I spotted a fun art piece by Ian Trask that consists of various-sized balls. He made them by wrapping different materials with colored yarn. That got me thinking of decorative spheres. I’m sure many of you may have seen them in stores or you might even have some in your homes. They could be made of rattan, artificial boxwood, jute, seashells, bamboo, artificial moss, teak wood, or even feathers. The variety is endless.
All those materials are great, and spheres are fine, but I thought I could take it a bit further by making modular origami. I really love this technique, because origami traditionally doesn’t use glue. There is a rich variety of different shapes you can make, and I encourage you to explore them all. I’m going to teach you how to construct a few shapes that will make great-looking decorative accessories for your home.
6 pieces of letter-sized paper Old phone books work great. I also love to use junk mail, bills, wrapping paper, and magazines.
glue It’s optional, but I suggest you use it. The origami will be easier to work with, and the finished piece will be more stable.
1 ruler, scissors, or X-Acto knife These are optional because you can just crease and tear your paper by hand.
How To make a Sonobe unit
Start by cutting out twelve paper squares. If this is your first time, I suggest making your squares 5″x5″. This will make a 4″ diameter ball.
Fold the square in half by bringing the bottom edge to the top edge. Now you have a rectangle.
Fold the rectangle in half by bringing the bottom edge towards the top edge. This makes a skinnier rectangle and divides your square into quarter sections.
Open up your folds.
Following your creases, fold the bottom and top edges inwards to meet in the middle.
Fold the left edge up to the top edge to create a point on the left side.
Fold the right edge down to the bottom edge to create another point on the right side.
Open all your folds again.
Following your crease, fold in the bottom right corner, and then fold in the top left corner.
Fold the bottom edge inwards to the middle.
Following your crease, fold the left edge to the top quarter section. You should have a large triangle and a small triangle forming a point on the left side.
Fold the top edge inwards to the center. You should have a pocket on the bottom right side.
Fold the top right corner down tucking it into the pocket. Now you have a diamond with a pocket on the bottom right and another pocket on the top left.
Fold the diamond in half by bringing the two points to the same side.
Fold the bottom edge to the right edge to make a triangle.
Turn the piece over, and fold the top edge to the left edge to make another triangle. That’s one Sonobe unit.
How To make a twelve unit octahedron
Make twelve Sonobe units.
Set one unit aside.
Take a second unit and sparingly apply glue to the underside of one point. Going forward, you will need to apply glue to the underside of each point before inserting.
Insert the point of a second unit into the pocket of the first unit. Check out the diagrams below for more details on (A) which is the correct pocket and (B) how to join two units together.
Take a third unit, and insert its point into the pocket of the second unit.
Take the point from the first unit and insert it into the pocket of the third unit. This forms a pyramid with three points sticking out from the base of the pyramid.
Take another unit, and insert its point into the pocket of any base point.
Take another unit, and insert its point into the pocket of the previous unit.
Take the base point, and insert it into the pocket of the last unit. This forms another pyramid.
Repeat steps 7-9 to create two more pyramids, one for each remaining base point. This creates a ring of pyramids surrounding the original pyramid.
There is a pair of points between each pyramid. Connect each pair together.
Flip the piece over. Notice a hollow ball has taken shape, and there are three points.
Connect a new Sonobe unit to each of these points to finish up this ring of pyramids. At this point, you have seven pyramids altogether and three loose points.
Connect the three loose points together to form the last and final pyramid.
A. Make sure you insert the point into the correct pocket
B. Join two Sonobe units by inserting the point of one into the pocket of the other
To make the balls a little more durable and give them some gloss, brush on two coats of shellac. Use amber shellac to impart a warm earthy tone.
Used fused plastic to make durable, waterproof accessories.
The creative folks over at Yellow Brick Home created octahedrons from scrapbook paper, catalog mailers, and Lucky magazines, paying close attention to the use of color and pattern. They hung them up for striking and festive birthday decorations.