IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

To have and to fold

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Sept 6, 2013

Remember your first foray into origami: that covert operation of folding a paper airplane from scrap paper beneath your desk, then taking aim at the back of an unsuspecting classmate's head?

Eleven-year-old Dominic Lim may not be far from those mischievous schooldays, but he is also capable of more complicated designs such as a ship and a cow.

"Origami is a lot more exciting than what most of my friends think," says the Primary 5 pupil at St Hilda's Primary. He is the youngest of more than 20 members of an origami society here. The oldest member is 74 years old.

Origami Singapore, an unofficial society of origami enthusiasts which started in the mid-1980s, is organising a roving exhibition of about 200 foldedpaper creations with the support of the National Library Board. They can be viewed at various public libraries from Sunday till Nov 29.

Called Origami: From Traditional To Modern, the showcase includes a yellow phoenix by Mr Wil Chua, 39, a project manager. There is also a Maine lobster fashioned from bronzed brown paper and a green praying mantis - complete with curled feelers and feet - by student Li Cheng Lei, 19.

Dominic picked up the Japanese art of paper folding two years ago, and has since progressed to learning more complex designs from books and YouTube videos.

Says the pupil, who takes up to 40 minutes to fold each model: "It is very satisfying to fold something and have something nice in your hands at the end of it."

Three of his origami pieces - a cow, a ship and a model of a cardinal - will be exhibited. Organisers Pek Tiong Boon, 59, and Benjamin Tan, 36, are also chipping in with their own pieces.

Mr Pek, a retiree, has fashioned a horse from brown craft paper, with its white-coloured underside tweaked up at some parts such as the horse's feet, to "make it more realistic".

Mr Tan, an electrical engineer by day, is presenting 10 pieces, including a butterfly, eagle and lion.

Origami Singapore members meet monthly at places such as food courts to discuss new designs and trends in origami, and fold new pieces.

This is their first large-scale exhibition. The previous show last year displayed fewer than 100 origami pieces at Toa Payoh Public Library.

The upcoming exhibition traces the development of origami over the years, from a traditional art with simple models that evolved to include more complex creations.

For example, folding insects were popular in the 1990s, as were dinosaur models in the 1980s, says Mr Pek. Paper enthusiasts created models resembling the stegosaurus, fashioning the bony V-shaped plates on the dinosaur's back and the characteristic spikes at the end of its tail.

The exhibition will also feature the latest trends in the origami world, including a focus on folding fantasy creatures such as the unicorn and minotaur, adds Mr Tan.

The public can also participate in free workshops on how to fold basic models such as animals, flowers and boxes; and attend a reading of The Paper Menagerie, a tale of an American boy who discovers his mother's collection of origami animals, by author Ken Liu.

As for the star attractions of the show, the origami pieces will be transported in cardboard boxes and put in glass displays "just in case people want to take them", says Mr Pek, in a veiled reference to some art installation pieces that went missing at the Singapore Night Festival recently.

Nevertheless, he hopes that people will enjoy the show and pick up the craft. He explains: "The folding process is very therapeutic, and that pleasure of creating the final product is such a wonderful feeling. We hope to be able to share it with others."

keziatoh@sph.com.sg

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Sept 6, 2013

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