Origami at the library

Thirteen-year old Gabriel LaMont knows how to fold 'em. The young library volunteer is highly skilled in origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. He shares his skills and knowledge on Sunday afternoons in the Ashland children's library. LaMont, who has been doing origami since he was 6 years old, taught origami classes in his previous hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. He says the current library classes are less formal.

"Nowadays, I'm not really teaching a class, I'm just sharing what I know with whoever wants to do some origami," he said.

While the library sessions are not a formal class, visitors do learn a lot about the art of paper folding, its history, pioneers and modern masters.

"I bring along books with different styles of origami and I like to tell people about favorite books and origami artists," he said.

I can make a paper crane, but it takes me about twice as long to make as it takes my 7-year old, and mine usually come out wrinkled and misshapen. LaMont walked me through a paper frog, and it turned out marvelous. I could practically hear my frog croak when I moved its splayed legs. I was as delighted as the little boy who was sitting across from me. LaMont was helping him make a complicated rocket.

Most of the library projects he tries only take a few minutes, but at home, LaMont is working on a paper bi-plane.

"It's 151 steps with about five folds per step. That's about 700 folds. I'm expecting the plane to take 8 to 10 hours to make," he said.

Origami is the perfect library activity for kids and adults. It's loads of fun and mostly quiet, though at LaMont's origami table the quiet is often broken by a burst of laughter or oohs of appreciation. LaMont is a dynamo, but he can get pretty busy trying to help everyone at once. Adult origami lovers Matthew Medina and Hiromi Wallin often join LaMont and lend a hand. Both excellent paper-folders themselves, they are happy to help out beginners or share ideas with the more experienced folders.

"It's a great past time. It's my favorite thing to do," Medina said.

Wallin said she likes the innovative designs LaMont comes up with.

"I'm Japanese and origami is something we all sort of do," she said. "It's fun getting together with everyone and I'm so impressed with Gabe and Matt, and I'm impressed with the children."

Tina Springer, who was folding a starfish with her son Zephyr Wise-Lee, agreed that it was a great way to spend time.

"It's also good for kids. It's relaxing and helps with patience," she said.

Zephyr was having a grand time making a cootie catcher. "It's so much fun. I love it," he said.

Paper folding isn't just for kicks. It's mentally challenging, requiring a lot of hand-eye coordination and application of spatial skills. Also, LaMont and Medina pointed out, it is an excellent way to recycle paper. Both said they use just about anything to make their paper creations, including wrapping paper, tissue paper or candy wrappers.

"At the library, we have traditional, square origami paper, but you can make things with any sort of paper, whatever is handy," Medina said.

As an example, Medina showed me a pegasus horse made from brown grocery bag paper.

The origami sessions usually start around 12:30 p.m. and last until 3 p.m. Medina says the number of people doing origami varies.

"Sometimes we have one small table of people, once we had 3 full tables," Medina said. "We were running around, folding like mad, but we all had a good time."

Both Medina and LaMont make a number of origami models while chatting with visitors and helping children. LaMont gave me a paper iris and Medina gave me a paper star.

"Making origami models is fun, and teaching others is great, but to give them away is the best part," Medina said.

For more information about the Sunday origami sessions contact the Ashland library at 541-774-6996.

Angela Howe-Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at decker4@gmail.com.

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