Deep within the viscera of the sprawling beast that I have come to know more commonly as "London", I found myself travelling to new, far-flung and unfamiliar territories. Like my aunt's house in Twickenham.
It was here I happened across two books by professional origami artist Paul Jackson¹ ².
Brilliant, I thought, a chance to upskill. I wasn't sure what exactly qualifies one as a professional origami artist, but I was sure about to find out!
That evening, with a brew of tea and a trusty reading chair, I readied my mind, body, and soul to embark on a journey to unfold the mysteries of folding. I lifted the front cover with a tense mix of trepidation and yearning, to be met with a reception of words, standing taut like soldiers, solemn and bold in their message:
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
"Whoa" I said aloud. This was no ordinary book, for it contained a whole page of instructions on its proper use. I read further with great sobriety.
To get the most pleasure from this book, it is important to start at the beginning.
Indeed. I further pondered this advice between sips of tea.
When you come to the end of this book, you may want to read more books on the subject. However, be careful. Some books are badly written and should be avoided.
My word. Thank the heavens I had picked the right one.
HOW TO FOLD
Isn't that oddly specific?
It goes deeper. The next two pages are formatted for a picture spread, cataloguing the right way and oh-so-many wrong ways to fold a square in half, each accompanied by pictures in shameful grey tones: Folding it left? WRONG. Folding it right? WRONG. Towards your body? ESPECIALLY WRONG. Away? YES ONLY THE LAST ONE IS CORRECT. There is only one true method of folding origami and that is away from your body. And to think, here I've been folding paper any which way with reckless abandon for my entire life. Thank you Paul for showing me the light.
To get the most pleasure from folding, you must give it close attention. Gentle music in the background may not be distracting, but the television almost certainly will be. Turn it off.
Tempted as I was to run a scented bath and play Enya's greatest hits, I knew this would have to wait. I bathed instead in Paul's next cascade of knowledge:
"...the transformation of an ordinary piece of paper into a pleasing origami design is a kind of alchemy, perhaps even more so in today's increasingly push-button, computer controlled, battery operated culture than ever before."
Looking past PJ's endearing fear of technology, I began to notice a trend in the words "pleasing" and "pleasure," popping up with uncommon frequency for a book about paper.
Some people... believe that folding paper will be difficult and not pleasurable. This isn't true! Think of folding as a 'paper ballet' in which the hands move gracefully in large controlled movements. Try not to let your fingers battle with the paper. Relax them. Let them move slowly and with deliberation. Paper is sensuous, and yielding and responds to a caring touch. So do not let your hands move in an insensitive way.
Sensuous and yielding? The above paragraph makes as much, if not more sense when you replace every instance of the word "folding" with "touching", and "paper" with "genitals."
For folding to give you pleasure, it is important not only that you know how to fold, but also that the sequence itself should be pleasurable.
At this point I wonder, is it any coincidence that the words "origami" and "orgasm" are so alike?
As it turns out, origami is a merger of the Japanese words "ori/oru" (fold) and "gami/kami" (paper). So there you go. I was expecting something along the lines of "dexterous pleasurecraft", "taciturn manifestation" or "cataclysmic fingerdance" at the very least. Instead we have the tragically literal "folding paper."
In any case, Mr Jackson's obsession/borderline-fetish with paper was intriguing enough to spurn further research. I had to know more. Who was this man? Where was he from? What were his intentions with the next ream of paper?
With a quick flick of the wrist, I was on his site, looking at some of his designs, like this rather-excellent rhino:
I soon learnt of his involvement in an international border-spanning origami event that brought Israeli and Palestinian children together, using origami as an conduit through which peace and love is spread. Which is great by the way. I admire that.
But in Paul's quest for spreading the love, he perhaps goes a little too far. Delving deeper into the site reveals something that he refers to as his experimentation in the 80s (in origami we presume) to further exact his ongoing pursuit of aesthetic pleasure (that word again). The result? A gallery of "organic abstracts."
The following images speak for themselves (but I will speak for them also):
The gallery was not so much a Freudian slip as it was a Freudian landslide, overrun with an array of various porno-gami sculptures. According to the descriptions, the sculptures range in length from 10 to 20 cm. I can think of a few other things in that range. (Penises. The answer you were looking for was penises.)
I bring this up (ha) for a reason because I'd noticed, both independent and prior to seeing PJ's gallery of porno-gami, that certain steps of the crane-making process look particularly suggestive, you know, if you squint your eyes, tilt your head and look at them in a certain light. Take the picture below:
It might be a bit of stretch, but...
Anyvag, with that little detour out of the road, it was time to take Paul Jackson's advice to mind: Slow, deliberate and careful movements are the key to pleasure.
Downplaying the emphasis on pleasure, the advice still rings to true - slow and steady is the key to good origami. With this newfound wisdom in mind, I was ready to embark on the next stage of my journey. I closed the back cover and held a deep breath. It was time to get folding.
¹ Origami: a Complete Step-by-step Guide (Hamlyn, 1989), and
² The Ultimate Papercraft and Origami Book (Acropolis, 1992)