Origami first enthralls Jason Lin at age 5, when his father folds a frog that hops.
Jason learns shapes from books written in Chinese, then in English. By middle school, he’s designing them.
He works alone.
“I made my own action figures out of candy wrappers,” Jason says. “Each one had its own super powers.”
For Saturday’s Picnic Day at UC Davis, he and fellow design major Lucian Novosel have collaborated on an origami model — a big one.
Last fall, after a sculptor’s talk, the two hit it off. Jason, a second-year student from Elk Grove, is double majoring in psychology. He imagines using origami to teach math and science.
Lucian, a third-year from Berkeley, has industrial design aspirations. He folded as a kid. He rediscovered paper’s wonders by using a laser cutter to make a cardboard mousetrap for class.
Over winter break, they kick around ideas. What if we made a jungle?
Swiss artist Sipho Mabona is raising money online to make a life-sized elephant — maybe Lucian and Jason can fold large animals, too.
It dawns on them: a horse! — like UCD’s mustang mascot.
Better yet: a whole herd!
With small squares, they fold horse models by masters David Brill and Roman Diaz, looking for ideas. Jason reverse-engineers the look of another, by Stephen Weiss.
Jason posts an “Origami Aggie” on YouTube. It’s 59 minutes, 57 seconds of his slim fingers folding, unfolding, creasing, crimping, pleating, tucking — with captions:
Perform a squashed rabbit ear on the leg.
Shapes appear and disappear like angular clouds. Only at about 30 minutes in — dozens of steps into the tutorial — does the horse’s head appear.
Lucian and Jason begin make bigger models from butcher paper. They share their progress with Davis Origami Group members.
For the full-sized horse, Lucian orders a roll of the paper that photographers use for backdrops. They slice it in half lengthwise, then glue the two pieces into an 18-foot square.
It fills a Cruess Hall classroom.
Trouble begins right away, when Jason mistakenly glues one edge to the concrete floor.
Even flipping the paper is precarious. Every step risks ripping.
They fold for two days.
Jason and Lucian carry the flat shape draped over a pole, like a pig on a spit, to Davis Makerspace. There, they’ll open up it up, really see it in 3-D.
But first, Jason and Lucian get stuck inside their own partly opened origami horse, trying to hold it up.
Great, now what?
Standing on their toes, they hoist the paper over a makeshift frame of stacked stools. It works.
They take turns slipping out while the other stays inside, holding up body and drooping head.
What each sees, is a horse.
One they’ve made together.
They name her Agnes and decide she’ll be one of a kind — it will take too much to make a herd.
Lucian and Jason display the horse at ArtAbout and, after bending a better frame from conduit, at the Farmers Market, too.
People stop, gawk, ask, How long did it take?
Agnes will be trotted out again, at Cruess Hall, for UCD’s open house.
“We want that sense of school spirit,” Lucian says, “and that mystery behind how you can construct a life, really, from paper.”
Their horse will be seen by thousands of visitors, each an Aggie for a day.
Jason and his friend Lucian will have their herd, after all.
— Reach Cory Golden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden