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Updated: February 13, 2013 19:40 IST

Creativity in every fold

Anusha Parthasarathy
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Kartik and Subash at the Madras Origami Society Photo: R. Ragu
Kartik and Subash at the Madras Origami Society Photo: R. Ragu

Their passion for folding paper to create exciting shapes led to their forming the Origami Society of Madras. T. Subash and V. R. Karthik talk about their unusual hobby

The Origami Society of Madras, which just turned two, has many a fold under its cap! There are crimped swans made out of tissue paper, bright yellow angels crafted from handmade paper and paper turtles coloured with bright green crayon. But T. Subash and V. R. Karthik began folding paper to derive a simpler pleasure — to set sail paper boats in puddles and click imaginary pictures with paper cameras.

“How do you change paper which is two-dimensional into a three-dimensional object? It’s fascinating,” says Subash, as he explains the different models they have on view. “It’s a useful tool to teach geometry because origami is all about angles and symmetry. And when children see shapes being formed right before their eyes, they retain a lot more information than they normally would.”

And so, Subash began teaching geometry through origami at Deepam, an NGO, when he met fellow cyclist and friend Karthik. “When we both realised we share the same hobby, we decided to do something more than just fold paper as a pastime. That’s how the society started. We have around 130 members of whom 20 are active, conduct origami workshops and take classes at NGOs,” he says.

Subash cites a list of instances where origami techniques are used in daily life — airbags in cars are folded using origami techniques, telescopic lenses in advanced sciences are folded to reduce their size and weight and so on. “The art is as old as paper,” says Karthik adding, “so far, we have tried modular, tessellation, crumpling, sculpture, wet folding and aerogami techniques. Of course, none of the designs are ours. We just follow the designs of other paper folders abroad. Improvisation is rather tough and it could take 10 hours or even more to see if it works.”

Origami does not just help with understanding concepts in geometry but also opens up the mind, the duo feels. “Origami awakens creativity in children,” says Subash, adding, “it pains us that they are losing out on the joy one derives from simple activities, and instead they are glued to tablets and computers. With paper, you touch and feel things, which is not possible otherwise. Quite a few universities abroad have a math origami department; indeed it is considered a subject by itself. We’ve conducted workshops with the fine arts department in a few colleges but more people must encourage this art.”

Though Subash admits it’s a complicated and time-consuming hobby, he sees a silver lining in it. “Yes, it takes hours to perfect even simple techniques but it teaches you patience,” he smiles, “Often, people give up even in the initial stages when the models don’t work. But we’ve been doing this perfecting the art ever since we were young. It only requires practice. While both Karthik and I have been into origami for four or five years, we started to actively promote it only over the last two years. We don’t promote the art for money because we have day jobs but we like the rustle and the smell of paper, and seeing different kinds of paper come to life through our models. We also want people to appreciate origami and understand the science behind it.”

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