Patience, precision and practice

Paper was first made in 105 AD in China according to an easy Google search. Paper was then apparently brought to Japan by Buddhist monks in the sixth century AD. Though the actual origin of the art of origami seems unclear.

There is something astonishingly simple, compelling and grounding about learning how to fold a 150mm square sheet of coloured paper into an animal or decorative shape that we recognise.

Having painstakingly mastered the swan, the fox, the crane, the penguin and the face, with patience and precision, I was eluded by the frog. The instructions for even the simplest origami form are all visual. No words. Just diagrams. Even with a key of symbols describing each fold, the frog baffled my efforts, repeatedly. I got so far, then nothing made sense anymore. I tried for (what seemed like) hours. At what point do we give up? How patient can we be for something as unimportant – in the broader scheme of our existence – as an origami frog? Of course it stopped being about the frog at hour or so into the unsuccessful folding. It became a test of patience. To go back, over and over, to the point where I got stuck, became a challenge I was bent on overcoming. I wanted to know where I was going wrong, and get it right. I dug in. Returning to the key of instruction symbols, I had by then assimilated (or so I thought), I found I had made a fatal, strategic mistake. I had been resolutely turning the ‘frog’ over to repeat instructions three times, when in fact the symbol said nothing about turning the frog over. I had just assumed. Out of habit and a bit of arrogance that I had the instructions implacably internalised, I had read a vital symbol incorrectly. There it was. I found my mistake. Found only because I returned to the source of instructions, to double check what I thought I already knew.

How gratifying as I bent the frog’s last little foot… and put it on the table. It looked identical to the image in the instruction book, and rather like a frog, even though it was pink. To be sure I had genuinely mastered the problem folds, I made two more frogs. Each time, with patience and as much precision that my embryonic practice allowed.

© Amanda Yensa Manor 2015

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