In July of 2017, I was invited to do an installation piece for the Urban Art Project in 2018. I accepted and asked for the February to May time frame for my installation piece.
I knew that I wanted to do a piece inspired by Japan. I thought about the things that come to mind when one thinks of Japan: Mount Fuji, Shinto gates, Samurai’s and origami. I had this vision of creating a stylized version of Mount Fuji out of poster board, a Shinto gate made from foam core board and folding a 1,000 Origami Cranes.
So I started with the cranes. I had some origami paper and a book with directions for folding a crane. The book instructions were confusing to say the least. (And I am not going to disclose how many sheets of origami paper I completely destroyed trying to follow the written instructions.) So I pulled out my trusty laptop and googled folding origami cranes. I found a very instructive video on U-Tube made by a German gentleman that helped me figure out where I was going wrong in my folding. Finally I had completed my first crane.
My first crane
Folding the next fifty cranes, was challenging. I would mess up. Do a step before I should. I had to keep going back to the directions and the video. But soon I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had folded one hundred cranes. And then I was at two hundred and fifty. Next thing you know, I had folded five hundred.
It was at this point that I was very tired of folding the paper that I had. I emailed my friend Kate in Japan asking her for more origami paper. She sent me a wonderful assortment that re-energized and invigorated my crane folding. Thank you Kate, so much for sending me all of the beautiful paper. It really made a HUGE difference.
Also my friend Deb bought me a book of Tokidoki Origami paper. It was so different than any of the other paper I received. Deb really helped keep me motivated and I mean more than the paper. She would ask me how many cranes have you folded now? I didn’t want to tell her that I hadn’t folded any since we last talked and that was a powerful motivational tool. Thank you Deb for the fun paper and keeping me on track. You helped me a lot.
It was at this point that I thought I should probably find out the history behind folding a thousand origami cranes. Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish. Cranes are considered to be a mystical or holy creature. They are believed to be symbols of good health, longevity, truth and fidelity. The elegant crane is considered to live a thousand years. If you fold a thousand cranes, you fold a crane for each year of the cranes life.
It became very clear after folding 800 cranes that the installation site was not large enough for my original vision. 1,000 origami cranes take a lot more space than I initially imagined. I decided that my installation piece needed to focus on the cranes and the cranes alone.
Somewhere after crane 500, I got into this rhythm of folding. Mountain fold. Valley fold. Line up the corners. Turn it over. Reverse fold. Leave a thin space. You don’t even think about the directions. You just fold. Each sheet of paper becomes an intimate friend who is in the shape of a crane when completed.
Lining up cranes to be threaded together
Folding a 1,000 cranes is just the first step. Once they are folded the cranes have to be strung together. Traditionally the cranes are strung together in sets of 40. I strung some of the cranes in this method. Others I would string together using tiny glass beads to keep spaces between the cranes so you can see each bird independently.
Once all of the cranes were strung together, I had to prepare and install the cranes in the site. To say that the space is small, is kind of an understatement. It is also very narrow.
The space empty and adding cranes.
While in Kyoto, Japan, I visited Nijo Castle. The castle had gates to enter different sections of the castle. These gates have beautiful enamel work of flowers, butterflies and cranes. After touring the castle, while standing in a Buddhist garden, a crane flew over the castle and landed in a tree in front of me. It was a magical experience, worthy of the elegant crane, and one that I will not forget.
Detail of gate leading into inner courtyard of Nijo Castle
The challenge of folding 1,000 origami cranes seemed natural to me. I wanted to do a piece inspired by Japan. Cranes remind me of Japan, my travels there and how empowering that experience was for me. Now that I have folded a thousand cranes, I am ready for my next challenge, creative or otherwise. That is, in part, why I called the installation piece, “Taking Flight.”
Looking from the door of the installation site, through some of my cranes to the street.
The opening reception with all of the artists who participated in the February through May, 2018, Urban Art Project is Monday, February 19th from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at 315 First Avenue South, Great Falls, Montana. I would like to personally invite all of my friends, family and the blogging community (who are included in the friends part too).
The completed piece “Taking Flight”
The Opening Reception is not the end of the “Taking Flight” installation piece’s story. After this show is over and I take it down, strands of cranes are going to be sent all over the world to friends and family. The installation piece will be taking flight on it’s own to bring well wishes of health and happiness to those I love.