Tag Archives: Origami

Batty about Boxes: Masu Edition

Actually, I think there are bat homes called bat boxes, a concept I find troubling — can a weasel box be far behind? But I was using batty in it’s colloquial meaning: I love boxes.

Shoe boxes, Faberge boxes, Whitman’s Sampler boxes, Tiffany blue boxes wrapped with a white satin bow, velvety hinged ring boxes, the maroon box that contains my daughter’s American Girls doll Samantha. But man, do I love Japanese boxes, all of them, with a concentration in bento boxes.  Another post, another time.

In the United States we have a noble, elegant rival to Japanese boxes: it’s just too bad the Shakers were celibate. But my Shaker sewing box will be the subject of another post.

In fact, my second favorite movie ever was based on a Robert Louis Stevenson story called “The Wrong Box.”












I mean, that cast! Peter Sellers alone, as a cat loving abortionist who uses his kitties as blotters is a reason to queue it up on Netflix.

I digress.

If you have two  square pieces of paper and one minute you can make a beautiful box, an origami classic called a masu box. You need a fast and dirty receptacle  for some earrings or hairpins? Bam! Taking some fudge to a coworker on his birthday? Bam! You just want someplace to collect pocket change? Bam!









Here are a few I’ve made, from origami paper and flyers  tucked into my mailbox. The biggest one is about four inches square, the yellow one is smaller than a Starburst candy.

I like these instructions, because I always prefer photos to diagrams:


Please go there. Square up a couple of pieces of printer paper, and make The Right Box.

(I was without power last week — it’s not about me being lazy.)


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Filed under Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Cool Japanese Stuff, Less than 50 cents, Media, Origami, Paper

Folding Fun: The Origami 2-Pocket Diamond Envelope

Lou’s become so inured to the arrival of the UPS guy that he didn’t even ask what the handsome dude in khaki shorts was handing me — it must be more apron fabric, right?He didn’t even look up from his thriller when I ran upstairs with my booty and broke a nail opening the box that held my first new origami book in five whole months! That’s a four years record.

Hello gorgeous!

Origami Card Craft by Karen Elaine Thomas. Because I own a shelf  of origami tomes, I was delighted that many of these projects were ones I’ve never seen before — I may not like all of them, but I love many of them, especially this envelope. The envelope is an enormous origami topic, and one that makes me yawn, mostly.

Not this one, and let me count the ways. It’s so easy — I achieved perfection in one go, in one minute, which isn’t often the case. The folding pattern is elegant. The closure is clever. And somehow, the interior is divided into two pockets, which is magic. I used a 12 inch square , which resulted in a 4 1/2 X5 1/2 inch result. C’mom, grab any old paper square and fold along.

Step one: Paper in diamond formation, colored side down.

Step 2: Fold it in half.

Step 3: Align the paper pointy side up, and turn down the top edge until it touches the center fold.

Step 4: Eyeball the bottom edge into thirds, and fold the right point to the two thirds mark. Step 5: Fold the left point to the right edge. It’s starting to look like an envelope.

Step 6: Fold the left point back to meet the left corner.

I’m going to show the next move in two pix — it’s the cool part.

Step 7a: Stick a finger into that point you folded in Step 6 and  open it out. Then:

Step 7B: Flatten it along the center line so it forms a diamond. The card and the art show ticket are in two separate interior pockets.

The reveal! Tuck down the top point into the diamond.

Not being the austere or sensible type, I folded up a few. Here are some of them:

Dear Reader, go find a piece of square paper and give it a whirl. So much pleasure for so little effort, and a standard 8 inch piece of origami paper will make a wee envelope, perfect for carrying a few stamps around in your purse or wallet. Hmmm, stamps … waxed paper maybe? I’m off to the pantry.


Filed under Art, Books, Cool Japanese Stuff, How Cool is That?, Less than 50 cents, Origami, Paper

Handmade Cards: The Art of the Carte

I’ve always loved greeting cards —  the racks of Hallmarks at the corner drugstore or the Graphiqes de France gallic b&ws at snooty paper stores . When I was a kid I’d wait for the museum catalogues every fall so that I could con their gorgeous new Christmas cards. For most of my life I my wallet was helpless before a beautiful card.

The newish- tech advance in greeting card is the audio card, and  I regularly run the rack, giggling at the witty/deliberately incongruous musical choices. And they’re tough — I opened a birthday card sent to my father-in-law six years ago and the organ vamp followed by fans going wild sounded newly pressed.

I’m as plugged in as most middle-agers and I’ll accept well-wishes via email or Facebook with enormous gratitude — I  send them myself. But there’s something sweet about a card in the mailbox: someone actually bought it, wrote on it, had a stamp in the house, then plopped it in a mailbox. Sometimes they made it!

My sister-in-law Patty makes her own cards. I received this in the mail today and it just might be the most beautiful handmade card I’ve ever seen.

Look at all that intricate cutting and fitting, the paper choices, the design! She mentions inside that she made it specially for me, which makes it even lovelier, because she knows I too make my own cards.

I realized today  that I come from a long line of card makers. My great-uncle Dan McArthur’s cards were, literally, works of art — some hang framed in my parents’ house. They were his own letterpress or lino prints, hand-colored, of  a slip of landscape or architecture. His niece (and my aunt) Charlotte Waller’s Christmas cards are original watercolors painted on a folded sheet of copier paper. They’re art too — I regret that I couldn’t find my complete collection to show you. Here’s one I could lay my hands on quickly:

Her daughter, my cousin Kim McKellar, a woman of talents so multi that I blame her for hogging the generational talent pool, sells her own line of cards:


My daughter tweaks cards: One year she sent Wayne Thibeault postcards, with a paper present and real ribbon pasted onto them.

She and her husband designed and made all their wedding stationery — here’s an example:

I’m not in the same class as as these people — they’re artistic, have skillz, and also wit. But because of happy memories from toddlerhood of hours whiled away at the card table with construction paper, blunt-ended scissors and glue, I’ve made cards off and on my whole life. For fun.

I’m an origami head and a carver of stamps, so I decided a few years ago to start making my Christmas cards. Here are the two examples I could find in the house. (The thickness of the two cranes makes for problematic scanning — that weird shadow!)

Part of the fun is creating the stamps i use in the background:

Planning the annual card has become part of my internal calendar — I can be stumped for inspiration scarily late in November. This year I decided on my design in late February, which cuts down on the suspense, but not the difficulty: I’m still searching for the perfect paper, and the search might go to the wire and involve a trip to Japan. Please, God, don’t force me to make my own paper — that’s truly for the pros!



Filed under Art, Holidays, Less than 50 cents, Origami, Paper

Didier Boursin’s Origami Wallet

I wish I had something male to name. A son, unless by some Sarah-like miracle, is out A grandson – well I’d be so dazed with joy that they could name the kid Ebenezer and I’d say “How fresh and unusual! And no one in his class will have the same name!” But I suspect I’m going to have to adopt a tomcat if I want a namesake for Dider Boursin, a French origami master whose parents blessed him with the name fit for a swashbuckling French aristocrat who comes from a long line of cheesemakers. Hey – if I ever write a bodice-ripper I’ll know what to name the ripper!

Boursin is an architect by training, and a startlingly original folder. Origami purists tut tut at his oeuvre, because he occasional uses scissors – a serious solecism . But his animals and containers are so original, modern and witty that I can pick them out in a paper line up.

And now I’m going to show you one of his least eye-catching folds — for a wallet. There are as many cool origami wallets and there are origami books on my bookshelf, and I love all of them, mostly because they’re so practical and can be made from any 8 ½ X 11 sheet of paper.  I wouldn’t store my driver’s licence or credit cards in one, but it’s just the thing to keep your purse neat – tuck in the dry cleaner receipt, stamps, ticket stubs, business cards and photos.

These are without doubt the worst step-by-step origami photos I’ve ever taken, so I’ll try to talk you through the process. Like the best of practical origami it’s undemanding, and after a couple of attempts you’ll make it by heart in less than two minutes. I used construction paper, which isn’t the best choice because its soft texture prevents really sharp folds.

1) Fold a 1 ½ in. horizontal fold backwards at the top of the wallet:

2)Fold the short sides forward, again, an inch and a half.

3) Do the same with the bottom horizontal edge.

4) This is where the photography may hurt rather than help! Fold the top of the sheet down toward the bottom, and tuck it into the bottom flap about halfway. Crease sharply. It should resemble an open wallet with two horizontal slots to hold your stuff.5) Fold it left to right,to  about a quarter inch from the right edge. Turn it over and repeat on the reverse. This makes a cute little spine.

6)The finished wallet.

Unless you’re a paper nerd like me. I dug around for  a stamp I carved a few years ago, inked it sloppily, and decorated the cover.

If you can make this wallet from my sorry pictures, let me know! Honest, this is cheap, cheerful and useful.



Filed under Art, Free, Origami, Paper

The Jumping Frog of DuPage County

I was sorting through my purse today and came across the usual business cards tucked in pockets along with the lipstick or cramming my wallet, giving a very misleading idea of the size of my bankroll. It’s garbage day so I tossed them in with my recyclables and realized too late I’d cheated myself out of some cheap cheer: the business card origami jumping frog.

I used to pick up any business card that was green — from landscapers, fancy tea shops or hawkers of green wares. But this cute little origami action figure can be folded from any 2X1 rectangle of paper. The thickness of the card makes it awkward to fold neatly, but it jumps farther and higher than a mere paper frog.  A few years ago I demoed the froggie during a training I was giving on FICA or Roth IRAs or some such snoozy subject. It went over big but proved a dumb idea — competitive young men spent the rest of the hour in frog jumping competitions.

Fold the card in half and unfold.

Fold top half to center crease and unfold.

Flip card over. Fold to make diagonals and unfold.

Collapse model flat, using the creases you’ve made.

Fold bottom edge up.

Fold both tips of top layer up.

Fold both sides to center and fold the flaps out. All the layers are making it tough to fold. Use a straight edge like a ruler to achieve neater folds than mine.

Fold bottom edge to the underside half way up, then fold top portion up. That pleats’s what gives the model its spring.

Flip it over and here’s your frog. Press in the spot indicated by the star to make it jump. This takes some practice and technique.

For those of you who’d prefer actual diagrams and stuff, here’s the model courtesy of purchase.edu.


Well, hey, lots of us still have boxes of business cards left over from our last few jobs, right? Use a few up on the froggies — they jump well with wine, beer, cocktails and chocolate milk.



Filed under Free, Origami, Paper