Sonobe: The Origami Unit That Changed the Art Form

Over the hundreds of years that origami has been developed one unit caused a stir in the origami world. It opened a whole new three-dimensional way of viewing the art forms that could be created using multiple units combined together.

 The Sonobe Cube

 

The Sonobe Base:

 

Where It All Began:

It all began, (we think), with Mitsunobu Sonobe when he first published a cube form made from his units in 1968. Once this came out many other origami enthusiasts decided to experiment with module unit Origami. The Sonobe base unit was the key since it could be combined in many ways.

Joshie’s Jewels

Soon thereafter, a new form was developed using only three Sonobe units. Toshie Takahama, in 1970, developed a hexahedron that became know as the Toshie Jewel. It is actually used as a jewel in necklaces and other ornamental structures. In order to form these units the central axis must be inverted so that the middle point goes outward, just the opposite of the former form. This was exciting because it suggested the base could be varied to create more construction possibilities.

The Octahedron Was Formed Using 12 Pieces:

After Joshie’s Jewel came more elaborate designs like Steve Kimbal’s 12 piece Octahedron ball.

These lovely forms were ideal for mobile applications in that they could be hung from a string allowing for circular motion. When strung on string many can be combined to form interesting hanging forms.

This Was Only the Beginning!:

Since the 70’s and 80’s, many new forms have been developed including forms using 30 pieces, 90 pieces, 270 pieces and more. Some create elaborate geometric shapes that have inspired architects and others in building forms. Others have experimented with variations in the forms to create wonderful patterns.

Here Is A Thirty-Piece Form:

 

 

New Surface Treatments:

Once the basic parallelogram shape was established it became obvious that many different color patterns could be developed using two-sided paper. By altering the surface color patterns some amazing designs become possible.  I have only experimented with 6 of these so far, but am interested in finding more and even developing some of my own. Below are a few variations combined in a similar cube form.

You Can Find More Examples:

If you are interested in exploring  Sonobe Unit Origami, I encourage you to go on-line and see what others have done with this exciting base unit. Some have even designed patterns for hanging on a wall or even becoming a wall. There seems to be no end to what you can do with this origami creation.

Strength In Unity:

As I work with these amazing paper constructions, I am reminded of the need for others. In I Peter 2:5, God’s Word tells us that each believer in Christ is like a living stone that must be combined with others to form a house, His Church. “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” As I form each structure it has no integrity or strength until the last unit is added to the mix. When altogether you can actually make the structures better by adding pressure to the outside, just like a snowball. When together we can withstand the pressures that come our way from the outside and even become stronger.

 

Here is a side-to-side comparison of a twelve piece and thirty piece ball.

Slithering Snakes: Origami Serpents

SSSSSS-Snakes!

 

One of the interesting things you can make with the left over scraps of paper is snakes. These were all made with left-over strips of paper from other origami projects. All you need is a long strip of paper and knowledge of how to fold pop and hood folds, and snakes are in your future.

Bend Them Any Way You Want To:

As you can see in the above photographs, you can make the folds bend in many ways to create just the look you want. Some are just up and down diagonal hood and pop folds. Others, like the pink one, are developed by combining folds that bend back over previous folds and then back out again. Experiment and you can create several different snake types. I even made some with Cobra Hoods.

Stick Your Tongue Out!    Add A Tongue and Eyes:

If you take a small piece of red or pink paper and slit it down the middle, leaving only a tiny section still attached, you can make a tongue. Curl it up and add a drop of glue and insert it into the head to make the tongue. The eyes can either be added with a felt tip or you can cut smaller pieces of paper and glue them onto the form. You can also add spots by using hole punched paper. Just a tiny drop of glue holds them in place.

You Can Vary The Sizes:

Depending on where and how you want to use them, you can make them any size depending on the piece of paper you start with. I recommend you start with a long strip of paper. Once you reach the size you want you can cut off what’s left and have a snake just the right length and shape.

Use Them To Illustrate a Story:

It’s interesting to note how many stories involve snakes. Usually the snake is the villain! One of the most interesting stories is found in the Book of Genesis at the beginning of your Bible. It is the story of the Garden of Eden and the fall of man. We also see snakes on a pole as Moses raised them up to ward off the plague that was harming the Children of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness. The serpent being lifted up was a type of the future raising of Christ on the Cross. All who looked on the serpent in faith were healed. (Have you ever seen the medical symbol with a snake on it?) All who turn to Christ as their salvation receive eternal life. In the New Testament we read the story of Paul in the Book of Acts, who was bitten by a poisonous snake after surviving shipwreck and an amazing storm. After he was bitten, the natives of the island where they landed stood around waiting for him to die believing that he was bitten at the direction of an angry god because he was a prisoner. Little did they know that he was only a prisoner for sharing his faith, not for a terrible crime like many of the other prisoners on board the ship. Of course, our loving God (not the angry pagan gods) was quick to use this as an opportunity to allow Paul to share his faith with others on the island. As a result of this snake encounter many came to know the Savior as LORD and Master of their lives.

Isn’t it interesting to note that God can use even creatures despised by many to teach us important lessons. Take some time to look at some of the snake types and recognize their creative beauty. So many interesting patterns and behaviors. Just remember that the reason so many despise them had to do with man’s original sin in the Garden. Even snakes were created with a purpose!

Origami On The Tree: Keep It Simple!

Update on Earlier Post:

In an earlier post I showed you how to make  Eco-balls and suggested they might look good on a Christmas Tree as ornaments. I decided to try it this year and mix my origami balls with some of the other ornaments on the tree. Here is what it looks like:

Take A Closer Look:

Let me show you a few close-ups of some of the ornaments.

 

 

Use Large Sheets of Scrapbook Paper:

My wife suggested we choose some colorful scrapbook paper to get colors that would go well together. Since the paper is a little thicker than copy paper it holds its form better and makes durable ornaments. These should last for years if boxed up after Christmas with the other ornaments.

Simple Is Beautiful:

Sometimes just keeping your ornaments simple creates a wonderful look. Origami is wonderful for Christmas Ornaments, don’t you think? Why not make up some of your own to hand on your tree?

Origami Fainting Goats

Got Your Goat

I recently went to a new coffee shop here in Spring Hill, Tennessee called The Fainting Goat. I was immediately interested in the name and looked it up on line and discovered that there really were fainting goats here in Tennessee. When I went to the shop for coffee the first time I was inspired by the t shirts and ball caps with goats on them. I went home and decided to create my own origami goats. I actually used a base from a pig model and worked to modify its head to be Goat like. Here is the finished product:

I added some horns to make them more goat-like. Today I took several to the coffee shop and they thought they looked pretty authentic. I guess You could even make them faint by blowing on them. Ha!

Be Inspired

Origami is such a wonderful medium. Don’t be afraid to experiment. I often see something and think of how I could fold it up with paper. Think of the many origami bases and you can probably choose one that fits the subject the best. Some models may require more than one piece (compound folds), but many can be made with a single sheet of paper.

 

Share With Others

I have discovered that giving Origami to others is a great way to make friends as well as encourage others to enjoy the hobby and art forms of origami. Today I also took one of my Christmas trees and gave it to the librarian as I checked out some books. I also often use Origami to tell others the stories from the Bible while sharing my faith.  Just about everybody loves Origami. Why not fold some up and find some one to share with.

From Pig To Goat:

Above you can see the pig fold on the left that was used as a base to create the goat. The only part that needed to be modified was the head region.

Waxing Eloquently: A New Way to Treat Origami

 

Wax Covered Origami

I recently experimented with encaustic wax while in Texas. We took some of the Stars I made from recycled paper and painted over them with hot wax.

Melt Some Wax:

After selecting your origami star, heat up the wax.

Select Your Colors:

Next, you select the colors you want to use and cover the form with several layers of wax brushed over the surface.

Create Texture:

After the coating with a thin layer of wax you can create texture. By letting some of the wax drop onto the surface after painting them with a coating of wax I was able to develop a nice texture.

 

Adding Pigment:

After letting that dry we rubbed over them with a pigment. Next you use canola oil over the surface and then rub off pigment except where it stays in the nooks and crannies. Here is what the finished product looks like:

Waterproof and Rigid:

Once coated the stars became rigid and shiny. If you add a thread loop you could use them as Christmas ornaments. They would also make cool mobiles. You could just use them as set apart art forms or mount them in shadow boxes.

The Blue and Yellow One Has a Yellow Bottom and Multi-colored Top. I dropped yellow over the blue base color. It works best when the wax cools a little but is still runny.

Origami Christmas Trees

 

A Favorite Christmas Fold

One of my favorite folds is the Origami Christmas Tree. I love to make these every year to give away and to put on the mantle to create a small forest of trees. I have often used them while giving a devotional about the true meaning of Christmas in which I describe how the tree relates to the first coming of Christ. He actually came to die on a tree for our sins. The Bible has a lot of other things to tell us about trees as well. Check it out.

An Easy Fold

This project is actually quite easy if you take the time to make your creases heavy and carefully.

Let’s Start!

You start with an inverted water balloon base.

To make it you fold an X on one side of the paper, then turn it over and fold a cross in the center of the paper. Interestingly the “X” is the second letter in the Ichthus which is the symbol of Christianity. IXOYE in Greek means, “Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior”. When people write X-mas is isn’t necessarily to remove Christ from Christmas since the “X” means “Christ”.

Start With Several Squares of Paper

In order to form a symmetrical tree you need to start with several squares: large to small. You can make as many layers as you like. The more you have the taller the tree.

How to Make the Tree Base

Using the Inverted Water Balloon base you next squash it flat with the open side down.

Fold Up Each of the Four Points on the Bottom

 

Next We Will Create the Smaller Branches

You can already see the basic tree form in the previous fold. To enhance the look we will create four smaller branches in between the four larger ones. Flatten the base and fold the top layer both to the right and to the left as shown below. This will create a “rabbit ear” fold.

This Will Do In a Pinch!

To create the small branch all you have to do is pinch it out like this:

Repeat this process on all four sides and then use your fingers to squeeze the form into the shape of the tree again so it looks like this:

Start Large and Work Down

Next, take your largest unit and place it on the bottom. Take the next largest one (or one of the same size, if you have made two or three of each size), and continue to add them as you go up. In order to hold them in place you put 8 tiny drops of glue on each surface at the top. Don’t use too much glue! A tiny drop will hold it and set more quickly than a big drop. Pinch the outside to get it to hold its position on top of the previous unit. Squeeze and hold and the glue will set almost immediately. Continue to stack units to create your tree.

Start Your Own Forest

 

 

You can also make a trunk for your tree, but that’s another story.

Here Are Some Fun Ways to Use Them:

I often like to give trees away around the Christmas season. I once made several trees and gave them to a neighbor who took them to a hospital for the elderly and gave them out to the older patients who were not able to have a real tree in their rooms. They really enjoyed them. I made several for my daughter-in-law to use at a Christmas tea for women. She used them as center pieces and then let each lady take one home after the event. They make great center pieces for the table as well as fun decorations for the table top. I suppose you could add a string and make them into a mobile. How will you use them?  Have fun and be creative. Remember that this is the season for giving so make a lot of them!

 

 

Here is another type of origami Christmas tree:

Origami Octo-Wreath and Candle Holder

It Has Come Full Circle:

In a recent post I showed you how to make Eco-Balls from an eight-sided base unit. While experimenting with this base I discovered an even more delightful way to combine them to create a full circle wreath.

Divide and Conquer:

In order to create this form, however, I had to alter half of the  the eight-sided units I used to create the ring. It takes 18 units to complete the wheel. To form the linking unit I only glued it part-way leaving those units divided into two swiveling halves. Then I took the solid units and glued them in-between.

 

 

It Takes Patience and Time:

Though this project is time consuming and requires a little patience the end form is worth the effort. It can be made any size you desire according to the size of the original squares of paper used to fold the units. It could easily function as a wreath to use on a doorway or as a base to surround a candle. In what other ways could you find to use it?

Let It Shine:

Two Is Better Than One:

In the candle holder above I used two rings: one large and the other smaller. You can also use just a single wreath as below.

The wreaths can be stacked to create a pleasing form that could also be placed around a potted plant or flower vase.

If you haven’t already viewed my earlier blog post on the Eco-balls, you can look there to see how to fold the base units. Let me know if you find other ways to use this form.

Eco-Balls: Neat Way to Recycle Paper

 

A Fun Way to Recycle Paper:

If you have left over paper with interesting colors or designs, this is a great way to turn it into a cool project. This project makes a nice finished decorative form. It has 24 different surfaces that can be decorated or to which a message can be added. They are sturdy enough to use as a throw- and- catch ball as well.

Begin With the Traditional Pinwheel Base:

It Takes Four!

You will need four Pinwheel Base Units to construct this project. All should be the same size.

Once you have folded these you need to pull up a corner point like a dorsal fin on a shark.

 

Assemble the Pieces:

Once you have collapsed all four corners you are ready to slide one side into the other like this:

 

 

It’s Time for the Glue!

Now that you know how to make the pieces, you need to glue them. To do this you need to allow the form to open back up a bit and add glue just on the edges underneath where the form will come together. You have a lot of surfaces to glue so apply only a small amount just on the edges, then close the form back up and hold it while the glue sets up. You need four of these units.

 

The Final Steps:

Now that you have four of these smaller units you will need to combine them to make the ball. Find the side of a unit that has a line down the middle. This is the side you will need to glue. Be sure each time to glue these sides together.

Once two are glued together you have a hemisphere. Create another one to complete the ball.

The Finished Form:

When gluing the two halves together be sure that the two pieces are going in the opposite direction when they come together. You can see that they fit together better this way than the other way which leaves a gap. Add glue and hold the two sides together to finish the form. If you have gaps on the seams you can take a three by five card and put a little glue on both sides of a corner and insert it into the gaps to apply glue to each side then pull the card out and press the edges together to close the gap.

 

This is especially fun if you can find paper with pictures of animals and plants on them. By combining the patterns you make little Ecological Realms that look like little planets. These can be hung from strings and dangled from the ceiling to make nice mobile units. They also make great objects to set into a room to bring out the colors of the seasons. How will you use them?  Have fun!

Paper Pyramid Possibilities

Make Your Own Paper Sculptures

When I was in college my roommate and I liked to fold origami. One day, while working with the traditional German Bell fold, we tried to combine several units (50 or so!) to form a bigger sculpture. Even though we achieved the feat of making a large sculpture, we thought, “If only we could figure out a way to make the sides straight, we could construct even more shapes with sturdy sides.” Well, after fooling around a bit we discovered that if we only folded the point of each corner to the bottom of the side, we could make straight sided pyramids. Wow! What a difference it made!

Interesting History:  While traveling with a quartet singing group in college we traveled to many states. While traveling in a Dodge van I folded many sculptures and gave them away at the stops along the way. Two years after I gave away one project I found it in a glass hutch still on display when I returned to the area on another trip. I also often used the rocket and satellite folds in a devotional at campfires and chapels. They were used to illustrate the need for taking the message of the Gospel to all the world just like the satellites are constantly communicating messages below.

 

After many years of perfecting the folds and finding new ways to combine them I thought it would be fun to share some of these with you. What kinds of things can you make using these pyramid units?

It All Starts With A Square:

To begin the fold you need a square of paper. Fold an X on one side, then turn it over and fold a cross. This gives you the lines to mark the folding pattern.

Next, you turn the paper in the diamond pattern. then fold an airplane point on the end like this:

 

Next, you fold the pointed end back down to the intersection of the cross shape below:

 

Fold Backs Are Important!

Repeat this on all four corners of the diamond. Don’t forget to fold the pointed ends back down on each corner. It may even look like it is already folded on one side, but it is not on the other. To check to see if you did it correctly, just look in the center of the diamond and you should see a square in the center. If one side of the square is missing, that is the point that needs to be folded back to the middle.

This Will Do In A Pinch!

Pinch in the middle of each side and you should see the star shape above. Next, you will lift the four points up to form the pyramid.

 

Part of the trick is when you glue it together. Before you glue the sides up, put a little glue inside two opposite sides and press down. This will keep the form from bulging out in the middle and makes it much easier to glue up the side pieces. (Hint: Do not do this when making the Gluck Interlock!)

 

Gluing Secret To Making A Sharp Looking Form:

Next, you will apply glue to outside edges of the pointed sides so they make contact with the upright middle points to form the pyramid. Be sure to put the glue only on the edges since the middle part does not make contact when the sides are raised. Just a thin line of glue will work. Too much will only take longer to set and will ooze out and ruin your forms appearance.

Many Ways To Combine The Base Units:

Now that you have learned how to fold and glue them into pyramids, lets see some other ways to combine them to make interesting shapes.

You can just start gluing them together on the sides. Here is what that looks like:

Discovering New Ways To Combine The Pyramids:

Through the years my students and I have found many ways to combine the units. Here are a few of the notable ones:

The Gluck Interlock: Take one unglued form and place it upside down on top of another unit. Glue in place. This base form gives you many places to glue additional units.

If you start with one Gluck Interlock and place a pyramid on every surface you will construct a neat satellite like the one on the right below:

 

If you stack five Gluck Interlocks on top of one another then add a nose cone and fins, you get the rocket on the left above. Using hole punches you can decorate the sides to make a more interesting sculpture.

Experiment and you may discover other ways to combine them to make many interesting projects. One of the most amazing is the Globe Base seen at the middle of this sculpture:

In the above sculpture I added pyramids to the six end pieces to make this form.

One of my students was trying to make a Gluck Interlock and stumbled upon a new interlock. This is the Voiles Interlock: It looks like a crystal and allows you to make long straight columns:

Another student glued seven of the pyramids into a circle to make the Keifer Interlock: You can see the wheel base in the center of this star form to which I added seven outer pyramids:

        Star Attraction:

What If You Start With A Triangle?:

If you start with a triangle, instead of a square, you can make long, slender triangular pyramids. They can also be combined to make many interesting form. Here you can see some insect legs combining several units:

By combining these forms together the possibilities are endless. I have had students construct many different animals, buildings, aircraft, vehicles, and more. One student even made a robot from Star Wars.

This was one I made to hang in my classroom. We called it the Revolving Rooster.

The project below uses thirty eight pyramid units.

 

 

 

 

 

 

See what can be made from triangle units below. These were made with recycled computer paper from the days when the paper had holes along the sides to be pulled through the printer on sprockets.

Spike Forms from Triangle Pyramids

  Pyramid Crab Sculpture

 

 Free Form Pyramid Designs

 

Now It’s Your Turn!:

So…..The Question Is……What can you make?