Flapping Birds, Jumping Frogs: Know When to Fold ‘em

As a toddler growing up in Chicago, Catherine LeFevers tried to understand the ancient art of origami. LeFevers grew up surrounded by art — her parents attended Art Institute of Chicago. A collection of origami books, published in 1959, was nestled among many stacks of art books.

LeFevers, 51, and a resident of Newton, still has these books.
“I was intrigued with origami but couldn’t understand it,” she said. “I did fold paper as a child.”

“Ori” means to fold, and “gami,” or “kami,” means paper, so origami means the art of paperfolding. The oldest known written document about the ancient Japanese art form dates back to 1797 — “How to Fold One Thousand Cranes,” by Senbazuru Orikata.

“When I was in my 20s, I bought a book at a museum store and made one model — it’s all I could do,” LeFevers said.

In the mid-80s, a whole new world opened up for LeFevers.

“I met Jonathan Baxter at Festival in the Park in Charlotte — he had a booth full of his origami art,” she said.

Baxter is the founder and artistic director of the Southeast Origami Festival, which is held in Charlotte.

“I started talking to him, and oh my goodness, it was great,” she said. “I started taking classes from him, and from there became involved with Origami USA.”

Origami USA is the American national society dedicated to the art of paper folding.

“The first works of original modern origami (in the 1950s) are by the master Yoshizawa Akira,” LeFevers said.

Lefevers has a book written by him. The writing is, of course, in all Japanese, but the designs, well, the reams of origami enthusiasts study and learn from Akira’s diagrams.

LeFevers said origami is learnable, and although not difficult, certain techniques can be hard.

“The trick is to learn how to read diagrams and understand the basics of origami,” she said. “There are two folds — mountain folds and valley folds.”

LeFevers enjoys picking the papers — the different patterns and colors, and almost any paper can be used.

“I enjoy making quilts and boxes,” she said. “The quilt I just finished is made from 24 pieces of paper — all folded, no glue and no cutting, no scissors — I am a purist.”

LeFevers, senior transportation and logistics coordinator/regulated fuels for Duke Energy, said the origami fold she worked hardest on was for her employer.

“We had visitors from Japan, so as a gift, I made tiny, red cardinals as a gift from North Carolina,” she said.

LeFevers, who taught at the Southeastern Origami Festival in Charlotte and at the Origami USA Convention in New York City, will share her skills with area residents.

Now area residents can join in the FOLDIN’ (Fun Origami Lessons Downtown in Newton). LeFevers, who sponsored the “Origami at the Library” program in Newton from 1994-2003, will teach the art of paper folding in downtown Newton, at Zander’s Coffeehouse.

Classes are open to all ages and are free to anyone interested in learning the Japanese art of folding paper. Classes will be taught year-round and different models will be taught every month.

“I’ll teach very simple things as a warm up,” LeFevers said. “I enjoy teaching. It’s interesting to watch as a class progresses in the transformation from paper to object.”

“I will offer a variation in the classes,” she said. “We’ll do a flapping bird, then a jumping frog and then hearts for Valentines.”

LeFevers teaches all ages — toddlers to senior citizens — and she teaches parents and children in the same class. Most often, the children catch on first, she said.

“Teaching origami is a neat sharing of an art,” LeFevers said. Additionally, math, science and concepts are learned.”

More info:
What: FOLDIN’ (Fun Origami Lessons Downtown in Newton)
Who: Taught by Newton resident Catherine LeFevers, origami artist.
Where: Zander’s Coffeehouse, 207 North Main Ave., Newton.
When: Third Thursday of each month, 7 p.m., beginning Jan. 19.
Cost: Free and open to all ages.
Info: Contact Catherine LeFevers at 828-464-8922 or crlefevers@hotmail.com. Join the Facebook group FOLDIN’ to keep up with the latest news.