The Lister List

FOCA, OUSA and Lillian Oppenheimer

FOCA, OUSA and Lillian Oppenheimer. 5th, October, 1997.

In his reply to RPismn's posting about The Friends and Origami USA, Michael Naughton gives a brief outline of the way The Origami Center, the Friends of the Origami Center and Origami USA evolved. He is very fortunate in having been able to visit Lillian Oppenheirmer in Union Square.

May I express the hope that Mike will write an account of his recollections of the Origami Center? The more people that can be persuaded to do this (and the accounts do not have to be literary masterpeiceces), the better future generations will understand how things began and will be able to get to know something of Lillian herself. I had the pleasure of a long correspondence with Lillian and of meeting her on several occasions, but I was never able to visit her at either Union Square or her subsequent addresses and I for one, have to rely on what others have written about what always seems to focus my imagination as a magical Aladdin's cave.

Michael's very brief summary of what the Origami Center was is pretty correct as far as it goes, but I think it was much more than just the collection of models, diagrams and other materials which he suggests, even if they formed part of it. The Origami Center was Lillian, and for a few years she became the focus for Origami in North America, Europe and beyond. Lillian loved people and she gathered them round her like an amiable queen bee. Someone said that her motivation was that she loved to collect people.

Alice Gray came later and it was only gradually that her office at the Musum of Natural History became a focus for paperfolding. However, the flaw in the whole system was that it was just Lillian and a group of people round her. There was no formal organisation and no structured society. An informal group of "Associates" began to gather round Lillian, growing out of the "Origami Mondays" which she regularly held.

One of these Associates was Michael Shall and it was he who was the driving force behind the formation of the Friends of the Origami Center out of the Associates. He talked Lillian (initially against her will) into agreeing that a formal society should be set up in parallel with the Origami Center. As it gathered strength, this organisation would be able to take over some of the functions of the Origami Center, such as th organisation of Conventions. Michael also persuaded Alice to agree to his proposals and together they called a meeting to form the Friends. The new name seemed to exp[ress what they intended better than the word "Associates". After the formation off the frieds, the Origami Center continued to exist and for the time being retained its functions under Lillian's leadership.Much continued to be done from Lillian's own home. Gradually this became less and less as functions were gradually transferred to the new body.The gravity passed to Alice's office and the organisation was taken up by Michael and Alice.

But this is, of course only the barest outline of the story. At the end of his posting, Michael Naughton writes: "I hope that fulls in some of the blanks - maybe some others on the list who know more than I do can help fill in the deatails".

I feel this is a challenge, because I have written at length about the Origami Center in a series of papers which I rather obliquely called "The Origins of the Origami Center". They were written for successive issues of the late lamented amateur press alliance (or collaborative private magazine) FOLD of which Michael naughton was a member. There are ten articles in all, which, despite the rather inadequate title, cover the history of Western paperfolding from the middle of the 19th Century, the long period leading up to the formation of the Origami Center by Lillian, the actual fomation of the Origami Center and then the formation of the Friends. I suppose they amount to a book in length and it would be impossible to summarise everything for Origami-L. Lillian read the articles as they were written and she told me that she enjoyed all of them.

The problem is to get the articles published. No commercial publisher would look at such a project and it has been suggested that it might be done by the BOS. However, everything needs considerable revision and it would also be better if the work could be illustrated with photographs and diagrams. Selecting illustrations would itself be a major task. I am conscious of the fact that many of my friends, some of them subscribers to Origami-L ahave been urging me for some time to get on with it.

Earlier this year, I wrote a shorter summary covering the ground of a talk I gave at the OUSA Convention at New York and this is in the hands of OUSA. But I don't know what they propose to do with it. This only covers the period of the formation of the Origami Center itself, and does not include the Friends.However, when eventually it is published, it will go some way to answering RPismn's questions. Incidentally, can you let us know who you are, RPismn?

I'm sorry not to be more helpful.

David Lister

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