The Lister List

Frog Base

On the Frog Base

Dear O-Listers,

I have been following the recent discussion about Which is the Frog Base with interest. Of course, the Frog Base with petal folds is is the true Frog Base. One without petal folds is just NOT a Frog Base and I wonder how this idea can possibly have come about.

Michael la Fosse writes that Lillian Oppenheimer distinguished two separate bases, depending on which direction the petal flaps are pointing, which distinguished the Frog Base from the Lily Base. To my mind, this was just Lillian Oppenheimer's own idea, which has never gained any currency. Surely, these are merely two forms of the Frog Base or Lily Base, call it what you will. Similarly, the Bird Base has several forms, which are used in different ways.

Apart from some primitive ides about "ground forms" by the Froebelians, Margaret Campell was the first modern folder to conceive of a system of bases. In her book, "Paper Toy Making" (undated, but actually, 1937), she introduced a concept of "foundations". The First Foundation was a stage in the folding of the Box or Sanbo with Legs. This has never been adopted by anyone else. The Second Foundation was the fold which was named by Sam Randlett as "The Preliminary Fold". The Third Foundation is what we know as the Frog or Lily Base and the Fourth Foundation is the Bird Base. I have always thought that the concept of Foundations came to Margaret Campbell quite late and apparently when she was already half-way into writing her book. The First Foundation is not introduced until page 56 of the total 79 pages. The Third Foundation (Frog base) comes on page 66 and the Fourth foundation (the Bird Base) is on page 73. Yet earlier in the book, Margaret Campbelll gives instructions for ! models which could well have used her Foundations. For Instance, full instructions for the classic Lily are given without using the Third Foundation on page32 and two different frogs are given on pages 48 and 54, again, without using the Foundation Fold.

Robert Harbin's boyhood interest in paperfolding was revived in 1953. The first book he turned to was Margaret Campbell's "Paper Toy Making", which had continued in print throughout the Second World War. Harbin picked up on Campell's Foundations, but he made his own selection and called them "Basic Folds". Yet they were still not the Basic Folds of our modern canon. Basic Fold One was what we now know as the Blintz base. Basic Fold Two was a stage in folding the traditional Pig. Basic Fold Three was what we now know as the Preliminary Fold, Basic Fold four was our modern Bird Base. Basic Fold Five was the Waterbomb base. Basic Fold Six was a preliminarily stage in folding the Chinese Junk.

Harbin includes a classic Jumping Frog and also a Blow-up Frog, but he doesn't include the Frog Base. And he doesn't include the Lily at all.

So, of Harbin's Basic Folds, the only ones we recognise today are the Blintz, the Preliminary Fold, the Waterbomb Base and the Bird Base. (Nevertheless, it could be argued strongly that the Windmill base (which he includes as the Multiform) should be included as one of the standard bases.)

The next to develop the concept of Bases was Samuel Randlett. He corresponded intensively with Robert Harbin and other folders, including Gershon Legman. Randlett sets out his standard bases in his book, "The Art of Origami" (1961), which was the first origami book to be published after the formation of the Origami Center. They were, The Preliminary Fold, the Waterbomb Base,, the Diamond base, the Fish Base, the Bird base and the Frog Base. The Preliminary Fold was not considered to be a base, but merely a step to folding other bases, including the Bird Base, the Frog Base and the Waterbomb base.` The Frog Base was the familiar one with the petal folded flaps, as used for the traditional Jumping Frog. The Lily is not included in "The Art of Origami". The Windmill Base is not included because "The Art of Origami" doesn't include any models folded from it.. Being the first Western book on Origami, following the formation of the Origami Center Randlett's book had very great influence indeed and for a time it became the bible of origami.

Randlett's next book was "The Best of Origami" (1963) and it contained the same bases as "The Art of Origami". However, it does include the "Blinz Bird Base", which was invented by George Rhoads The Blinz Base is not included as such, although it is used in folding the traditional "Lazy Susan".

Robert Harbin's next book was "Secrets of Origami " (Copyright, 1963, but actually issued in 1964).. In his Preface, Harbin paid tribute to Samuel Randlett and referred to his coming book., "The Best of origami" and said that the two of them had collaborated to ensure that there was no duplication of models. Harbin writes of the Preliminary Fold: " Mr. Samuel Randlett and i have agreed that this shuld be called a Preliminary Fold rather than a base because two bases are made from it - the Bird Base and the Frog Base. Harbin goes on to include the Bird base, the Frog Base, the Blintz Fold, the Diamond Base, the Waterbomb base, the Fish Base and the Blintz Bird Base. The Frog Base is the usual one, with the petal-folded flaps. He includes the Lily in the book and begins the instructions with: "Begin with the Frog Base, Valley-fold flap upwards and repeat with three similar flaps.".

This brings us back to our starting point at which Lillian Oppenheimer distinguished between a Frog base and a Lily Base. The truth is that that bases are only a stage in the folding of a model. They are intended to shorten the instructions for models. But when all is said and done, the coming of Neal Elias and Fred Rohm brought about a new origami that was not centred on bases and from then onwards bases have played a much reduced part. Modern creative origami scarcely uses them at all. Nevertheless, bases are part of the history of origami and their development is not without interest in showing how in the past pioneering paperfolders wrestled to gain mastery of classifying old models and creating new ones.

David Lister

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