Master origami artist John Montroll makes magic out of simple pieces of paper. From birds to dinosaurs, Montroll’s extensive repertoire makes you want to get folding too.
Most of us have experimented with origami at some point, even if we don’t label it as such. Remember the paper boats and airplanes you made by the dozen? That is origami at its simplest. The term “Origami” was introduced in the 1880s in Japan, which means “to fold paper” and origami, as we know it today, is the art of paper folding.
Folded paper can be turned into many things – from simple animals and boxes, to complex dragons and insects. Because of the vast variety and levels of difficulty, origami is fun for children and people of all ages. People who practice origami are called ‘folders’.
Master origami artist John Montroll was captivated by paper very early on in life. “I remember folding when I was six years old, even though I started when I was four. I learned through books by Japanese folders which showed detailed steps for folding a variety of models. It was so much fun,” says Montroll.
Inspired by Honda’s ‘How to make Origami’, Montroll made all the designs in the book and then, even at that age, went on to creating his own origami animals. At age 12, Montroll became a member of the Origami Center of America and attended his first origami convention when he was 14. He has authored dozens of books on origami and is considered to be one of the world’s leading folders today.
Apart from origami, Montroll teaches advanced mathematics at a school in Washington DC. Montroll’s first book ‘Origami for the Enthusiast’ was published in 1980. The book was pioneering because it was the first origami book where each model is folded from a single square and by making no cuts.
“In the old books, many unusually shaped models were folded by using multiple sheets and often the paper even needed to be cut in a few places. For example, to fold an elephant, two sheets of paper were required. One sheet was for the head and front legs, with ears that were cut; the other sheet was for the body, hind legs, and tail. The two parts were then taped together. But I believed it was wrong to cut and use multiple sheets. So I designed many animals, each from just one uncut square of paper,” declares Montroll.
Montroll continued to design new models, each from a single square of paper and discovered many techniques to further this art. In the same book he also introduced the origami term “double rabbit ear fold”. This had a big impact on origami worldwide and was a huge influence on the way the art has been practised since.
With each new book and design, Montroll aims to make it easier for people to duplicate his designs. His dollar-bill origami is especially popular. “My work is designed to create beautiful models which are fun to fold. The books have models for audiences of all levels. For example, the beginner should start with Fun and Simple Origami.”
He is currently working on several projects which include books on stars, superhero characters, and one on easy origami animals. Montroll also has several apps suited for both Apple and Android devices where you can download his designs and have a fantastic resource at your fingertips.
“It is a wonderful experience to take just an ordinary flat sheet of paper, and just simply with the act of folding, convert it into a bird that flaps its wings, create a realistic elephant or a black and white zebra. Origami is for everyone,” says Montroll.
Now, aren’t you inspired to move beyond the paper boats you made as a child and try something a little more adventurous? Perhaps a bird…or even an ambitious T-Rex. Go ahead, give it a try and watch magic unfold!
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Dover Publications,
Robert J. Lang, Yakntoro Udoumoh