On Purism in Origami

General discussion about Origami, Papers, Diagramming, ...

Do you think purity in Origami should be observed?

Yes.
22
73%
No.
8
27%
 
Total votes : 30

On Purism in Origami

Postby Tjips » November 1st, 2005, 8:29 pm

I've seen quite a bit of debate on the subject of Purism, but we seem to talk around the subject. Here is the lowdown as I understand it. (this is based on the description in Eric Kenneway's "Origami")

There are a few basic guidelines/rules for judging the purity of an origami design.
1. A model folded from a square piece of paper is better than the same model folded from an odd size or shape of paper. (I'll get to the reason for the square)

2. A model folded without using any adhesives (external, I'll get to wet folding also) is better than a model folded using glue, paper clips or any other form of adhesive.

3. A model folded without any cuts is better than a model with cuts.

4. A simpler model achieving the exact same result (Edit: both from squares without cuts or glue) is better than a more complex one.

The reason for a square.
This is a bit more hasey in my memory, so do yourself a favour and check it out in the above mentioned book, but here it is. The square holds a significant spot in chinese philosophy to signify simplicity and perfection (I think, could be wrong, if someone knows then correct me)

Wet folding?
I read somewhere on the forums that wetfolding is just a way of using the papers own adhesive properties. That is a very good point and kinda clashes with {2} above. It is my opinion that wetfolding doesn't effect the purity as harshly as external adhesives. Perhaps a fifth guidline:"A model that is not wetfolded is better than a model that is."

Go crazy.
Last edited by Tjips on November 2nd, 2005, 1:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby bshuval » November 2nd, 2005, 1:31 am

I cannot answer your poll simply because it contains too few choices. I think that very few people could say that purism should be observed at all times, or not observed at all times.

There is a place for purism in origami, but there are times where it is better not to observe purism:

(*) Many designs employ geometries inherent in non-square shapes, the more common being the silver rectangle, the regular hexagon, and the equilateral triangle. The non-square shapes are sometimes essential, and many times add elegance to the entire model.

(*) Generally I do not like using cuts or non-convex shapes, but there are some models that are stunning and simply require it. Look at some of the work of Neal Elias. He employed cuts in some of his work. Emmanuel Mooser has some fantastic soldiers made from bird-bases with slits. They are excellent models, greatly simplified by the slit.

Incidentally, the 4th point you mentioned, I'm sure you noticed, contradicts the first three.

Lastly, here is something to pick your brain on: who originated so-called "pure origami" (one square, no cuts, no glue)? This was obviously not a requirement until the late 70's. Yoshizawa, Elias, Rohm -- they all had non-pure origami works.
Do you know the answer? At PCOC this year I had an interesting discussion about this. We reached an interesting answer. What do you think?
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Postby Tjips » November 2nd, 2005, 1:39 pm

Purism has never really been a big issue in origami because it still is an artform, thus there isn't much tolerence for such formalisms. But the concept has been around far longer than that (the 70's) and those folders where quite aware of the concept. In fact, here (http://www.origami-usa.org/archives/id00006_1.html) is a contribution by Rohm (Fred, don't know if it's the one you mentioned) to this cause, which also illustrates the fact that we do not (in most cases) need to use odd shaped paper, we can create those shapes from a square using our vast pool of mathematical knowledge. But we still find ourselves lost when wanting shapes like a circle, but anyway.

P.S. note the edit in my previous post, in point four. Thanx for pointing it out.
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Postby wolf » November 2nd, 2005, 4:28 pm

Purism is a school of origami thought, just like pureland, or geometrical, or modular, or multi sheet, or... :D

The variety of origami models is currently so large that it's perhaps quite futile to judge all models identically; rather, each of the above are distinct categories of their own.

Now, judging category purity would be much more interesting - eg modulars that don't fall apart when you sneeze are better than modulars that do. :D
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Postby bshuval » November 2nd, 2005, 6:34 pm

Tjips, Fred Rohm (the same one as I mentioned) indeed found a way to make a hexagon out of a square (although it is not the most efficient / easy to remember method; I find the efficient method very easy to remember). In fact, Fred Rohm designed many excellent models from squares. It's just that it wasn't called "purism." He didn't insist on it.

And I disagree with your statement that "we do not (in most cases) need to use odd shaped paper, we can create those shapes from a square."

Creating shapes from a square may be problematic in several respects:
(1) It is not possible to create non-convex polygons out of a square with a smooth face.
(2) Creating shapes creates area of varying thicknesses
(3) Creating shapes usually results in a shape that is not completely colored on one side and completely white on the other.

These three traits are usually undesirable in origami.

Wolf made a good point. I agree with her statement that modulars should hold on their own (although some modulars are fiendishly difficult to assemble, and fall apart continuously while being assembled. However, once assembled they would hold on their own)
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Postby hermanntrude » November 3rd, 2005, 2:13 pm

the level of purity in origami is not a digital, on/off state. rather it is a continuum, a whole scale of purity, from the most pure or restrictive (maybe for instance using a circle, no cuts, no glue, no wetfolding, no creases (that last one is a joke)) right up to what i would call paper sculpture, which in my opinion is the heavy use of wetfolding and/or cutting and glueing. i mean no disrespect to anyone who uses these techniques, paper sculpture is an art form in it's own right, and the lines are a little blurred between it and origami.

when it comes down to it we each have our own definition of what constitutes origami in the same way we all have our own definition of what makes a good peice.

having said that i'd say i'm more of a purist than not one, so my vote goes for purism.
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Postby Tjips » November 3rd, 2005, 2:26 pm

Very good points on both your posts. You are quite correct in your summary of those problems, but the last two are of trivial importance, seeing as they are more skill and asthetically oriented by their nature. The point is that if by creating a shape you lose its colored integrity, it is still quite probable to remedy this in the folding proses (i.e. modify the design.). Varying thickness can also be dealt with in most cases, it just depends on how much effort your willing to put in. I will admit that there are some cases where the above can't possibly be applied, there we have no choice but to deviate in some way.

](*,) I'm sorry, but I can't for the life of me remember what a non convex polygon is, HELP!

But I get the feeling that what you mean by point 1 has a mathematical bases, and thus is a bit more of a serious problem.
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Postby wolf » November 3rd, 2005, 3:16 pm

bshuval wrote:...although some modulars are fiendishly difficult to assemble, and fall apart continuously while being assembled. However, once assembled they would hold on their own...

Okay....now for my next question: how does Kawamura's Butterfly Ball fit into this picture? As a modular, it's not very sturdy when assembled, but this instability is what the action part of this model relies on. Does the final spectacular effect offset the 'nonpurity' of the modular assembly? :D

Anyhow, I'm willing to bet that in ten years' time, the standards of purity are going to change again. It's just like with box-pleating, which was considered to be cheating a few years ago by a good number of folders, wth the reasoning that given sufficient paper, you could fold anything[*] with box pleating techniques. Today however, you can get a uniaxial base with as many flaps as you want, positioned however you want, with some simple computation. So, can it now be said that using a uniaxial design is cheating, since you can fold anything with them? :D

[*]'Anything' within reason, of course - basically, 99.99% of all the creatures existing today, imaginary or otherwise.
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Postby bshuval » November 3rd, 2005, 4:58 pm

Tjips,

To understand what a non-convex polygon is, You need to know what a convex polygon is. A convex polygon is defined by the property that if you choose any two points inside the polygon or on its boundary, and connect them with a chord (line), the chord will stay inside (or on the boundary) of the polygon. A non-convex polygon violates that property.

Examples: all triangles are convex. All regular polygons (Polygons with equal edge lengths and equal angles between any two adjacent edges) are convex.
A pentagram is a non-convex decahedron (10-sided polygon). A Greek cross (cross composed of 5 squares) is not convex. Etc.

You can create any convex shape by folding just by tucking away paper. It is impossible to create a non-convex shape by folding just by tucking away paper (if starting from a convex shape, such as a square!). You will have to do some other operations. The proof is trivial; tucking away paper is equivalent to dividing a convex polygon into two polygons using a straight line. The resulting polygons will always be convex (why?)

I don't agree that modifying the design to account for loss of color integrity is possible in most cases. At least not without a heavy price of added complexity.

Wolf, actually, I have always found the butterfly ball to be very sturdy... I have never been able to make it explode. The reason being that I used paper that was too thick, probably, which made it hold together all the better.
Nevertheless, I see your point. It is impossible to decide on a criterion for "good origami" and not find works that violate the criterion that are also "good origami". (A similar possible criterion, for example, would be modulars that use the same unit, but then what about the classes of modulars with connectors, or modulars with left and right units? Another critertion would be "no glue," but what the modulars that cannot physically hold together without glue until the very last step? Or the traditional kusudamas, which are stunningly beautiful but require glue/string?)
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Postby Tjips » November 4th, 2005, 6:27 pm

I think an important point to keep in mind here is that we are not really declaring any piece of origami bad, we are simply trying to judge relative purity, if I can use the term so loosely. For instance, the fact that new forms of the kusudama are made without string doesn't mean that the traditional versions become worse than before, it only means that the new forms are more pure in an origami sence than the original.
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Postby malachi » November 4th, 2005, 9:32 pm

Tjips wrote:I think an important point to keep in mind here is that we are not really declaring any piece of origami bad, we are simply trying to judge relative purity, if I can use the term so loosely. For instance, the fact that new forms of the kusudama are made without string doesn't mean that the traditional versions become worse than before, it only means that the new forms are more pure in an origami sence than the original.


I've tried to avoid posting in this conversation, but I feel the need to comment on at least this point.

If this is the way that you want to use the word "purity" to refer to origami, then I think you're using the wrong word to describe the concept you have. Try thinking about it in the reverse. What is that traditional kusudama if it is not "pure"? Is it "impure"? "dirty"? "unclean"? "defiled"? "contaminated"? "polluted"? "corrupt"?

I understand the concept that "purity" is used to describe in the context of origami, but I object to the use of that word because I do not think it matches the intent well. There is also an implicit value judgement because "pure" is generally considered good. This implies that things that are not "pure" are bad.

I personally prefer models that don't require cuts or glue and that use squares (because I am lazy), but I think using the word "purity" to describe these models disparages the other models and the people that fold them. Yes, I like to be able to tell people that I just used a square of paper to make something, but that is a personal preference, please do not turn it into value judgement.

In other words, if you do not want to call other models "bad" then don't use a word that equates to "good" for one side.

I voted "no" because I disagree with the premise of the question.
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Postby Android raptor » November 11th, 2005, 4:30 pm

I seriously dislike cutting in true origami. Not only because it "takes away the whole of the paper" but also because if you make a mistake, it cannot be undone. And you can't make a cutting model if you don't have scissors. However, I do enjoy making Hina Ningyo, which involve many cuts. Though I don't really consider it true origami.

Glueing, however, is sometimes neccissary. For example, David Brill's Halloween Witch. It requires glue to attach the hat and broom. I think this is acceptable, because the seperate pieces are all origami, and in nature would be seperate. In fact, I dislike "dual subject" models, where two subjects are folded from one sheet. Many times, it ends up looking thick and unnatural.

My two cents...
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Postby Fc1032 » December 9th, 2007, 12:48 am

I think origami should be allowed to evolve (i.e we should go beyond the square). Although the art originated for a square (I think ...) things gradually get better through experimentation. I used to only fold models out of squares... but i noticed that many other beautiful models come from hexagons, rectangles, pentagons etc etc. Square just can't achieve everything!

Furthermore, even the meaning of origami is general... Look at the logo on this forum "Origami- The ancient art of paper folding" It never said "the ancient art of square paper folding". As long as us origamists made folded cool models out of paper it is ORIGAMI. Purism should be seen as a form of origami not origami itself.

I know that purists out there would stick to their squares but... just think of the model if it were to have curves or and extra side... I would look better!

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Postby ahudson » December 9th, 2007, 7:14 pm

I read somewhere on the forums that wetfolding is just a way of using the papers own adhesive properties.


This is wrong. Paper has no adhesives in it already; wetfolded models are in no way modifying the paper itself.

What wetfolding does is it allows you to bend the fibers of the paper instead of breaking them; when you fold a piece of paper normally, you are actually breaking the fibers of the paper, which causes the paper to hold the crease. Wetfolding leaves the paper stronger, and allows the folder to set the paper in any position they want, even where dry-folded paper would spread because of the number of layers.

This is also why wetfolded models can have such nicely sculpted details; with wetfolding you can just bend the fibers a little, instead of breaking them; so much softer and subtler lines are possible.

There is sometimes sizing compounds added to the paper, but these usually don't have any adhesive properties.
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Postby Jonnycakes » December 9th, 2007, 8:22 pm

I have to disagree there. I don't know about methyl cellulose, but there are starch-based and other natural sizing agents that are in fact adhesives. All of these sizing agents are water-soluble, meaning when you wet-fold, the sizing dissolves and when the model dries, the sizing re-hardens. If you wet-fold a paper with no sizing, you won't get the same effect.
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