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Folding Paper

Origami by Maarten van Gelder

by Jantje Blokhuis-Mulder

The word origami is Japanese - literally meaning to fold (oru) paper (kami). It is an ancient form of art requiring patience and a love of detail.

As early as 1200 years ago, the Japanese created sophisticated origami forms and these forms possessed symbolic and ceremonial meanings. Today, origami is a form of folk art practised worldwide by many people... like Maarten van Gelder.

Born in 1944 in the Netherlands, Maarten van Gelder was intrigued from an early age by the decorations that could be created by using nothing more than serviettes and writing paper. In fact, at every opportunity, young Maarten would fold, bend and try to figure out how to create something using everything from train tickets to a deck of cards... even money.

Given his interest in small details, I'm sure that it came as no surprise when Maarten decided to study experimental physics (with mathematics) at the University of Utrecht.

Maarten has since turned his early interest of origami into a life long hobby and through the years he has created both small and large projects. One piece in particular (a vest) required 800 pieces of paper! Another - a completely free standing creation he calls Blue Beard's Castle - contains several hundred sheets!

It takes the ability to anticipate and visualize the next fold... and the one after, and the many more folds required to come up with the complex projects that Maarten van Gelder creates. While he has worked out a few simple patterns that require just one or two pieces of paper (like his windmill and pineapple) he really likes the challenge of using hundreds and even thousands of sheets of paper carefully folded into one other.

Maarten is (and always has been) serious about his hobby - so serious that while on course with his co-workers, instead of going out in the evenings, he would instead stay in the hotel room... folding paper. All the practicing has paid off however. Once, when one of his co-workers pointed at a church outside his window and asked, "Can you create one of those?" Maarten rose to the challenge and by the next morning had completed the replica of the church.

Today, Maarten van Gelder maintains a origami web site featuring images of his finished products as well as several free downloadable patterns. Have a look at the gorgeous work he has created:

Text © Jantje Blokhuis-Mulder; Photos Reprinted with Permission

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