Origami & Life Plans

By Gacharná Ramírez, Gerardo

June 13, 2012

A couple of months ago I was having a small personal crisis regarding origami. I talked about it on the O-list. The following are the beautiful replies fellow origamists shared with me. I'm posting them here because I'm sure they can be helpful to many more. Each one of them gave me their consent in order to do so. Leyla told me she wanted to make her own entry on her blog Origami Spirit based on her message, that's why I'm only sharing an extract from hers. I believe she still hasn't posted that entry but I will let you all know as soon as I can... enjoy ☺️

Gerardo G: Tue, 20 Mar 2012 22:50:13

I wanted to share some personal thoughts with you, cause if someone can understand this it would be you. Has origami ever put your life plan in doubt?

When I was young I folded origami every now and then, but I was never that passionate about it to take it in consideration as I made a life plan. So I ended up taking another path.

But a couple of years ago I returned to origami and now I'm passionate about it in a way I never expected, and I even think I have a little talent for it. I know there are many more talented than me, but that doesn't mean I don't have some talent.

I love useful models (in case you haven't noticed) and being in charge of the challenge (Inter-forum Useful Model Challenge), I've ended up loving them even more. I created the fireplace bellows, which really works, and that made me really proud. After that, someone very close to me, who has noticed my drastic change from my reencounter with origami, told me as he was contemplating the bellows: "You should've been an industrial designer" That would mean making a life by creating beautiful and useful objects!

I didn't expect that, but I must confess it does make sense, and the idea even seduces me. On the other hand, I'm in another moment in my life; taking that idea seriously would mean a really big change. Yet, I also feel that origami has become a problem for me since it isn't that compatible with my current life, it takes too much time, dedication and even space to be a simple hobby. Thinking of myself as an industrial designer would mean accepting that origami might be more than a hobby and accepting that I might have made a mistake with my life plan.

That's what's troubling me right now. Although I don't wish this to anyone, to be truthful I hope I'm not alone in this. I hope to discover that origami has also made others have second thoughts about their current life plans.

So what can you tell me? Have you lived or are you living something like this?

Thank you for your thoughts.

Robert Lang: Wed, 21 Mar 2012 06:47:45

Is it the case that you "made a mistake" with your life plan, or was your previous life plan merely preparation for the moment when you change your career? Life plan 2.0? (Life Plan Ultimate Professional Premium?)

Of course, every person's situation is different and unique, but about 10 years ago I left my job (managing an R&D group in an optoelectronics company) to write Origami Design Secrets and to make a go of full-time origami work, and I can say that I have never once regretted it.

One thing to consider, though, is to what extent you'd be able to incorporate origami into a career as an industrial designer. You may well end up doing a lot of non-origami projects in industrial design, depending on whether you are freelance or part of a design group in a larger company. If you are freelance, you have much more control over what you spend your time doing, but you have the flip side of constant uncertainty of when the next project is coming. (I'm freelance. I can live with the uncertainty, but I recognize it's there.)

So I don't want to try to push you one way or the other, but I will say that for myself, the question that made all the difference to me was, "10 years from now, looking back on this decision point, how much would I regret not taking the new path?"

I chose the red pill.



Jeff Ligon: 21 Mar 2012 09:24:52

As a rule, I try to embrace change where I can.

I started out my career as a graphic designer, having gotten into design school BECAUSE of my origami. After five years I discovered that I enjoyed programming and math more than photoshop.

So I quit my job, started taking some classes and 10 years later I have a PHD a wonderful wife and daughter and a dream job working with talented people making useful things.

I couldn't do that level of change again today, but I'm glad I did it when I had the chance. It's certainly made me happier, better, and wiser.

No one can make that decision for you though, so good luck and have fun with it... Either way you go.

-Jeff Ligon

Stephen A. Watson: Wed, 21 Mar 2012 12:03:13

Hi Gerardo and all

Origami booted its way into my Life Plan in a way I did not expect.

Many years ago I was an IT manager for a large busy company. The money was good, great even but they did own your soul! There was not much free time in my life and if I had not been single to start with I am sure I would have been divorced by now.

One day when driving home from yet another long distance appointment I just decided that that was it. No more. I had had enough of the stress, pressure and hassle so when I got back to the office I handed in my keys and finished. I had no plans, I just thought I would see what came up. A couple of weeks later I landed a job running a UK-Online centre for a charity that supported people with learning disabilities and, while the funding lasted, it was a super job. Working with people that needed support to use computers was very rewarding and it helped me find my 'human' side again. I also gave some of my own time for these people and started using origami as a therapy and an educational tool.

When the funding came to an end (change on government policy) I was put out to grass. Unlike my last job I was devastated when it ended. I looked for work back in the IT sector but after six years all my qualifications were so outdated they were obsolete (anyone for COBOL or Ingress? how about RPGII?). Age was also against me, in IT 49 is so 'well over the hill'.

while I was kicking about the house a friend asked me if I would run a couple of origami workshops for disadvantaged youths. This I did and thoroughly enjoyed it. Mainly because I saw these kids, who do not have a chance in life due to social circumstances, really enjoy themselves. For a couple of hours their street life existence was forgotten. These youths gave me 'respect man' and I was a 'cool dude' and my work was 'sick' (apparently sick means good in street speak) even though I was an 'old man'!

Soaking in the bath that evening I decided that I was going to make a living from origami. I had enough savings for two years so I could give it plenty of effort. I was a little apprehensive but I need not have been. Within six months I was earning a living, not a big one but enough. That was over six years ago and my only regret is that I had not taken this step sooner. I will never be a millionaire but to see the joy and excitement origami can bring to all ages and abilities is fantastic. I now travel all over the north of England working in schools, colleges, universities even. Talking to groups such as the Women's Institute and running free workshops at fêtes and festivals and in some fantastic locations around the area. I meet people from all walks of life and enjoy the pleasure of origami.

Not many people can say that their business is 'folding' and be happy about it!


Stephen Watson

Leyland, Lancashire UK

Laura Rozenberg: Wed, 21 Mar 2012 13:59:27

I tend to think my life in a 10-year cycle. Not that I planned it to be that way, it just happened.

First, I studied biology and worked as a scientist for a while. Then I became a science writer (of course, my previous life as a biologist helped me do the leap.) Then the ten years or so in business, which I created when I came to live in the USA (for which I used both my science and journalism backgrounds to tell stories about the beautiful handmade wooden birds my husband and I imported from NW Argentina, which were made by indigenous people with whom I worked and often lived with for a whole decade.)

Now, inspired by all the great people encountered in the origami network worldwide, and especially thanks to Vanessa Gould's profoundly enlighting documentary Between the Folds, I began to think... how old am I? How many years should I postpone my dream of creating a place where workshops and exhibitions of paper folding can go hand by hand? (Paper folding is my passion since I was a little girl.) The idea of a museum/gallery/workshop of paper folding had been looming for years, but now I'm positive it has to be "now or never", as I'm turning 55 pretty soon. (And my dream is becoming true in Uruguay, South America.) So Gerardo, I believe you are not alone. Other people are gearing up to something else, related with paper folding.

And going back to your question, it also depends on how much time you think you have ahead. Of course no one knows for sure, but if you think your clock is also ticking, and it will take you most of your time to develop your dream, then you should add that term to the defining equation.

Good luck

Laura Rozenberg

Rikki Donachie: Wed, 21 Mar 2012 20:14:55

I folded some paper one day

And I tried to perfect what I may.

I have practised for weeks

Origami techniques,

And my skill is in creasing, I'd say.

Diana Lee: Wed, 21 Mar 2012 16: 13

Hi Gerardo,

At times in life, events do make one wonder if one had made the correct choice. It is always useful to look back and reflect upon the decisions you made during the journey we call life. Remember, you can always choose to change your direction so as to 1) reverse a decision; 2) minimize damage; or 3) adjust your path so your life is on track again.

I like origami but I do not let it consume me. You are correct, life is too short and too beautiful to devote all your time to a piece of paper (did I really say that?!). I try the "slow but steady" approach: do a little everyday or devote 4 or 5 hours in one day, but then take the next 2 days off to take care of other business.

I don't regret letting origami into my life. I do regret that I can't devote more time to the craft. But life is a balance. Look at the big picture: are you happy? Is life going the way you want it to? Does origami give you pleasure & satisfaction or regret & frustration?

Everyone suffers the same: "I wish I had more time..." The reality is that there is no more time. Everyone has the same 24 hours and you just have to decide how you are going to spend that 24 hours without "wasting" it.

Sanja Srbljinovic Cucek: Thu, 22 Mar 2012 10:05:45

Yes, I felt origami changing crossroads of my life: First when I promised an exhibition to a child to keep a group around him occupied with a beautiful and intelligent toy. Result: two years of library exhibitions and workshops by adults and children, supporting one another, sharing joy of origami. Teaching became a teacher, as in

Rikki's poem :

I have practised for weeks

Origami techniques,

And my skill is in creasing, I'd say.

Also young and old that left a wokshop with a smile in their eyes made it clear to me there is more to be done.

I got excited about greatness of modern origami art, talked about it at every occasion, showing the folds I knew, talking about the artists and ideas inspiring me. The beginning of an interest, sparks of curiosity in others, a glimpse of a smile... all encouraged me to try harder. Even non-believers in origami. Had to show them, too. For them I widened my horizons in origami over my initial interest.


> How many years should I postpone my dream ... I felt that at a crucial moment when a door of a gallery opened for an origami exhibition . Krapina City Gallery, Poetry in Paper 2008. I was far from ready for it, but I gathered all the courage I had then and said yes I WILL DO IT. And was helped by many from this origami list. During the gestation of the exhibition I learned the value of "ora et labora" - work and pray. Many times it seemed everything depended on the strength of a spider's thread. An accidental encounter in the nature had a spiritual value:

A little spider

hanging on nothing

attached straight to the sky

After the exhibition I declared to my family that promoting origami shall be the road of my life. That meant that I would no more try to earn my daily bread by translating, but shall concentrate on getting people excited about origami. First shocked, they gave me wholehearted support.

Origami Art Novosti (origami art news) is the blog I write to educate and widen the horizons about origami in an area with no origami society, where a public image of origami is quite childish. In the same area, in the last few years, origami had its way into an exclusive yachting cup as an invitation, into a city theatre as a part of set design, onto a fashion runnaway as a part of an eco-dress, into the Museum of Modern Arts as a workshop and lecture accompanying Japanese culture events, was part of a lace festival....

So miracles are possible where we do what we love and believe in. Scary moments are just a part of reaching the higher level.

All the best and lots of faith and courage,


Leyla Torres: Thu, 22 Mar 2012 18:11:44

(...) It is scary to let go of something and change. I'm afraid there are no easy roads.

(...) I have always liked a quote from Herny Matisse "An artist should never be a prisoner of himself, of a style, of a reputation ..."

I would say: "A *human being* should never be a prisoner of himself, of a style, of a reputation ..."

Be brave, follow your heart!


Ilan Garibi: Sat, 24 Mar 2012 22:52:25

And I thought I am special... Seeing how many people decided to make Origami as their main route in life, I am amazed and glad to see I am not. Special, I mean. Because Origami can make your life better.

3 years ago I was still an officer in the army. Now, being retired (the worst word to describe my situation - I am far from being tired or re-tired) and a full time Origami worker, I can say it was one of the best decisions in my life. There are many ways to do that - making a living by folding paper. I teach children and adults. I make models and sell them. And it's not only about the money - I make people smile. And that makes me smile, too.

A friend of mine use to say "This life you have is not the rehearsal - this is it. There is no second chance". Use your time wisely. I chose the pink stripped pill.