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Ekaterina Lukasheva Origami Master

"I suddenly understood how that piece of paper could connect with other pieces of paper and become a flower. It was like an enlightenment. It's like opening a little door in your brain and allowing new ideas to come."

'Paper sculpture' is how Ekaterina Lukasheva, this month's featured artist, would like us to think of origami, and it surely seems an apt term when gazing on her work.

Whilst it's usually the bold rigidity of geometric pattern that appeals to me, in Lukasheva's case the use of paper as a medium introduces a level of elegance and fragility not often seen. Truly eye-opening.

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Until I discovered your work, I'm ashamed to say I had no idea how varied and expressive origami could be. When and how did you discover the form and your obvious talent for it?

People learn both painting and origami at about the same age, about 5 to 7 years old. But with painting, everybody knows that there are famous painters who can do that on an entirely different, 'art' level. With origami, the art side of it does not get as much media coverage. When you hear 'origami' you have children's games in mind. Call it 'paper sculpture' and you imagine a very different thing.

I started my origami journey relatively late. I was around 15 when I was given an origami magazine by my math teacher. I was fascinated. I did not have the internet at that time, so I could not really explore anything.

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I rediscovered it at 19 when I found a block of paper notes during a long meeting. Modular origami is a good alternative to doodling and I started using it during long, boring lectures. I wanted to create something original, but I simply could not figure out how to come up with something on my own.

Many years later, during some random paper doodling, I suddenly understood how that piece of paper could connect with other pieces of paper and become a flower. It was like an enlightenment. It's like opening a little door in your brain and allowing new ideas to come.

After that I could create lots of things. Quality was lower than now for sure, but at least I could train in creation. Later I found on the internet some people who were doing even more mind-boggling origami. It took me several years of looking and thinking till I could slowly figure it out. After that I became unstoppable. Nothing fuels motivation as much as long-awaited success.

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A lot of your work revolves around geometric patterning. What would you say inspires these designs?

I love puzzles, all those conundrums that keep your brain entertained. But when you play with a regular puzzle, as soon as you find an algorithm the puzzle is no longer interesting. Constructing repetitive patterns from paper is very similar to solving puzzles, because you need to find an algorithm or trick to connect those pieces seamlessly. But unlike a puzzle, which usually has only one solution, a plain sheet of paper has an infinite number of solutions.

I can always take a fresh sheet and invent something very different, beautiful and unique. Not all attempts go as planned, of course, but when they do, when you finally realise that your algorithm succeeded and you have just created a shape that did not exist before, it's such a release of serotonin that you get addicted to creation. Those are among the happiest moments of my life.

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Through your books and blog posts you offer advice and instruction for other budding origami artists. Is origami something you would encourage more people to try, and why?

The big motivation: I find so much joy in origami that I want to share this joy with others.

Another small but very practical motivation: At some point the amount of similar questions that have long answers reaches a certain point, and at that point I make a detailed text to save time. I am not among some artists that would guard every single piece of information. I think information about where you get paper, tools or books should be shared.

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For anyone reading this who likes your work and would like to delve deeper into the world of contemporary origami, are there any other books, artists, exhibitions or websites you would recommend having a look at?

Contemporary origami is a very diverse art. It has two big categories: representative, like animals, birds, people, masks, and abstract, with all sorts of geometric constructions, tessellations (my primary focus now) and modulars (my former passion). If we're talking about my style, it's called 'origami tessellations' and 'modular origami'.

At the very beginning I would just Google these terms and I am sure there would be lots of beginner tutorials on Youtube. If you get hooked, I would recommend books by Jun Mitani (curved folding), Paul Jackson (several books, more for designers), Ilan Garibi (tessellations) and Robert Lang (serious theoretical material for people with a math background). For modular origami, you can search for my own books. I usually have some book links in story highlights on my Instagram page.

You can also search for your local origami group or association. Many developed countries have them and they often sell paper or books, supply local knowledge and organise meetups and conventions. There's the British Origami Society (BOS) in the UK.

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Next article in issue 136

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