Norwich origami expert Russell Wood


He created Romulan warbirds, dinosaurs, the Eiffel Tower, skeletons, space rockets, dwarves, padlocks, the Starship Enterprise, lobsters, dragons, Yodas, galleons… the list goes on… all from simple sheets of paper.

IT risk manager, in his spare time, Russell Wood loves swapping one type of paperwork for another, creating beautiful structures using the ancient art of origami.

Russell Wood’s origami heron.
– Credit: Archant 2022

“Although I like to test myself with something technical, my favorite things to do are models that represent something or capture a feeling,” said Russell, who lives in Norwich.

“I prefer art to the mathematics of a model. I love origami that tells a story and makes you feel something.

The origami padlock, for example, was made for Russell’s wife, Anisa: the couple visited the love padlocks on the Pont Neuf in Paris, where couples seal their love with signed padlocks.

Now considered vandalism that causes metal fatigue, Russell created his own recyclable lock for Anisa, a symbol of love that wouldn’t raise eyebrows or sink bridges.

Some origami creations by Russell Wood.

Some origami creations by Russell Wood.
– Credit: Archant 2022

Since there has been paper, there has been paper folding and craftsmen who can create the most incredible structures out of simple sheets of paper,

Origami is the art of paper folding that has its roots in Japan, China and Europe.

Most of us have created origami without realizing it, says Russell: Paper airplanes and paper fortune tellers are both forms of crafts: Origami can be as simple as few folds or as complicated as the dragon of Satoshi Kamiya (the undisputed king of origami).

The Chinese Dragon Ryu Jin was made from a 2m square piece of paper that created an incredible beast just 30cm long, covered in scales created by folding and creasing.

“The word comes from the Japanese for folding, ‘ori’ and paper, ‘kami’,” says Russell, who has been fascinated with folding paper since he was eight years old.

“It’s a transformative art form: you start with one sheet of paper and when you’re done you still have one sheet of paper, but that’s completely different. It’s a kind of magic.”

The flapping bird origami which was the first origami that Russell Wood learned to make.

The flapping bird origami which was the first origami that Russell Wood learned to make.
– Credit: Archant 2022

Given a Rupert the Bear annual as a child, Russell was fascinated by a diagram that showed readers how to create a flying bird from paper (Rupert’s annuals often contained origami designs, from kangaroos to paper caps, from frogs to water lilies).

“I thought how much I would love to do it but it sounded too hard so I asked my dad and he created it for me and handed me this perfect little piece of magic “, did he declare.

It was too hard to resist the temptation to take apart the precious things we have to see how they work and Russell soon found himself holding…just a piece of paper.

“I was mortified. The magic was gone. I hid it under my bed,” he said.

His father, headmaster of the former Cookley and Walpole Primary School, brought home a copy of Origami 1: The Art of Paper Folding by Robert Harbin, and Russell was transfixed.

The flapping bird origami which was the first origami that Russell Wood learned to make.

The flapping bird origami which was the first origami that Russell Wood learned to make.
– Credit: Archant 2022

He did all the drawings in the book, made his own flapping bird, and fell in love with ancient art.

“People at school would ask me so many times to make frogs for them at school that I was sick of making them! You would push the back of the frog and it would jump,” he laughed. .

Russell joined the British Origami Society and saw the art grow and grow as people began to create increasingly elaborate designs, often using computers to trace their creations.

“One of the great debates is how far will you take the technique, where is the middle ground between technique and art? Personally, I favor art over technique, artists like Giang Dinh who uses thicker paper to suggest movement using the bare minimum in terms of technique,” ​​he said.

“His work is beautifully simple and he understands what paper can do, how it can make you feel. You have to hold the paper in your hands, let it rest in front of you and see where it takes you.

After school and college, where origami gave way to more standard hobbies for students, Russell returned to his hobby in his late twenties.

“I used to take the train from Suffolk to London for work and on the 2.5 hour return journey I made origami swans and rats,” he said.

“I would put them behind the small tray for people to find, I hoped they would smile.”

Russell is from across the border in Halesworth but moved to Norwich six years ago and now lives near Carrow Road Football Club with Anisa.

He even used origami in professional training sessions.

“Origami encourages you to slow down, reflect, be in the moment, and learn self-awareness, such as when to put the paper down and walk away,” says Russell.

When asked if he’s ever torn a drawing to shreds or furiously crumpled it, losing all the zen qualities of paper folding, he quickly replies, “Oh absolutely. One of my most successful creations is a paper snowball that I can direct to the recycling bin. »

Russell Wood with his book and some of the creations in the book and how to make them.

Russell Wood with his book and some of the creations in the book and how to make them.
– Credit: Archant 2022

Now, in addition to the more than 150 origami books Russell has on the shelves, he’s written his own, Origami Made Simple, which got a boost during lockdown as people sought out simple hobbies.

The book includes 40 buildable patterns that progress in difficulty with each chapter, starting at 10 steps or less and up to 25: 10 are Russell’s original designs.

Russell Wood with a box of his origami creations he has made over the years.

Russell Wood with a box of his origami creations he has made over the years.
– Credit: Archant 2022

Two more books are in the works, and Russell is also involved with origami societies and attends in-person and online events, and has his own YouTube channel, Origami Expressions.

At home, Russell exhibits very little origami, but some valuable models are in a box which, when filled, will be distributed to people before being replenished with new models.

Russell Wood's favorite origami called

Russell Wood’s favorite origami piece called The Last Waltz after designs by Neal Elias
– Credit: Archant 2022

“For me, most of the fun is in the making, but there are some pieces that are hard to part with,” he said, citing two Neal Elias creations, The Matador and The Last Waltz as favorites. .

“I love the drama and grace of these designs and it shows that you don’t have to be hugely complex to have a really big impact,” Russell said.

Origami is of course more than “just” folding: there are mountain and valley folds, inner and outer reverse folds, rabbit ear folds, squash folds, folds, crimps, petal folds, pivoting folds… and then there are the basics: kite, square, water bomb, bird, fish, frog…

Simple origami penguin creation by Russell Wood from his book.

Simple origami penguin creation by Russell Wood from his book.
– Credit: Archant 2022

“But as difficult as the designs are, they all start with a first fold,” Russell said, “and I’d like to think that a kid would pick up my book and, like me, fall in love with origami and want to know about it. more .”

Russell plans to visit Japan one day, to make a special pilgrimage. He tells me a story about the Japanese legend of senbazuru.

“He says anyone who folds 1,000 origami cranes will have a wish granted,” he explains. Delicate cranes are often given as a lucky charm to grant long life or healing and were popularized by Sadako Sasaki, a young Japanese girl.

Sadako was a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. She was only two years old when the bomb fell, destroying her family’s home, but she, her four-year-old brother Masahiro and her parents survived.

At the age of 12, Sadako was diagnosed with leukemia from radiation exposure and was hospitalized in February 1955 with just one year left to live.

Her father told her about the legend of the origami cranes and she began to fold her own, using whatever paper she could find.

She died on October 25, 1955 after having manufactured more than 1,000 cranes. A memorial was unveiled to her in 1958 in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park showing her with a golden crane.

“Cranes have become an international symbol of peace and one day I will visit Japan and the Peace Park and leave my own crane there,” Russell said.

“It goes back to origami making you feel something. I think when I leave this crane it will be incredibly emotional. A sheet of paper but she has such power. It’s a beautiful thing.

· Find lots more information, tutorials and patterns on Russell’s website,


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