What Can Inspire You to Design Origami -Interview with Tomoko Fuse

In the course I teach, The Joy of Origami, one of the topics we’ve discussed is how to find the inspiration to create origami.

A while back, I had the opportunity to chat with Ms. Tomoko Fuse, creator of an origami monkey presented on Origami Spirit. She is one of the origami creators I most admire and she has authored many delightful instructional books.

I interviewed Tomoko Fuse on camera, but unfortunately the microphone wasn’t working very well and our discussion was very hard to understand. Here is a transcription of some of the questions I asked Ms. Fuse and her kind responses. One of those questions had to do with what inspires her when creating origami.

Read on! I think you’ll find some inspiration too!

LT. How did you become interested in origami?

TF. When I was a child at some point I was ill and didn’t go to school. So my father bought me an origami book. It was a book by Yoshizawa. In my bed, all by myself, I folded everything. It was a big joy and I forgot about time. I just folded and that was my starting point.

LT. Before having that book, had you ever folded something?

TF. When I was young so many children were going to kindergarten that I couldn’t go. At school children were taught how to fold figures and they showed them to me, but I didn’t do anything.

LT. As origami enthusiasts many of us have learned from your well diagramed instructional books. How did you became interested in making origami books?

TF. When I got acquainted with unit origami, my origami work was started. Before then, I just folded simple models, but when I found unit origami it became big for me.

LT. When you design modular origami do you need to use math?
TF. I’m not a mathematician, I’m a normal Japanese person. I don’t use math. Origami in itself includes everything. I learn through origami.

LT. Please describe for us a typical day in your life. What does your daily routine look like?

TF. It is the same sequence. I start folding at about 8:30 am. After lunch, my husband and I take an hour-long walk. Then we go back home and I fold perhaps until 7pm.

LT. Do you do some cooking?
TF. My husband is a very good cook. I enjoy eating!

LT. What’s your major source of inspiration?
TF. Folding itself shows and teaches me. For example, today I want to fold a cube, so I start. Then something new begins to emerge and my focus goes in a different direction.

LT. So an earlier origami idea generates a new one…

Yes, my fingers, my paper, they show me, they teach me… I respond to what the paper teaches me.

LT. How has origami contributed to your life?
TF. Origami has shown me another world. It has shown me a beautiful and interesting world. It provides me with a very nice feeling. It feeds my sense of beauty. Origami is a way in which people of all generations, young and all, become friends.

28 thoughts on “What Can Inspire You to Design Origami -Interview with Tomoko Fuse”

  1. I like this interview with Tomoko Fuse .
    Could you please share with me the e-mail address of Tomoko Fuse?
    Yossi Nir

  2. I relate to so many things Tomoko Fuse says in this interview! I also started folding when I became ill (and to make boxes for my beadwork). She speaks of listening to what the paper has to teach her — I have always rather thought that folding is a conversation between me and the paper. Some times I have to talk to the paper rather long to get it to do what I’m asking it to do! Thanks for doing this interview.


  4. Dear Leyla,
    Thank you for sharing Tomoko Fuse with us. She is so special. I have most of her books.
    One summer I sat on the beach folding her boxes. I made jewelry from the triangle box: necklace and earrings with beads. At the New York convention, lunchtime, I went up to give her a set of these. She was so surprised, she gasped!

  5. Met her at OUSA years ago and took one of her classes. She is an effective educator and clear demonstrator of her work. I appreciate the clarity in her books.
    So she folds all day, every day and lets the work flow from her hands and mind !!!
    Impressive, amazing and inspiring.

  6. Hola, Leyla ! Felicitaciones por la nota! Es tierna. Semejan dos niñas con juguetes nuevos, me sumo somos tres! A mí, me inspira cualquier detalle, el color, la textura , el espesor, y mi manía de reciclar todo, y encontrar la belleza, la importancia o la utilidad de cualquier trozo de cualquier material, por humilde y simple que sea, para hacer algo y demostrar la belleza de lo simple, cuando aplicamos un poco de creatividad. Entonces no contamos las horas. Personalmente, me fastidio con las obligaciones diarias/ rutinarias /efímeras que atrapan nuestro tiempo. ¡Adelante y gracias!

  7. Hello Leyla
    I admire Tomoko Fuse. She is a lovely person. I was fortunate to have met her on two occasions when she visited India. She was our honoured guest at OPT 2006 and her enthusiasm is incredible. Enjoyed reading your interview with her. One interesting fact she mentioned was that she never folds in artificial light ie at night.
    I admire you too and have fond memories of my learning the sunflower from you when I was in Vermont in 2015.
    I hope to meet you when I visit next time (don’t know when that will be ! )
    Always enjoy your posts.
    Gita Kantawala

  8. Thank you Leyla for sharing the interview with Tomoko Fuse, I enjoyed very much reading it. I love to fold paper and create Origami models
    Origami is like magic . You always can be surprised from the final work and remember that you start doing it with square simple piece of paper.
    I love Origami.

  9. I met her twice in Ohio and New York. She is one of the nicest person I ever met. At the origami convenshion in Ohio I took all my Fuse books an ask her sign all of them probably 15 or 20 of them she was happy to do it.

  10. Thanks for sharing the interview. I am surprised by how many hours a day she folds. How many hours a day do you fold?

    • Yes, it is very telling what she shares about hours a day devoted to origami. All great art needs a lot of dedication. That’s something seldom mentioned. For myself, at different times I have devoted many hours a day to do origami. But it all depends. I have other creative interests as well ;-)
      I believe that if you are interested and motivated your heart will tell you how much time to devote to your practice.

  11. Thank you for sharing this interview with us, Layla! Reading it made me smile! I admire both of you for your passion to share what brings joy to so many!

    • Hi Cathy,
      I’m very happy you enjoyed this article. Ms. Fuse has been such a great teacher and influence to so many of us who love origami. I found her so candid and charming. It was a pleasure talking to her!
      Best to you!

  12. Hello Leyla,
    Just a quick note to tell you how much I have enjoyed your online tutorials. Your patience and thoroughness are much appreciated. I’ve been folding for decades and though I no longer create my own designs I do still maintain and add to a large collection of origami books (over 1700). My job keeps me exceptionally busy and my way of relaxation when i return home after a long day is to sit with an origami book and just look at the pictures. I don’t always fold but just take the time to admire the works of other creative folders. I find this most inspiring.
    With thanks, David


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