You might think only a magician could turn an ordinary piece of paper into a rabbit, but Kade Chan Pak-hei does it every day. The 23–year-old is a professional origami artist.
Chan discovered his love for origami at the age of 12, when he came across some online tutorials. After trying them for himself, he found he couldn’t get enough, and origami became his passion. Soon, he was showing his skills on online forums and YouTube. His posts attracted the attention of shopping malls and companies, and he started getting paid to design decorations. Suddenly, Chan’s hobby turned into a paying job.
For Chan to design an origami, he needs to wait for inspiration to hit him. When it does, the first thing he does is to figure out the ratio of the figure’s different parts. Then, he projects it on the paper, and visualises it using the origami techniques he’s learned through trial and error.
Imagining how a 2D paper can be folded into a 3D figure using certain lines is the hardest part of the process, and takes up 70 per cent of the time. The actual folding takes up only 20 per cent, and the remaining 10 per cent is dedicated to posing the figure, to show its motion and image. The length of the whole process varies, from a few days to a few months.
When it comes to influences, Chan is inspired by is Joseph Wu, who has an abstract style of folding with a large degree of freedom. is most inspired by Satoshi Kamiya from Japan. In fact, the first figure he ever folded was a design by Satoshi, or as Chan calls him, “the world’s number 1 origami artist”. At Satoshi’s exhibition in 2012, Chan got to meet his idol, an opportunity he thought he would never have. There, he learned a lot of advanced folding techniques.
Many people don’t realise that all of the complex shapes in origami are created with a strict artistic code. “There are rules in origami,” Chan explains. “You cannot cut or paste, and it must be done with one piece of paper. Some people may see figures with a lot of geometric lines which claim to be ‘origami’, but they aren’t. The whole process must go from a single piece of paper to a 3D figure.”
The paper itself has to be special paper with long fibres, longer than 1cm, so it can withstand the folding and creasing. Chan also uses a special type of hardening spray along with ordinary aluminium foil, to allow the model to easily stand on its own.
Chan’s favourite origami creation of all time is Ryu Jin, a Chinese dragon folded by Satoshi. It was made from a 2-metre by 2-metre square, but the final product is only about 30cm long. The whole dragon is covered in scales, all created entirely by folding and pleating.
The beauty of the piece inspired Chan to design and create his own scale-covered creature, the Devil Cobra. To fold the model from a single piece of 3.3-metre-long paper, it took him 15 hours – but that’s not such a long time.
“For beginners, even a rather simple design might take up to five hours,” says Chan. “You have to sit down and focus on the folding. The most important thing in origami is patience.”
But Chan says that patience will pay off, because origami is a skill that will stay with you for your whole life. With technology, if you don’t keep doing it, you will lose track of it. But that’s not a worry for origami,” he says. “When you know how to fold, even if you don’t do it for a long time, you can still fold a design easily.”