The community helped encourage Earigami businesses

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Origami comes from the Japanese words “ori”, which means folding, and “kami”, which means paper. When folding and tucking in, the goal is to turn a square piece of paper into a sculpture.

Brent Walden has made this goal his livelihood.

Earigami, Walden’s earring company from tiny paper designs, has been at the Lafayette Farmer’s Market for two years. But her journey to self-employment took years and the encouragement of the Lafayette community.

“I want to be the driving factor”

Almost a decade ago, Walden began a “Self Improvement Month”. Trying out new hobbies – like whistling with his fingers, skateboarding, and origami – he wanted to venture into uncharted territory and expand his world.

But that was in 2011 and YouTube videos are not where they are today. The tutorials Walden watched didn’t have a voiceover, he just had to watch and replay the same video of a crane being made until he found out.

“Dozens of crumpled pieces of paper strewn around my room later, I was like ‘I got it!’

He was addicted. Being able to transform a two-dimensional piece of paper into a three-dimensional work of art instilled a sense of wonder and pride.

Brent Walden shows off a pair of earrings at his Earigami booth on Saturday March 13, 2021.

Making this connection between creating origami as a hobby and where it is your business hasn’t happened in years.

Three years ago, Walden started working as a letter carrier during the Christmas rush. It was then that he realized that even though he was making a lot of money, he preferred to have a job that he was passionate about.

“I have to do something that I am responsible for,” he said. “I want to be the determining factor in stepping in that direction.”

At the time, he was creating origami as a side job. But the new awareness pushed him “to the brink” and to make Erigami his full-time job.

Earigami started in 2015 after a friend asked Walden to turn his paper figurines into earrings. After many people asked her friend where she got her origami earrings, Walden decided to get into jewelry making.

“It was sort of my first trip to this world where I am now,” he said.

Customers gather around Brent Walden's Earigami booth on Saturday March 13, 2021.

Over the next six years, Walden moved to Lafayette from Baton Rouge and began selling Earigami coins in local markets. At the end of 2018, after living in Lafayette for almost a year, he felt like he had a community that would support his project to become independent.

“There is more warmth, more richness, more depth of community here… that’s also kind of what pushed me to make a career out of it,” he said. “They have such nice people who give great feedback on my work and I love it.”

Earigami process from start to finish

Walden orders his newspaper in Japan. Japanese paper, known as Chiyogami, features decorative hand-screened designs. Chiyogami’s heaviness falls somewhere between newspaper and cardstock.

The first step in making origami is one of the most important – cutting straight lines. One piece of advice given by Walden was to always cut the paper, never to tear it. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, and knowing that the frayed lines of torn paper don’t look so good in origami, Walden hand-cuts all of his paper with a utility knife.

Earigami, a Lafayette-based origami jewelry company, was started by Brent Walden after years of hosting popups in local markets.  He continues to push his abilities by creating smaller pieces of origami.

Most of his designs are compact, no bigger than a matchbox. The tweezers help it create defined points and crisp folds.

Once his sculptures are finished, he soaks them in a sealer for a few seconds, just long enough to saturate the paper. The final step is to place the designs in a box which heats and dries the sealant, making the origami water resistant and sturdy.

Swans have become bonsai trees

Over the years, origami has continued to bring him this sense of wonder, patience, and accomplishment through more difficult and smaller challenges. He tried his hand at origami with silver precious metal clay. This product starts out as a malleable leather-like material which, when placed in an oven, dries to fine silver.

For his 30th birthday, he wanted to make a bonsai with his swans. But they should be even smaller than the previous origami and in larger quantities. He had been making origami jewelry for almost two years as a full-time job and felt like he had more to learn.

Bonsai was his way of pushing his limits and rediscovering that perseverance he felt at the beginning.

Much like the first swan he ever made, he worked on this idea until it finally kicked in.

Earigami, a Lafayette-based origami jewelry company, was started by Brent Walden after years of hosting popups in local markets.  In the past two years, he has started a new bonsai creation business.  His first attempt had 33 origami swans on its branches.

After months of trial and error, at midnight the day before his birthday he was hand gluing the last of 33 swans, no bigger than a finger, to a stick with tweeters.

“I look back and laugh because of all the growth I’ve had,” he said.

His next bonsai tree had 400 cranes on its branches. His most recent achievement, and one of his greatest achievements, has 500 cranes glued by hand to branches of wire that he himself has woven and twisted.

Both are in galleries, the first at Sans Souci Fine Crafts Gallery in downtown Lafayette and the second at The GUILD in Canal Place in New Orleans.

Earigami, a Lafayette-based origami jewelry company, was started by Brent Walden after years of hosting popups in local markets.  In the past two years, he has started a new bonsai creation business.  His most recent piece had 500 origami swans on its branches.

While he doesn’t expect Earigami to be his full-time job indefinitely, he still has origami goals that he wants to accomplish before moving on.

Her next project consists of two more bonsai trees: one inspired by cherry blossoms made with origami pink swans. And another for his elementary school in Saint Francisville. The tree will have blue and white swans, a nod to the school colors. Both will have 500 swans on each.

Bonsai trees were a turning point in Walden’s work. He realized that he was combining three important things from his childhood to his present life: intricate art, trees and origami.

“It was like I was looking for something, ‘What am I going to do with that expression for myself?’ It clicked. I was like, “Oh my god, this is part of me growing up loving trees. This is part of my detailed work. It’s part of my job now. “All of these fundamentals of my growth and me having these three fundamentals of artistic expression combined into one.”

Contact Victoria Dodge at [email protected] or on Twitter @Victoria_Dodge


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