Folding Freshmen: One Thousand Cranes 

After returning from Winter Break, Ninth Graders in Design Overview started off the new year continuing their engagement with various media, cultivation of technical skills, and exploration of the creative process. As an introduction to a sculptural experience, freshmen learned about the technique of origami. As the foundation of their project, students focused on the form and simplicity of origami while they created more than one thousand folded paper cranes (orizuru) and a detailed drawing in the process. The origins of origami started in 17th century Japan; by the mid-1900s, it had become a popular art form worldwide. 

Before trying their hand at the art of paper folding, students discussed the story of Sadako Sasaki, a young Japanese girl who lived through the bombing of Hiroshima, contracted leukemia, and set for herself the goal of folding one thousand paper cranes with the hope that her wish to recover would be granted. Origami cranes that are folded and arranged into a group of one thousand are known as a senbazuru which, according to an ancient Japanese legend, rewards the maker with happiness, luck, or a wish for good health. Students wrote about their process of folding cranes — while many commented on the meditative or peaceful nature of folding cranes, others wrote about their hope for an end to Covid. 

Each of the 60 students in Design Overview made 20 white paper cranes that were collectively assembled together, more than enough for a senbazuru. In addition to this public sculpture, each student folded smaller papers to create their own individual rainbow chain of 16 cranes arranged in a spectrum of color. Further exploring the nature of this origami form, students arranged two white cranes in a still life and created a detailed chalk and pencil study. Students finished their work by emulating a traditional block seal (by carving a rubber block), stamping their drawing with red ink, a signature technique used by East and Southeast Asian artists. “Drawing is an excellent way of seeing relationships,” said faculty member Curtis Erlinger. “As drawing is often in dialogue with sculpture, I am looking forward to displaying these drawings and the folded origami together, to see what conversations are sparked.”