Wednesday, 29 October 2014

LaFosse & Alexander's Origami Flowers. Kit review.

LaFosse & Alexander’s

Origami Flowers

Lifelike Paper Flowers to Brighten Up Your Life

By Michael G. LaFosse and Richard L. Alexander, Origamido, Inc.

Tuttle Publishing 2014

Kit: Paperback book, DVD, 180 folding papers

ISBN: 978-0-8048-4312-6

Star rating: ****1/2

Here’s another origami kit review during World Origami Days.

Origami lends itself to kits. This “box set” is comprised of a paperback book, plus an accompanying DVD, and 180 sheets of origami paper. There are instructions for making 18 different origami flowers of varying intricacy – so there’s something for all origami skill levels.

This package is nicely timed to coincide with the paper flower-making trend. Origami, of course, lends itself to paper flower-making, the blossoms being interpretive rather than realistic-looking (my strong preference). The flowers, the majority of which are designed by Michael G. LaFosse, origami guru (contributions by others are attributed), are of both one-piece and modular construction. Constructing the modular interlocking units is fascinating. 

Some of my favourites include: the Maple Leaf (LaFosse) – an autumnal beauty. The fancy folding even conjures up a suggestion of leaf veins impressive! Plumeria, with its gently curling petals, and the modular Star flowers, which are dramatic in either one colour or two. The showstopper project is A Rose for Irene, its 3-D centre offset by swirling petals (and an accompanying calyx). The intro-chat for each project is informative and friendly.

The DVD is a powerful learning tool when used in tandem with the book. Clock the fold diagrams in the book, then watch the DVD for the accompanying step-by-step video segment to clarify and fine-tune. The videos are no frills, but effective: grey background, hands folding paper, voice-over. It works. 

A highly commendable feature of the kit is that after you’ve folded your flower, you are not left high and dry. There are how-tos for the rest of the flower components – the calyx and leaves. And on the DVD, there’s a segment about flower and leaf assembly using florist’s tape, wires and glue (not included in the kit) – so you can rustle up a boutonnière – or a bouquet.

The book contains some good suggestions about alternative flower-making materials – recycled sweet wrappers or foil paper. The papers that come with the kit are pretty basic, regulation-issue origami papers – solid on one side reversing to white (sizes: 15cm (6in) and 7.5cm (3in). The papers a a  tiche disappointing, which is why the 4-1/2 stars rather than 5. 

Full marks for the content of the book and DVD. This box set is prime gift material. 

Note: I was supplied with a review copy of this kit.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Origami 365: a kit by Taro's Origami Studio. Review.

Origami 365

By Taro’s Origami Studio

(book by Taro Yaguchi and Masao Donohue)

Race Point Publishing 2014

Kit (paperback book + origami papers): £16.99 UK, $24.99 US, $27.99 CAN
ISBN 978-1-937994-52-5

Star rating: *****

To celebrate World Origami Days (24 Oct - 11 Nov), I’m featuring several origami books on the blog. Today’s title is an appealing kit (book + papers) which features a clever gimmick.

The book’s author, Taro Naguchi, is the founder of Taro's Origami Studio in Brooklyn, NYC (and another branch in Oakland, CA). Taro has brainstormed the Kyu System of origami learning in which the mastery of origami skills is tied to advancement through colour levels à la the martial arts belt system (the Japanese term, kyu refers to the system of achievement levels). The students in Taro’s studio get to wear colour-coded wrist bands – fun! (Colour levels in order of skill level: yellow, orange, blue, purple, brown, red).

The 80-page paperback book, by Taro Naguchi and Masao Donahue, is concise but well-written. The upfront material is info-packed and invitingly presented. There’s a concise history of origami, a bit on paper types, plus instructions for the basic folds.

The book contains how-tos for 12 origami models featuring key folds and base forms. The aim is to provide fundamental origami know-how. The models are well-chosen in that they offer variety of shape and method – 2-D, 3-D, modular, shaped. The models are: Samuri Helmut, Ninja Star, Heart Pendant, Butterfly, Pinwheel and Flying Disc, Crane, Twisted Rose, Chrysanthemum, Iris, Frog, Peacock, and Turtle. A good mix of projects with appeal for boys, girls, all ages. At the start of each project is a header key listing the colour-coded folds necessary for project completion – a handy ref so you can do a quick-study if necessary.

Now for the papers – they come in three sizes: 15cm (6in), 10cm (4in), and 5cm (2in). The smallest size is really teeny-tiny for folding – some people like a challenge. The papers have been specially designed to be used with the models in the book. Some of the papers have a pattern reversing to a solid, others have double-sided patterns. Patterns are both trad and modern. The papers have a slight sheen, like magazine pages, a pleasing effect. They are packaged in a re-useable clear plastic lidded box, which is handy. There are 356 sheets – one for each day of the year, hence the title.

So – full marks to this title for giftability. It is ideal for origami newbies, and would be appreciated by those with intermediate skills.

Note: I was supplied with a review copy of this title.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Gingerbread House Card Rack

I've been making my toast rack-style card racks for three seasons now - so I thought I'd ramp things up a little and try something different to the ususal domed shape (Toast Rack Card Racks 2014). I've tweaked the design of the rack to resemble a gingerbread house. 

The Gingerbread House Card Rack is made in pretty much the same way as my original design - make the slotted body first, then pop in the ends. The difference for this style being that you must crease some additional folds to create the house shape. Tip: score the fold lines in the toast rack body before cutting out the slots. And... when you do fold the rack, place a metal ruler along the scored line as you fold all the slots simultaneously. 

The eaves of the roof of the Gingerbread house project beyond the toast rack. There are two versions of the toast rack ends: basic gingerbread house and gingerbread house with its owner/occupier on the doorstep.

Here are your freebies:


For co-ordinating cards to go with the card rack, go here.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

3-D Ogee Ornaments

Issue 76 of PaperCrafter is out - featuring these ornaments I designed. The papers that come with the mag are always a treat.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Washi Tape Christmas, by Kami Bigler. Review.

Washi Tape Christmas

Easy Holiday Craft Ideas with Washi Tape

By Kami Bigler

David & Charles, 2014

Paperback, £9.99 UK, $14.99 US, $16.99 Can

ISBN 13-978-1-4463-0503-4

Star rating: ***1/2

The frost is on the pumpkin. Christmas crafting season is in full swing, so it's time for another festive makes book review. Today I am featuring a fun new paperback that rides in on the washi tape trend. Washi tape is beloved by papercrafters and here to stay. Washi Tape Christmas is a craft title that was begging to be written -  Kami Bigler has done an admirable job with the assignment. The book is colourful, jolly, inventive, and respectful of the qualities that make washi tape such a wonderful craft material. 

Washi tape being what it is, printed masking tape, its very nature decorative and self-adhesive – lends itself to quick-makes. Regarding the fun factor, the table of contents is a master class in alliteration, clock these chapters: Clever Cards, Darling Decorations, Opulent Ornaments, Table Treasures, Gorgeous Gifts, Wondrous Wrapping (see what they did there).

Washi tape looks its best when used in clusters of co-ordinated prints, with edges torn. Its semi-translucency is a major design plus, contributing an unmistakable character to washi makes. The projects in the book (I counted 31) show an appreciation of these qualities of washi tape.  Cue a spontaneous “look what I just whipped up” effect. 
In the Winter Wonderland card, for example, the torn edges of the washi tape are concealed by snowflake sequin shapes, but an irregular border and a kraft card blank retain the casual effect. 

The Happy Holiday Berries card,which features a fun wreath effect inventively created with notched ribbon tails of washi that poke outwards from a central circular cut-out. Other fun ideas include the Sweet Candyland garland, in which round beads are covered with washi tape to create a sweet wrapper effect. A simple stunner is the Natural Place Setting, in which a small fir branch is taped in place onto a dessert plate. For paper manipulation geeks, there’s Lovely Lollipops, in which the lolly shape is fashioned out of washi-covered punched paper circles that are arranged in an attractive 3-D spiral.

There are written step-by-steps for each project, with tips and photos aplenty. There’s a handy list of washi tape suppliers at the back, with UK as well as US contacts – so you can top up your hoard.

Many of these projects are ideal for crafting together with kids. To make things as simple as poss, there are photocopiable full-size templates back-of-book.  This title would make a delightful pre-Christmas surprise for a crafter you know with a washi stash. 

Note: I was supplied with a review copy of this title.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Christmas Crafts, by Catherine Woram. Review.

Christmas Crafts
35 projects for the home and for giving
By Catherine Woram
Cico Books 2014
Paperback, £12.99

Star rating: **1/2

The clocks go back this weekend – December’s fast approaching. Time to get crafting. Christmas Crafts is a sumptuously photographed, classily-styled collection of trad  festive decs and makes. It looks great. Flip through the pages and you’ll want to make a cup of hot choc and start a hobby session. Full marks for the art direction. Sorry to say, I was underwhelmed by many of the projects. There’s not much new here – and some of the projects are so simple that the presence of accompanying step-by-steps is a bit of a stretch. I guess the book is targeted at the time-poor person new to crafting. 

The book is divided into five chapters:  Decorations, Table Settings; Cards, Giftwrap & Labels, Edible Gifts, and For Children.  What’s here for the papercrafter? Découpage letterforms – mantelpiece graphics attractively covered in checks and polka dots. The effect is pleasing – similar to washi tape. The letterforms are purchased – so the project is a no-brainer – just gluing on paper strips. Strictly for  newbies. Paper pompoms – ginormous tissue paper fluffballs. These are sort of obvious, but nice in that the project bigs up the pompom trend and translates it into paper. There’s also a good tip about cutting the pompom tips into different shapes.  Silver box place holders – purchased boxes.  Not much of a project. Silver crackers, made from paper-covered cardboard rolls. The step-by-steps are helpful for those new to cracker-making (the crackers reappear in gold later in the book). It would have been fun to include instructions for making a tissue-paper cracker hat as a bonus. In the kiddie section, you’ll find paper snowflakes and paper chains. If you don’t know how to make these, you’ve missed childhood. The snowflakes do look attractive arranged in a wreath. The new spin to the paper chains is using decorative edgers and paper punches to cut the strips. Not papercraft, but in the kiddie section:  like the jam jar snow globes – a project that most kids would find engaging.

The Edible Gifts chapter is very inviting. Here you will find do-able ideas – choc truffles masquerading as Christmas puddings, Christmas cookie tree decs (suspended by grograin ribbon loops), mini Christmas cakes, and candied peel. 

A strong point of the book is that it effectively channels current trends – you’ll find lots of festive bling (glitz, crystals, pompoms); pompoms, jumbo typography; home sewing and embroidery. Although not for the experienced crafter, this title might be a good gift for a busy nest-builder seeking  easy-make ideas. 

Note:  I was provided with a review copy of this book.