 14.

So far I’ve been mostly revisiting the origami models that got me started in paper folding when I was a child. These are the things that just sort of magically appear when I’m sitting idle near unimportant papers. Often I will start folding without fully knowing what is going to appear at the end. My fingers simply know the way!

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Collaboration: A collaboration with ThoughtMixingBowl.com

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I got a fun request last week to write a little piece for a website called Thought Mixing Bowl. The site is a place for people to think and share about life, art, and community. There’s a new prompt every week, and a panel of people who write a response. The topic this week is:

What is the role of collaboration in your creative work?

My contribution is below, but check out the Thought Mixing Bowl yourself to see what everyone else has to say about collaboration.

Collaboration is my sanity. I work for myself, so I also work by myself, most of the time. I’m running a business that I started less than a year ago, and working the occasional freelance job. I’m constantly needing to do things that are out of my comfort zone, and often needing to do things that I find terrifying. It is only because of my inner circle of collaborators–fellow entrepreneurs, artists, makers, and risk-takers–that I can keep myself oriented to my goals instead of running in circles.

Every week for the last year-and-a-half, since I left my full-time job, I’ve met with two friends who took the leap to quit their “real” jobs around the same time I did. Being able to sit with these friends and go through the process of figuring out a non-standard life arrangement together, week by week, kept me from bailing out and giving up. Even though we are all pursuing different things, they keep me pointed in the direction I know I want to go in but would be too afraid to go on my own. They are my collaborators in the creative process of living a good life.

I also have a crew of “gut-check” collaborators–these are the people I go to when I’m tempted to second-guess myself into oblivion. They tell me that the comment I’ve drafted for an Instagram post is great, and I should just post it already and move on to making something new. They tell me that the thing I made is cool, and they would absolutely buy it. They read the email I spent all morning drafting and redrafting, and tell me to just send it already. They sit with me at craft shows and tell me to keep breathing (and smiling) when a hundred people walk buy and don’t buy anything.

It’s really easy for me to feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders, and my shoulders alone. I am a one-woman show: if I don’t do the things I need to do in order to grow my business, there is literally no one else in the world who will do them for me. There are people who will help me, though, and that’s what makes it possible to keep going.


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Happy Thanksgiving!

This has been a crazy year, going from an inkling of an idea in the spring to November with a full line of products with multiple craft shows under my belt. Thank you for your support, whether that’s simply visiting this website and reading these words, or visiting me at a show and letting me see your joy at interacting with these paper things I’ve made, or helping me at midnight the night before a show when I’m frantically sorting and sticking and cutting, covered in bits of colored paper and string.

You’re amazing, wherever you fall along that spectrum. Thank you!


Doing the craft fair thing, so far

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In the interest of collecting high-level observations and notes, without being tempted to wax poetical, here’s a list of the 10 things I’ve learned from my first two craft fairs:

1. Every fair/show/event is different. Location, time of year, time of day, weather, general mood of the populace, and who organized the event, along with innumerable other variables, will determine how much stuff gets bought.

2. The weather forecast for amount and type of wind is possibly more important than temperature when you sell things made out of paper.

3. The type of substrate an outdoor event is held on makes a big difference for cleanup. A dusty parking lot is way messier than your average city block (especially on a windy day).

4. Have a succinct pitch. Be able to explain what, why, and how you do what you do in just a few words.

5. Be able to elaborate without being awkward! If someone is interested in more details, be able to expand on your pitch. My first show was awkward and I told some probably self-deprecating stories to strangers who then looked at me funny and walked away instead of buying stuff.

6. Stay engaged. Be on your feet or otherwise active so that you’re on the same level as people walking by.

7. Have something to work on. Don’t plan on getting any actual work done. This is something I wish I’d done for my first show, but then the second show was so different in terms of passer-by engagement levels that it didn’t seem to do anything positive. And things kept blowing away. This point requires more study.

8. Yes, this paper box costs as much as a (cheap) latte. I spent a significant amount of time designing it out of thin air, prototyping the design until it worked to my satisfaction, cutting out your box with my cutting machine, peeling it off of the cutting mat, trimming and correcting any imperfections by hand, cutting and applying adhesive stickers by hand so that you don’t have to get your bottle of glue out, and paying to have a booth at this craft fair so that you can pay me $4. Sounds like a deal to me!

9. My best-seller today will not be my best-seller tomorrow. (See item #1)

10. People seem to need concrete ideas for how to use my products. “Awesome gift box!” doesn’t seem to have broad enough appeal, at least to those two audiences. “Teacher gift” or “Wedding favor” or something along those lines got more people interested…though I’m still missing something, because interest doesn’t usually connect to a sale.

Not an exhaustive list, and really only the surface level of things I’ve been pondering and reflecting on, but it feels good to get these things recorded before too much more time passes.

According to item #1, I should be able to make a list like this after each show!