Artisanship, An Origami Rose Project

Ever since the beginning of Industrial Revolution, the term “artisanship” seemed to disappear from people’s life. Quantity became the ultimate destination, and quality was valued less. Having been practicing Chinese calligraphy for nine years in my childhood, I understand the true meaning of “artisanship”: it is about having a tremendous amount of patience, paying attention to numerous details, and not compromising until the end. Such characteristics can be found in many modern artists. Hayao Miyazaki, a Japanese film director who produced “Spirited Away” and recently received the Academy Honorary Award, draws every single scene of his movies by hand, using only pencils and watercolors even at the age of seventy. His artisanship is also personified in his daily clothes; he always wears a white apron on top of a shirt and a sweater, even at home and during an anti-nuclear parade, showing to the world that he is essentially an artisan, not an artist.

As a die-hard fan of Miyazaki, I certainly do not possess the same level of artistic skills, but I do pursue the same virtue that he has – artisanship. While I was taking drawing lessons focusing mainly on techniques, I tended to draw in a very slow pace and be absolutely loyal to every single feature of the objects. It seemed that at the very beginning of my art career, my principle was to sacrifice anything to create a final product with the highest quality that my current abilities can achieve.

Origami, among all the art-related things that I do, should be the one thing that could illustrate my artisanship most directly. Origami has always been a hobby of mine. I remembered that when I was only five years old, my mom and I together would fold some little things, like a crane or a frog, following the instructions from an origami book. I grew up with this hobby. As my “reading comprehension” skills became stronger, I started to look at instructions of higher difficulties and fold more complicated yet vivid things. Origami emphasizes the concept of “creases”: more creases mean that the final product will be more complexed and lifelike. I learned to fold my first version of origami rose, “Kawasaki rose” while I was waiting for my high school acceptance letter. Kawasaki rose, a perfect balance of difficulty and verisimilitude, was the most famous version of paper rose among the level of beginner. I devoted an entire weekend into reading instructions and watching tutorials. I destroyed at least twenties pieces of square paper before I finally folded a rose that looked like the cover picture of the instruction.

Also as a perfectionist and, more importantly, an artisan, I did not know when to stop on the journey of pursuing the highest quality. I was hit by a strong feeling of homesickness during the winter of my freshman year, and that was when origami, “my worst distraction”, came into the play. Folding creases, for some unknown reasons, had the ability of calming my mind, so that was the perfect time to learn the advanced version of origami rose, “new Kawasaki rose”. Honestly, compared to its resemblance, the name was not that sophisticated. This was a much harder version than the regular Kawasaki rose. The simpler version contained only about forty creases while this version had more than one hundred creases. I began by reading the instructions I found online. Unlike the easier version, there were many instructions for this new Kawasaki rose, with each being different from others. The differences in procedures confused me, so I downloaded three instructions that I considered to be clear and legitimate, cross-examined every step written in them, and created an instruction of my own. I did not write my own versions of folding the new Kawasaki rose down because I did not need to. After reading and folding over and over again, the details and nuances of each steps already were imprinted in my mind. My fingers were like little memory sticks.

The closure part of folding the rose was especially hard, mainly because sometimes two dimensions pictures could not really describe what was going on in three dimension spaces. I turned to seek help from YouTube, but it disappointed me. In all of the tutorials, the details of folding the closure were blocked by the fingers of the makers, but I would not give up until I mastered it. So I downloaded the tutorial and played it over and over again in a much slower pace. Finally, my index finger put pressure on the right crease accidentally, and the right form appeared in front of my eyes. It felt like that I was hit by a lightning bolt – maybe that was the feeling of reaching an epiphany. When the new Kawasaki rose was blooming among my fingers, I was overwhelmed by a sense of accomplishment.

Jason Flowers

A bouquet of new Kawasaki rose. Credit to TA Photo Pool

After showing my creation to many of my friends and receiving many praises, I felt that I should go one step forward. An artisan does not keep his or her masterpiece to himself or herself. He or she is essentially creating it for others to let them feel the pleasure of possessing an object that is of the highest quality. I had this thinking while I was still a sophomore, and that was when the idea of an origami rose sale firstly formed in my mind. The right opportunity of making the idea happen did not come until the beginning of my junior year. Mr. Downes, the Director of Center for International Students, sent out an email about the upcoming Vietnam service trip taking place in June. Fundraisers were needed as a part of the trip to buy daily necessities for the village families. “This was it!” I said to myself. Making my origami rose sale a part of an official school trip would bring me the help I needed from faculties, and the charitable cause would make the sale more meaningful.

The only perfect date of selling roses would be St. Valentine’s Day, which was in February. Having a goal of making a hundred origami roses in my mind, I started planning this sale in details in November, as an artisan would do. During the winter recession, I went back to Beijing, a city that I was the most familiar with. I lived on the west side of the city where the art supply store for all kinds of paper was located on the east side. I spent forty minutes on the subway just to get there, and another forty minutes coming back home. I repeated this journey three times, just to get the right paper with right colors and right qualities. The rest part of preparing for this origami sale was merely tedious: folding. A rose consisted four parts: a bud, a calyx, a stem, and two leaves, and, because of the difficulties in making, I needed to fold all the buds and stems by myself. Yet this repetitive and exhausting process was nothing when compared to the overwhelming happiness brought by the blooming of roses in my hand.

Unlike most of the stories other than fairy tales, this sale had a happy ending. I announced this origami rose sale on Friday, and all a hundred roses were either reserved or sold before the scheduled sale time on the next Wednesday. I was happy that my creations could fill my school with love. Of course, I was also extremely grateful to the faculties and students who have helped me.

A link to the video I made to publicize the sale.

Forever Blooming

Final Poster of the Origami Rose Sale 2015

Jiaju Ma
@Williams, Tabor
Feb. 15th, 2015

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