Posted by: Sally Ingraham | February 8, 2011

Trash Origami

DSC00903by Michael G. Lafosse and Richard L. Alexander

I love the concept of making beautiful or fun things out of trash. I’ve been making paper cranes out of candy wrappers, soup can labels, those annoying cards stuck in magazines, flyers, brochures, etc., ever since I learned how to fold them. I see a bit of paper and I go to work on it!

I found this book at my library recently and took it home in eager excitement. It proved to be fantastic. From a review point of view, I have to note that while there are instructions on how to get a square or a proper rectangle out of a huge assortment of materials (which are listed and discussed), the book lacks an overview of the basic folding techniques. There is a DVD included which probably touches on that, but the book itself is not meant for an origami beginner. I’m fairly competent at simple origami and since I did know a lot of the folds and could figure out the rest, I found the instructions pretty easy to follow. Some of the designs were originals by the authors, and some were gathered from other international origami artists. I liked a lot of the projects and tried my hand at a few of them yesterday afternoon.


Here’s a closer look at the “Curler Unit Ball” (designed by Herman Van Goubergen) which the authors suggested making out of Christmas cards:


I LOVE this thing! It was somewhat time consuming, curling all four points on twelve different pieces, but although I couldn’t imagine how it would work it was actually quite simple to put together.

The authors own Origamido Studio. In addition to publishing books and making instructional DVDs, they make fine art origami pieces using their own handcrafted papers. They’re both biologists too, so they like to make realistic looking origami animals and plants. Here are some designs from another book of theirs that I’ll be looking for in the future. Pretty cool.

Now please excuse me while I go make another curly paper ball. And FYI, don’t throw out your candy wrappers – they make lovely little paper butterflies! 🙂


  1. I like books like that, they combine quite a few things. To make something out of trash totally appeals to me. I read a few books last year on similar themes and the material used was so expensive, I tought that was sad and as not everyone can afford to buy expensive paper. Plus the waste. I have never tried origami. It doesn’t look that easy.

    • It’s easier than it looks once you get the hang of it! I love teaching people to make paper cranes (the only design I know by heart) because it’s so exciting for them to successfully make one. And yes, the expensive papers are lovely – but since the form itself is so pretty you don’t need crazy paper. Anything works, really, and I love that this book makes that clear.

  2. I love this! And I agree about teaching people to make paper cranes. David & I decorated with paper cranes at our commitment ceremony, and had a few crane-folding parties beforehand so that our friends & family could help out with the folding. Two friends of David’s mom (Japanese ladies) also chipped in long-distance from California, and you could totally tell which cranes were theirs because every fold was amazingly crisp and precise and the finished products were PERFECT. Love that curly ball!

    • What a lovely thing to do! I think paper cranes are so fantastic – I’m planning to decorate my Christmas tree with them this year. 🙂

  3. Those curler unit balls are just beautiful, and the idea of making origami out of trash is just brilliant. The children in our classroom will love it!

    • Thanks! Teaching origami to children is the best – hope it’s fun. 🙂

  4. Those are beautiful! I never advanced in origami past making a few in grade school. There’s an origami event at my school every spring, and I’m always impressed. Maybe I should try it myself again one day. I loved the link to the Origamido Studio. Have you seen Robert Lang’s work? It’s worth checking out: And there’s this New Yorker piece on him if you’re curious! –

    • Wow, thanks for the links – Lang’s work is fantastic! My jaw is still hanging. I’m definitely going to check out some of the books he’s contributed too. I want to learn more about how origami is connected to mathematics, etc. specifically, but I also want to try my hand at some of his (much) simpler designs. Very cool.

  5. […] folding – I squeal. Usually out loud, to the dismay of nearby patrons. (You may remember my glee in February over Trash Origami!) Recently it has not been books that have gotten me worked up over […]

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