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A Passion for Paper

My possessions, or more accurately, those things that have taken possession of me, might lead an interested party to conclude that I was an overdressed woman with a paper obsession. This interested party, say the 1-800-GOT-JUNK guys hired to clear out closets and cupboards, would be right.

My paper obsession took root when I taught elementary school. That’s when I discovered the vast array of paper available to those teachers working in affluent suburban schools with generous budgets and access to the Blick Art Supply catalog. Not for our students, the dull, fuzzy construction paper of my youth. Our children had access to myriad styles and sizes of paper used for projects to enhance their learning. A mural of the Emerald City of Oz. Models of the Greek temples of the Acropolis. Mobiles of the five geometric solids.

In our storage room, there were stacks of thick, textured grey paper for tempera painting, stout tag board, shining metallics, and heavy white drawing paper. There were rolls of fadeless art paper in vibrant colors— Nile and lime green, magenta and violet, azure and royal blue, sun yellow and sunset gold, pink, flame red, black and white — whose colors literally do not fade. We marked the passing seasons by creating landscapes on the big bulletin board in the back of the classroom. We cut, tore, and stapled the paper to create an autumnal forest, snow-covered mountains, or spring fields bright with wildflowers.

My penchant for paper followed me into retirement. I have several rolls of art paper in my utility room as well as large sheets of metallic paper in gorgeous shades of silver, gold, and bronze. I save old art calendars as their thick, colorful pages are perfect for cutting into squares for origami construction.

I made my first origami cube in a math class with a wild woman math whiz with whom I worked during a sabbatical year. The cube, made of six individually folded squares, fired my enthusiasm for what is known as cell origami. Cells are the individual folded squares that fit together to create a seemingly infinite number of three dimensional geometric objects.

Each cell of a given model is folded in the same way, then the cells are assembled through an ingenious combination of points and pockets. The work takes patience, precision, and a willingness to engage in trial and error until the desired outcome is achieved. I love the mathematics that is revealed in the fitting together of the cells and the way persistence is rewarded with a creation that is strong, beautiful, and long-lasting.

For Christmas last year, my friend gave me —you guessed it— paper. My gift consisted of a roll of wrapping paper printed with tiny trees, a book of paper whose folded pages are decorated with Japanese motifs and another book of botanical paintings. Taken together, I have enough paper to cover every wall in my home office or make a thousand origami ornaments or construct every three dimensional solid and sculpture in my origami bible, Tomoko Fuse’s comprehensive book, Multidimensional Transformations.

In short, my possessions include enough extraordinary paper to confound even the jaded guys at 1-800-GOT-JUNK.


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