Thursday, November 1, 2012

Saginaw's own origami artist featured during Riverside Saginaw Film Festival

story and photos by janet i. martineau

For nearly half a century now, Saginaw native Mark DeWolf-Ott has excelled at folding paper.

Big deal, you say...we ALL fold paper.
Mark DeWolf-Ott and the 1,000 Cranes origami piece

Well, not like DeWolf-Ott. 

He is, he says, at the complex level in the world of origami -- the Japanese art of paper folding which avoids the use of tape. scissors and staples in the creation of 3-D geometric designs, animal figures and flowers; some small enough to hold in the palm of a hand and others large enough to trick people into thinking an origami T-rex skeleton is real.

“And origami is still evolving, getting more and more complex,” says DeWolf-Ott, 55. “It goes from simple, to intermediate, to complex, and I can do some of the complex ones at this point because  I began doing origami when I was 11 or 12.

“It’s just that I don’t do the complex ones a lot because they take too much time! I can make a moose with antlers, but it takes four hours and I don’t want to do that.”

As a part of the Riverside Saginaw Film Festival, running Nov. 8-11 at five venues, the award-winning documentary “Between the Folds” is playing -- at 6pm Thursday, Nov. 8, and Friday, Nov. 9, at First Congregational Church, 403 S. Jefferson Ave.

Running 58 minutes, “Beyond the Folds” has played 45 film festivals around the world and won a Peabody Award as its shows how origami is practiced not only by artists but also scientists. And, with the advent of computer design software, how it has gotten more and more complex.

Following both showings, DeWolf-Ott will assist those attending in making two simple pieces to take home, will make more complicated ones as they watch, and will bring along a collection for viewing.

The showing of “Between the Folds” is sponsored by Glastender Inc. of Saginaw, and the company also is paying for the origami paper in the take-home project.

 A collection of DeWolf-Ott creations
DeWolf-Ott, the director of Saginaw’s Japanese Cultural Center and Tea House, says he was introduced to origami when a childhood neighbor, whose husband worked for Dow Chemical, showed him an origami book Japanese visitors to Dow had given them.

“The couple didn’t really want it so they gave it to me. I think I was intrigued because I have always loved math, and geometric design, and those skills are used in origami.”

Whatever the case, he was hooked -- although he took a brief hiatus in high school “when the kids made fun of me.”

Now he attends origami conventions and meetings around the nation, and says he has met all of the people who are interviewed in “Between the Folds.” 

“When I started it was hard to learn just through books, especially when they were written in Japanese. I had to go over to the tea house and have people help me with the translations.

“Now with the Internet, and (You Tube) videos, I can interact with origami people all over  the world -- from Japan to Argentina.”

Origami purists, he says, would contend a “true” piece of origami is folded from one piece of paper. But, he continues, modules  of 30, 60 or 90 units can now be folded and then assembled into one linked piece.

What he will showcase at the film showings is an assemblage called 1,000 Cranes -- a gift from Saginaw’s sister city of Tokushima. It features 10 strands  with 100 cranes on each strand, and is about 36 inches long. “It is symbolic that its owner will have a long life with many wishes granted.”

Close-up of a DeWolf-Ott geometric piece
As for the use of origami in the world of science ... its concept was used in the creation of stents in the heart that are inserted and then blown up to enlarge, DeWolf-Ott says,  and in the invention of a telescope that was stored in a small tube in the spacecraft taking it into space where it, too, was enlarged once up there and launched.

Nearly 30 independent and foreign films, documentaries, and short subject films will play during the Riverside Saginaw Film Festival. Passes are $40 and single admissions $6. For more information and a schedule:

 Passes are on sale by calling (989) 776-9425 and on the web site through Paypal.

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