Mike McNary is engrossed in his work. The Lexington native is making cubes, and although he is under the weather, his focus doesn't deviate from the task at hand.
He folds a small square of paper carefully, sometimes bringing it close to his face, sometimes leaning close to the table on which he's working. He uses a credit card to make the folds crisply precise.
Monday, he says, started the fourth week of the Governor's Scholars program at Centre College. In that time, McNary's classmates and he have created a Bucky ball, tetrahedrons, bracelet-looking forms, isohedrons and larger cubes in Duk Lee's origami classes. Lee has two classes: a "major" class and a "minor" class. Those with majors in origami spend about 11 hours a week with him; the minors, about five.
In another room, Anthony Fitch of Louisa is working on a series of rectangular cylinders. It looks complicated, and that's exactly why he chose to create it.
Fitch's work also is multi-colored, with combinations of two hues interspersed throughout the piece.
"The different colors show the variation of different sections," Fitch explains. "It's probably a third of the way completed.
Across the room, Derek Reul of Campbellsville laughs.
"Yeah, it's going to be huge," Fitch adds.
A feeling of satisfaction
Reul says one of the best parts of doing origami is the feeling of satisfaction upon completion of a work.
"It's great when I get something done right," he says with grin. "Even if it's a three-fold box. I get proud of my work.
"Getting to the last step and realizing I did something wrong is the hardest thing."
For Angel Zimmerman of Louisville, precision has been a challenge.
"The folds are so precise for it to turn out right. ... You have to use a card to flatten it," she says.
Lee says the students are learning on multiple levels by creating origami.
"Through this kind of activity, which is not just mindless, they're having a math experience and an intellectual experience," Lee explains. "If they mess up the first step, the next step will not come out right. It's a life-related similarity. If you mess up the present life, the next life will be tough."
The students' origami works will be displayed at the Community Arts Center this week. The exhibit that will open Tuesday will feature examples of classical, or single-paper, origami, Lee says. Figures include jumping frog, crane and insects.
"These are not just children's figures, but are at a high, sophisticated level with detailed components—legs, head and body structures," Lee explains.
Another form of origami is unit origami, which can be comprised of hundreds of connected papers, Lee says.
Origami is relevant to medicine, mathematics and engineering, Lee says. For example, medical researchers have been trying to understand the close relationship between the protein folds of the body and the paper folds of origami. They look at the folding and misfolding of the proteins through paper folding, Lee says.
He was introduced to origami at a mathematics conference in January 2005. There, he took some classes in origami, he says, and "I was fascinated by that." Looking at a figure, it's easy to see the geometric applications used in creating it.
Regarding engineering, consider vehicle airbags or parachutes, Lee says. They must be folded properly from beginning to end, just as a shape in origami must be.
Lee, a mathematics teacher and student at Asbury College, says origami is "more serious than children's art."
"Only a small part can be done by children. ... It's a highly sophisticated art," he explains. "I'm trying to break through the perception that it is a Japanese and a children's art.
"Origami is not just a pastime. It can be serious mathematics and serious art as well. That's what I want people to see from this exhibition. ... There are infinite possibilities in origami."
Copyright The Advocate-Messenger 2006