The Lister List


Candice Bradley asks "Why are certain models identified as "pureland" models? What benefit does the folder gain from knowing it is a "pureland" model".

It is true, as some subscribers have said that "Pureland" has been treated as one of those gimmicks in origami, like "no cuts, no glue, only square white paper" etc.

However, John Smith, who is one of the deepest thinkers in origami, had a more serious purpose. He was very interested in the use of folding for children as a way of developing their mental processes. He was also interested in the use of origami as a therapy for injured and disabled persons. For these purposes he has been seeking what he calls "Forgiving Folds". These are folds (such as Yoshizawa's mother dog and puppy) where precision of folding is not necessary and where inexpert folding will still give a result which will reward the young or handicapped folder.

John came to the conclusion that one of the main barriers to simplicity of folding was reverse folding, so he thought that models which would use only simple mountain folds and valley folds and no reverse folds or sinks or the like would be suitable for young and disabled folders. So he began to collect examples of such folds and also started to create them himself.

Because such folding only uses mountain and valley folds, he thought that it resembled a landscape and the words "Pure Land" occurred to John. He later found to his surprise that this was an actual name for an eastern philosophy.

In the course of his investigations, John found that he could devise ways of folding some reverse folds by using only mountain and valley folds in a particular order. From being a tool for the young and disabled, "Pure Land" also became an intellectual activity in its own right, to see just what could be folded using only mountain and valley folds. But John has never lost sight of the original purposes of Pureland Origami.

John has written now four British Origami Society booklets devoted to Pureland Origami (Nos.14, 29, 43 and 57).

Another of John Smith's intellectual investigations into Origami is his "Origami Instruction Language ( O.I.L.). This began as an attempt to see if instructions for origami models could be written in a mathematical notation. he devised a special notation for himself. O.I.L has been much misunderstood. Gershon Legman, in particular, pronounced it crass and pointless and said that O.I.L. would never replace diagrams and in his usual ebullient style, he wrote to John to tell him so. However, John's investigations into O.I.L have thrown much light on the folding processes of origami and enriched our understanding of the theory of origami. Nobody (least of all, John) would ever seriously propose that mathematical symbols should ever supplant our origami books with their diagrams, dotted lines, arrows and succinct text. Nevertheless, one or two programming enthusiasts have attempted to use O.I.L as a basis for creating computer programs which would enable models to be folded mechanically under the direction of a computer. How much success they have had, I do not know, but I am sure we should learn much from their experiments.

From as long ago as the 1960s, John has been making contributions to the mathematics of origami, teaching origami and the history of origami. I have often praised, in particular, John's article on "Origami Profiles" which is ostensibly a way we can analyse our personal approaches to origami, but which also helps us to understand the general rules we impose on Origami and why so many people insist on folding from a single uncut and unglued square. He has also been interested in Minimal folding and in "CURIO" folding (Curve Induced Origami, which is related to what is now known as "Dry Tensioning")

John's own web site is at << >>

There are many articles there, some of them unexpected and all of them of great interest. Do have a look. Read John's own exposition of "Pureland", a word he has made his signature..

John used to be a subscriber to Origami-L, but he tells me that his subscription has lapsed. Nevertheless, he remains just as active as ever in paperfolding and on 1st January this year, he was made the President of the British Origami Society, an honour that he well deserves.

David Lister

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