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The Story of Pureland

In l972 I suggested to Mick Guy that we work on a book about Origami which would start with very simple models and proceed in a structured way to the most difficult. In the event we decided not to proceed with the task. I did, however, undertake some research for the book and, in particular, into what made some models more difficult to fold than others. It seemed to me that a simple model should have relatively few steps, and use only very simple folds which could be easily located.

butterflyThe simplest fold is a valley or mountain fold, so I tried to invent models that used these alone. The result was my Mountain & Valley Butterfly created in March 1972 and put into the B.O.S. library at that time together with a Dart.

 (Diagram for another Butterfly)

The next step was a talk I gave at the B.O.S. convention in April 1976, subsequently published in issue 58 of our magazine (June 1976). This article attempted to define Origami, and its variations, as a modifications from the 'purest' form. I argued that this 'purest' form should use only a square of material and proceed purely by folding to achieve its results.

The choice of a square I defended by arguing that it is the first fully symmetric, even cornered regular figure and the most elementary of the perfect figures. One could also plead that a square follows the sequence of a point being extended to a line (no dimensions to one dimension) and the line being extended at right angles (thus giving 2 dimensions in Euclidean space) . This in its most symmetric form yields a square and then a cube (in 3 dimensions) .

Nothing else happened until the April 1978 convention when my interest in the simplest Origami was again aroused. I used the term "Pureland" at the convention to describe this new idea of the simplest folding only using a square. 'Pure', of course, referred back to my article of June 1976 and 'Land' was a reference to my Mountain & Valley butterfly of 1972. 'Pureland' is also the name used by a form of Buddhists in China & Japan and has a concept of a heaven or Pure land which can be achieved by devotees. I think that there are interesting parallels between paper folding and religion (including Zen) but this is hardly the vehicle for such a discussion.

As a result of the Spring convention of 1978, I made a search of published models and in issue No 70 of the B.O.S. magazine published the 'rules' of 'Pureland' and gave references to some 16 models which conformed to these rules and thus could be identified as Pureland

Naturally the rules of Pureland are strict but simple

(1) Only a square to be used.

(2) Only Mountain or Valley folding to be used. It is permissible to unfold a valley or mountain fold and to turn a model over while folding.

(3) 'Tucking in' or Opening up to 3D is acceptable provided no creases are made in the process

(4) In the purest' of Pureland all folds should be exactly locatable

This was the cover of my first collection of original Pureland published in 1980

You will see that in Pureland not only is there a requirement to only manipulate one fold at a time, but also there must be landmarks for all essential folds. In a way my choice of the name Pureland was quite useful as it does suggest the use of landmarks, although I did not think of that originally.I ought to make clear that minimal folding which seeks to convey the essence of an object in as few folds as possible, is rarely Pureland as well since landmarks are usually few and far between.The study of Pureland lead to me consider the process of folding for example a petal fold is in essence two reverse folds and a valley fold. I have even found a real curiosity in a Pureland method of folding the bird base.

Now why, on earth, you may be asking should anyone in their right mind want to restrict themselves to such a limiting set of rules? Well there are several very good reasons-

(i) Pureland often yields simple models which are easy to teach and easy to fold.

(ii) Pureland offers a fascinating challenge to solve the technical problems involved in achieving the equivalent of reverse folds etc. Thus it may well help the technical development of our art,

(iii) Creative thinking cannot exist without a pattern or structure. A pattern or structure necessarily involves constraints. These constraints are the means by which we express our creativity. Pureland has strong constraints but is 'rich' in creative opportunities

(iv) Many Pureland models have a harmony and elegance of their own.

(v) Many of us feel that complex 'engineering' has become too important and that a return to simplicity is overdue, Pureland requires such simplicity

I hope that many folders will take up the challenge of Pureland, and add to our growing repertoire of models.

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