Folding on the water

I recently had the pleasure of going on a Lindblad Expeditions cruise in Southeast Alaska where I saw more amazing wildlife that I could have ever imagined. During lulls between bubble-netting humpbacks and beachcombing brown bears, National Geographic photographer Rich Reid was giving tips, techniques, and demonstrations, and at one point he set up a time-lapse of me folding belowdecks, which I present below.

Rich is a fan of surf music; background provided by Surf Report, used with permission.

Speaking of butterflies

One of the oldest, simplest, and to my mind, most deceptively difficult of all origami subjects is the butterfly. It is so simple, because all you really need are two wings: one can make a quite recognizable one with just two folds. And there are many origami butterfly designs out there, notably Yoshizawa’s iconic creation. I’ve also made a few myself.

But the humble butterfly is also a deceptively difficult subject to capture in origami. Many of them (many of my own) are heavy and ponderous, which may capture physical features – legs, wings, antennae – but capturing the grace, lightness, and delicacy of the real subject is quite the artistic challenge.

The modern master of butterflies is, and has been for a long time, Michael LaFosse, who has developed a basic structure and approach that he has used for tens, if not hundreds, of distinct creations. In one sense, you could say that these are all variations of a single design, but I think that is a great oversimplification, and the versatility of the approach is better described by Michael’s own words, wherein he describes a “system” for creating butterflies. Because the changes from one form to another give rise to very different appearances, different species, and different characters from one to the next. When you add in the additional design space that comes from Michael’s ability to create his own paper for each design, you get a remarkable lepidopteran zoo.

Many of Michael’s designs are inspired by individual species; many others are inspired by individuals. I was absolutely tickled pink to learn from a recent expedition to Haverhill that Michael now has named one of his butterflies for me! You can see it here:


“A butterfly for Robert Lang” is a double-swallowtailed butterfly, a bit of extra complexity that echoes my own interest in complex designing, but is folded with a grace, elegance, and simplicity that I could never match.

Best of all, I, and you, will have a chance to get to fold it. It is one of a host of new designs in Michael and Richard Alexander’s new book, “Michael LaFosse’s Origami Butterflies,” published by Tuttle, and available from fine booksellers everywhere.


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This doesn’t taste right…

Photo taken by Mary Jane Kettler of my “Morpho Flight” butterfly at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center last year.


I picture the conversation between the two harvestmen as going something like this:

“Billy! We got one! and he’s not even moving!”

“Wait…something’s wrong…What sort of cruel hoax is this?” (*)

(*) Yes, I know it’s a Gary Larson line. It’s just too good not to use.

So that’s what’s inside!

The traditional Japanese origami crane is such an unusual shape, it makes one wonder why whoever first folded decided on calling it a crane, and also, why they gave it that particular shape.

Well, now we know the answer: it’s shaped that way because that’s its skeleton, as the photo below shows.


This fantastic model arrived in my inbox from 3D modeler extraordinaire Joaquin Baldwin (with a little help from Shapeways). You can see more of this design and more work by Joacquin on the Shapeways website.

There must be a special affinity between origami and 3D printing; there are some other pretty cool 3D things on the Shapeways site that have an origami connection.