As an artist I think of the blooming of flowers as the creation of a living sculpture. Cells grow, multiply and migrate into petals that form the blossoms, often with petals surrounding stamen and pistil. Sometimes I think of this process as nature’s origami.
White Amaryllis Series © Amy Lamb
The flowers of Columbine angle upward, each poised atop a slender stem, as if reaching for sunlight. On a single bloom, petals fold into a complex and delicate assemblage, with tubular spaces transitioning to triangular planes that encircle the plant’s essential reproductive structures. These features remind me of a Japanese paper folding.
This visual interpretation inspired me to contact Robert J. Lang, the eminent origami physicist and artist. Together we embarked on the creation of a folded garden of origami flowers. Lang folds flowers from prints of my photographs of the same flower that he folds. It is as if he forms a new flower from the flower itself, floral recursion, as Lang defined this artistic and mathematical collaboration.
The Process: Creation of the Flower Print
I photograph flowers that I grow in my garden. For this project, I select blooms at their peak, when color and form are most vibrant. I create portraits to capture the botanical stature and delicate structures that each flower has developed for its survival. In composing my photograph, I select a light background to convey gentle beauty or a black background to emphasize dynamic form. With a black background, light floods petals to reveal their thin, translucent edges.
To produce a print for folding, if I photographed the flower with a black background, I select that background using Adobe Photoshop and replace it with a background color consistent with the flower’s petal colors.
The starting paper size for the folding the flower is 21” x 21” Japanese Kozo paper. Lang calculates whether to use a full frame portrait (Columbine I, Daffodil, Close-Up (below: left figure) or a crop of the flower portrait (Dogwood, Angraecum II (below: right figure), Rose V).
The Process: Folding the Origami Flower
Lang develops an algorithm to establish his folding plan. The algorithm is translated to a crease pattern (CP) of colored dots and dashes that indicate mountain or valley folds. The CP consolidates hundreds of steps into a two-dimensional blueprint for folding. Using a computer-guided laser cutter, the CP is transferred onto the surface of the art print as scored marks. Lang folds the paper, shaping a sculptural representation of the flower whose portrait is embedded in the paper. To reveal the complex pattern of folds, itself a work of art, a second flower is folded and then unfolded, creating an intricate origami topography.
Computer-Generated Crease Patterns and Folded-Unfolded Prints Revealing Corresponding Crease Patterns
Angraecum Print: Folded and unfolded revealing CP mountain and valley folds
Lamb prints the original flower portraits on Kozo paper that Lang folds into the origami flower. The origami flower is then unfolded, revealing the CP of the respective flowers. Compare the graphic CPs to the mountain and valley folds of the printed flowers.
Original Floral Portraits and Recursive Origami Flowers
Angraecum II © Amy Lamb (left); Origami Angraecum folded by Robert J. Lang (right)(photograph by Amy Lamb)
Dogwood © Amy Lamb (left); Origami Dogwood folded by Robert J. Lang (right) (photograph: Amy Lamb)