In between the folds

Published On: May 24, 2019 11:58 AM NPT By: Rakshya Khadka

In what he considers to be one of his finest moments, Saugat Rajbhandari handed over a two and half feet long 3D origami model of former Miss Nepal Shrinkhala Khatiwada that he had made to the lady herself. The model was completed in less than two months and took 8500 paper triangles to make. For two months, Saugat folded pieces of paper everyday for five to six hours. “It was my way of thanking her for representing Nepal with such grace on an international platform,” he says.

An MBA graduate, Saugat works the account in his father’s courier service firm from 10 am to 5 pm. But come evening, he does what he loves doing the most – building origami models. So far he has built 3D origami swans, peacocks, a complete set of angry birds, Pikachu, Winnie the Pooh, elephants, and dragons.

And this he did simply by following tutorials. He has worked on his own designs over the years as well: Dharahara, Eiffel Tower, human figurines of Deepika Padukone (as Shantipriya and Padmavati) and, recently, Shrinkhala Khatiwada. All of these models each take months to make and require hours of folding thousands of pieces of papers every day.

Saugat confesses that he was often left without an answer when someone asked him what he did as a hobby. Unlike most kids he couldn’t say he played football and neither did he watch a lot of TV to show off his knowledge about movies. He attests to never being athletic or artistically driven. He was an introvert and kept mostly to himself. And he never needed a hobby either. He found it rather bizarre when people said they danced or painted, the idea of doing either never struck him. But at the age of 19 he decided that he would find himself a hobby. 

That is when he stumbled upon a tutorial of a 3D swan origami. 3D origami is different than traditional origami. Traditional origami uses just the one sheet of paper and folds onto itself to make simple imitations of everyday things. 3D origami is much more complex. It uses thousand of sheets of paper folded into triangular units and these are glued together one piece at a time to make a pattern that eventually leads to a design.

“I thought 3D models were beautiful. I suddenly felt an urge to make them so I did,” he says. In the beginning, the folds of his paper triangles were clumsy and wrongly proportioned. He needed thousands of triangles so it did seem like an impossible dream when starting out and he also found it difficult to stay put at a certain place for long. “With the 3D models you don’t see the final product right from the beginning. A lot of work goes into making the paper triangles. It got really frustrating in the beginning,” he admits.

When folding papers got tiring, he tried doodling and sketching. Although they were fun, they weren’t quite like building an origami model. Not, as he puts it, as “emotionally satisfying”. Eventually, he didn’t mind folding thousands of papers and he didn’t even mind spending a third of his day doing so. He was finally doing something he enjoyed and it did not feel like a burden. “I could fold and shape sheets of paper to my will and create these fantastic models. Origami models are big and substantial. They take a lot of time and effort,” he says.

His first model, a swan, took him a week to finish and required 1600 paper triangles. Gradually he moved on go larger size models – they took longer to make and required more triangles. To get his hands acquainted to the task, he made two small sized models every month. Saugat started with plain sheets of A4 sized papers and later moved on to colored papers. Colored ones were a little too complicated to work with because they required exact placements. 

Depending on the size, his models may take a week or a month to complete. Entirely self-taught, learning diagrams and watching tutorials over the years have been of great help. It’s been seven years since Saugat started building his models and he says he still has the same zeal as when he started out. He spends his weekends folding paper and also works into late hours after dinner every day.

But he is making his own designs these days so they take more planning and calculating. First he goes through some picture references and sees if the colors are available in paper or not. Often he has to substitute the colors. He then decides on the height of the model then estimates the width of the base to support the height. Then he estimates the number of triangles he needs to make the model and the folding begins.

From one A4 sheet he makes 32 paper rectangles (5.2cm by 3.5cm) which are further folded to make paper triangles with pockets. Once the triangles have been made, he inserts them into the pockets. Assembling and detailing take about a week or two.
Saugat shares that he would love to host a workshop on 3D origami in the future. “Personally 3D origami has helped me grow and gain confidence. To build something that special is something else entirely and I’d love to share what I know with others,” he concludes.


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