folding · origami

Refiguring a Fold

About 7 million people and I have watched Jo Nakashima’s Orgiami Fireworks (Yami Yamauchi)tutorial video of how to use 12 pieces of paper to make an exquisite, kaleidoscopic rotating object. I’ve made this object with teenagers and with teachers at a conference. It’s great doing this with a group because then I don’t have to fold the pieces myself. Even so, it has been a frustrating project to complete as assembling it has not gone as easily for me as it does for Jo Nakashima.

This past Easter weekend, hunkered down in isolation mode, feeling particularly blue, I decided to sit in my chair for three days and just draw and fold paper. My goal with the paper folding was to figure out how to streamline making this Fireworks model, even if it meant using glue, which, happily, I did not have to resort to.

BTW it took me more than three days to get where I wanted to be with this. It was worth it.

It  took making about 15 different models, using all sorts of different papers, different techniques, different workflows before I figured out how to refigure the folds to get something I like, that works well, and that I enjoy making.

What I’m doing is making the origami firework from one long piece of paper that is colored on both sides, instead 12 pieces of paper, so it’s not exactly like the Yami Yamauchi model, but otherwise it’s the same folds.

I’m going to go over what I did right here, but I’m guessing that most people won’t be able to figure it out from this, not unless you’ve got some paper folding skills already. Like, I have no doubt that my friend Catheryn at Byopia Press has the skills to make this, and my friend Mark K has the tenacity to work it out, but this certainly isn’t a casual folding activity.

First thing is to accordion fold a long piece of paper. Specifically, the paper needs to be 6.5 times long as it is wide. Or it needs to be 8 times as long as it is wide, which is easier to make into an accordion, but then a few sections have to be cut away.

To make this kind of accordion you need to have a super power….or you can watch the video below.

Addendum: What’s not mentioned in the video, which I figured out later, is that, after you make the accordion, reverse half of the folds so that they are all valley folds, so that the gold is in the valley.

Next, make this wafflely pattern on the paper… (All of these X folds should be mountain folds.)

…which can squish down like like this:

If you look at in just the right way it looks like a dragon,

but I digress. The whole things should be squished, including that flattish tail above.

Now it’s time to make this dragon consume its tail, creating a circle.

One end slips over the other.

It may not immediately seem obvious how to do this, but there’s not a lot of ways it can go, so I trust you to figure this out.

This next bit is familiar to anyone who makes v-fold pop-ups. Make isosceles triangle folds on the edges then….

…invert the V fold. Do this at each of the 12 points of the star.

[Addendum, May 9,2020 Annie Perkins made a video, clearly showing the step above and below, of the v-fold and the turn-in https://videopress.com/v/27AdFfcQ ]

Nxt step is to fold up the edges.

How much you fold up the edges becomes clear when you do it. There is a natural edge that’s suggested by the inverted v-folds.

Now, the connecting folds are on the outside edge. The inside edge is trickier only because it’s on the inside. This can be changed!~

These outside edges can be rotated inwards.

Nice, huh? Now do all those connecting folds again.

Then you’re done.

So stunning.

Here’s another video showing what the same thing as above, but the folds going the other way, so that the gold and white are inverted.

Now I’m going to go make some more. I just love these.

Addendum: May 4 2020

Fireworks by Mark Kaercher

https://twitter.com/messages/media/1257378990748295175

Addendum May 9 2020

Annie Perkins wrote a very wonderful post about this process at

#MathArtChallenge Day 53: Origami Firework from ONE piece of paper

6 thoughts on “Refiguring a Fold

      1. Pretty close to what I do. I reverse the ‘outer’ folds like you do, then do the next folds with the centre origin?) folded so that I am matching the folded edge. Fold one half, then flip over and fold other half.

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  1. It took you more than three days to figure out how to do the folds, but now that you’ve figured it out, how long does it take you from start to finish to make one of these fireworks? It’s got to be at least an hour!

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    1. It started out taking much longer than an hour to make one of these. I would often spend more time with the finishing folds than with folding the units, just because it was so unwieldy, and, then, still there would be mistakes and folds that just weren’t pretty. Now, after I have the paper cut, I think that it takes about 35 minutes. What’s even more important, though, is that this method of folding is actually enjoyable to do.

      Liked by 1 person

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