Sometimes, a Butterfly is a Frog


Origami Butterfly Earrings. Not frogs.I don’t actually remember what prompted me to start or when it was that I first took up the art of folding paper. I have a vague recollection of coming across my uncle’s thick book of paper airplanes when I was about 12, not realizing it might be a gateway drug to more serious experiments with paper. When looking back through any hazy drug-related flashback, I don’t know if this memory was before or after I had started trying to force paper into animal forms. What I know is that paper doesn’t take kindly to being forced.

What I do remember is that I’d work at it intently for a few months, hit a road block made of crumbled wads of grotesque, malformed, animal-like lumps, and forget about it for a few years.

Usually, I’d return to it when I came across some really nifty paper, or one of my books, and I’d find that things that had been difficult years before, I could attempt with new eyes, and things looked marginally less lumpy.

I am not, in any way, a master of this art, and I keep the attempts that look like balled-up paper to myself. Perfected models I happily give as gifts.

There is a slight problem with this. The objects occasionally take on a whole new form when seen by people who are not me.

Grateful recipients of these carefully folded items will gush over the adorable frog I gave them (it was a butterfly), and I am entirely uncertain how to react. It seems churlish of me to correct their interpretation of the form, even though, for crying out loud, that’s clearly a butterfly. Frogs don’t usually have wings.

Usually, I just agree with them and go on with life, even when my mind is screaming “This is not a Rorschach test! It’s clearly a bird and not a horse. I have no idea how you came up with `horse,’ but can only assume it’s because you’ve never seen a horse.”

I take a deep, calming breath.

While I try and choose models that clearly evoke the shape of their inspiration, let’s face it, many are still somewhat on the vague side. I’m certain that some are complete failures, and the recipient is wondering if it’s really supposed to be anything at all.

I try to use papers with coloring to give further hints as to what I think it’s supposed to be (green means turtle, not bear), even though I’m sure a green bear is just as valid an interpretation as a turtle. They both have tails after all, and four limbs, and lying as a rug in someone’s den, I’m certain anyone could see the resemblance.

Deep cleansing breath.

In all art, there is room for interpretation, I know that. Certainly, there are a great many models which rely heavily on imagination to see the form intended by the designer. If I had seen a particular form without seeing the diagram name, I might also have seen something very different. Sometimes, butterflies are frogs.



  1. My eldest son loves origami too. He has a love/hate relationship depending on the level of difficulty of the current project and his success at conquering it (and making it perfectly). I love to see him work through his frustrations though – and ultimately experience success as he accomplishes each design. However, as his mommy … I have to say, there are times it is *very* difficult to tell what he has just created. I am quite certain you have put into words what he thinks as he patiently (and graciously) explains to me exactly what he created.

  2. I admit, there are models I’d have no clue about either. 🙂

    Like you say, it’s valuable to learn to work through those frustrations, or learn to walk away, and try it again later.

    Anyway, I am glad there are young’uns picking it up, and working through it. It helps sometimes, to have help on models as they get more challenging to have a second pair of eyes. If I can provide assistance in that area, holler… 🙂