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An Interview with Meenakshi Mukerji, Master of Modular Origami

In addition to her well-known modular origami pieces, Meenakshi Mukerji is now designing single-sheet origami figures. One of her most recent creations is the Kusumita, a geometric flower. This model has served as a base for numerous variations, including three of the suit symbols in a set of traditional playing cards.

Meenakshi has kindly given me permission to demonstrate the folding of the simple version of her Ace of Diamonds -shown in the video above. On the Origami USA you can find  Diagrams for the simple Ace of Diamond (for OrigamiUSA members, at the moment, but soon to be available to all -stay tuned!)

I asked Meenakshi recently about her background, her passion for origami,  her books on modular origami, and the recent developments in her work.

• Do you remember the first time you folded an origami figure?

meenakshi-mukerji

Meenakshi Mukerji

To talk of the very first time I folded a piece of origami, I have this distant but clear memory of a dear aunt teaching me how to fold a traditional paper boat with used exercise book papers.  I must have been in Kindergarten at that time.

• Was there a particular moment when you realized that origami was something you wanted to commit to? Would you elaborate?

There was no particular moment.  I seemed to be drawn deeper and deeper into origami after discovering its modular form around 1995.  I found it very intriguing. The colorful origami renditions of various polyhedra-based designs were calling my name, and I had to make some and eventually design my own.

• Besides origami what other interests do you have?

I pretty much enjoy any creative art form.  I have done painting, sewing, knitting, crocheting, tatting, photography, table tennis –you name it, and enjoyed all of them!

• What is it about the field of origami that excites you right now?

I have designed modular origami for a long time, but right now I seem to be drawn more towards single sheet designs, especially those with color change.  My designs continue to be geometric and abstract in nature, however, rather than being organic or realistic.

• You studied electrical engineering and have a master’s degree in computer science. How has your academic work influenced your creative origami design work?

That is a difficult question to answer.  While there is no direct link I think applying problem solving skills is relevant to both engineering and origami design.  Also, I think my engineering background helps me in diagramming the models I design.  Designing an origami model is one thing, but conveying how to fold by developing a smooth flowing and efficient algorithm is quite another skill altogether. My engineering background certainly helps.  It is no coincidence that we see so many engineers and scientists in the field compared to other art forms.

• What origami artists have inspired you?

There are many and I am sure I will miss some names while trying to list them.  Tomoko Fuse, Miyuki Kawamura, Robert Lang, David Petty, Shuzo Fujimoto, Román Díaz are only some names, not in any particular order.

• You are the author of four great books on modular origami: Marvelous Modular Origami (2007); Ornamental Origami (2008); Origami Inspirations (2010); Exquisite Modular Origami (2011). How has the publication of your books affected your work as a designer and origami practitioner?

Thanks for thinking that they are great!  Publishing the books has helped me gain more confidence in designing as well as publishing.  With each book out there, and it’s warm reception, I have felt more and more confident as a designer and origami author.

origami-kusumita

Kusumita by Meenakshi Mukerji

• In contrast with most of your work, which focuses on modular origami, your recent pieces are made with a single piece of paper. How did these designs evolve?

Recently while folding from John Montroll’s Galaxy of Origami Stars I got more interested in single sheet designs although I had folded quite a few prior to that and enjoyed. The 4-Sink Base (a windmill base with all four corners sunk) has fascinated me for a long time.

While playing with it I also noticed it’s similarity with the Shuzo Fujimoto Hydrangea collapse.  Every time I toyed with the base I came up with new designs.  It is also what triggered my Kusumita design and its numerous variations and derivatives – the leaves, the butterflies and the playing card symbols.  The original Kusumita had no color change but I found an interesting way to alter the base to achieve it, which I found very satisfying.

• Do you have any particular tips to share with those who aspire to design their own origami figures?

When folding anything by following diagrams, instead of adhering rigidly to the instructions, try to think of other potentials if something was folded differently.  That may sometimes lead to new designs as well as stimulate the process of creating entirely new designs of one’s own.

• What future plans do you have for your work? Are there any particular projects that you’re looking forward to?

I now have enough designs to write my first book on single-sheet models.  The positive response to my OUSA downloads of single-sheet designs has given me the confidence to go forward with it.  I also plan to compile a book with the best of my modular origami work afterwards.  I am going to filter my work through some strict criteria such as stability of the assembly, beauty of the finished model, ease of obtaining the starting rectangle proportions (if from a rectangle) etc., to compile a “best of” list.

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • SNJ June 3, 2013, 9:06 am

    Thanks for this ace interview, Leyla. I greatly admire Meenakshi’s work!

  • Meenakshi Mukerji June 1, 2013, 8:13 pm

    Thanks Leyla! Your video is awesome!

  • Rosemary June 1, 2013, 5:26 pm

    Wonderful interview with Meenakshi, Leyla. She is an inspiration to us all and her work is staggeringly-beautiful. I have followed her work for years and love her books as well as her diagrams now found on OUSA’s, The Source.

    Origami :our art ,continues to astound and inspire us all through your efforts, Leyla and creators such as Meenakshi,

    Thank you, Leyla.

    Rosemary

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