OWM3: The Third Origami World Marathon


I sat hunched at my computer on zoom all this weekend, focusing intently on the screen for long stretches with few breaks, and it was so much fun. Because also strewn across my dining room table was a  bin of thousands of colorful papers in squares of different sizes, a chopstick and two bamboo skewers, “bone” folders, scissors* and a rotary cutter… I was participating in OWM3.


Origami World Marathon was another Covid 19 quarantine invention. When in-person conferences could not happen, intrepid origami folders organized an international conference via zoom and called it OWM1. This year, OWM3, was a marathon of 48 continuous hours starting Friday night and ending Sunday night (my time zone) and had 48 teachers who each taught a new and unpublished model they had designed. The creator/teachers came from 23 countries over the globe, and the conference program listed times in Greenwich Meridian Time and military designation. So that meant that for MY chance to learn Piria’s Owl from the legendary Roman Diaz at 20:00, I had to subtract 4 (16) and think back to 12:00, clicking the zoom button in the program at 4:00 PM on Sunday.


The latest I stayed up was midnight and the earliest I joined my computer to fold was 7:00, but I realized from the WhatsApp chat later that there were a few souls (I’m looking at you, Liam) who took the idea of a marathon to heart and folded 48 continuous hours!


The stated goals are to show solidarity, to put artists from different countries together, and to promote origami on a global scale. For me, a mostly self-taught folder, it is a chance to “meet” some of my heroes- those whose art I had admired, books I had bought, and to be pulled along by them into folds and techniques I had never tried before, and probably would never ‘get’ from diagrams in a book, if they were even ever published in the future.


I prepared. I went through the online program and noted the sessions I was determined to attend and those I might try. I was looking for my ‘zone of proximal development’- where I could be stretched but still have fun and – for the most part- have success. I knew that trying a **** would result in a wad, or a snowball, as one participant humbly admitted they had ended up with.  I chose *, **, and a few *** in the hopes of finishing with a window-sill of colorful successes. I ended up with that, plus a quite colorful trash bin and some piles of folded pieces that needed me to watch the videos later. (Videos were posted after the lessons so you have some chance of trying again, and so you could still learn models that were taught while you slept.) Because it is so easy, as a folder far more advanced than I am admitted that he “looked down at the wrong moment and got lost.”


It is a time to stretch, as many folders realized. I couldn’t believe I made the Asiatic lily and the beautiful little owl, and also couldn’t believe I failed at my Juniperus Star (back to the video, probably in slo mo!) Someone shared how their “Lonely Old Man” actually turned out as a laughing old man, and another labeled their cute pig model as “piggy after he’s been hit by a car.”


Lenora assures us you can succeed and there is “a scientific method:

  1. You pray to Yoshizawa’s Spirit asking for support
  2. You address the artist by their first name
  3. As a last resource, you address their family’s members with respectful words
  4. You eventually address the wall with swear words in your native language (the gods of Origami knows them all)
  5. You pray Joisel’s spirit. With him, you can be a little ironic, he’ll get it.

Good luck.”

The lines between organizers, teachers, and participants were totally fluid. Teachers were also learners, and organizers teachers. Fellowship and solidarity rang out in the chats, with moments such as these:


“Hi Chantal! Nice to see you” (Lorenzo, we met inParis )”


“So cute Penguin!”




“Best thing to wake up at 5 am for”


“Big fun. But sleep sounds delicious right now.”


“… I had to try. I fear the video” (squint eye laughing emoji)


“It’s a challenge and I need more courage and patience to fold his models “(referring to Shuki, who taught the most difficult model, an Apatosaurus*****, right at the end. The lesson was over two hours long.)


I agree with the commenters saying “It was great folding together!” and “Thank you to everybody, this weekend was extraordinary mega supercalifragilistic!” I’ll be working from the videos when I have ‘courage and patience’ and maybe I’ll try some **** next year at OWM4!


*Did you flinch at the mention of scissors? Then you must be an origami folder, too. I needed scissors to cut papers into pentagons and hexagons for flower models. And one teacher used them for an Arrow Lattice model he designed, causing a learner to wryly post: “I am really not feeling well right now” at the moment of making the cuts!

A few of my successes. What you don’t see is my trash or my wrinkly or unfinished pieces… Credit to the designers: Rhonda Star by Maria Sinayskaya, Morning Glory by Yara Yagi, Asiatic Lily by Peter Buchan-Symons, Tatjana by Carmen Sprung, Owl by Roman Díaz, and Locking Paper Bag by Gerardo Gacharna Ramirez.

6 thoughts on “OWM3: The Third Origami World Marathon

  1. Wow! I am impressed. This is something that always fascinated me, but I never had the patience to learn. I did, however, make origami stars with my students for the holidays. Thanks for sharing your work.


  2. Intrepid! Thanks for this invitation to join an exclusive club! I am a crane folder. It’s like my chopsticks routine on the piano. One of the only remnants of hours of childhood engagement. I appreciate this vicarious return to this art form.


  3. I remember you hosting the Origami Club and I love the thank you note decorated with origami and now you allowed me a glimpse into your fun weekend. Your photo at the end was a treat. That owl is so cool!! What a fun Covid-created experience.


  4. WOW! The owl is brilliant! What I loved is the wit and “can-do” attitude among the participants, all joined by their common love of creating. The tongue-in-cheek “scientific method” made me chuckle (I think it could work across disciplines!), and the reference to Vygotsky’s “proximal development.” What an experience—and another pandemic silver-lined cloud.


  5. This post was an absolute delight — and very inspiring! And oh — that paralyzing moment when one fears making a “fatal” mistake! Thank you so much for sharing this! I especially love the owl.


  6. Oh, Fran, I’m so glad I came back to read your post this week. I have never thought of the possibility of such an event. I love the fluidity between leaders, teachers, and learners. (It’s my philosophy of education right there–all are teachers, all are learners.) I couldn’t wait until the end of your piece, hoping there would be photos, and I wasn’t disappointed. Well done! And I can only image the many pieces of paper one might have to go through to have success on some of those folds. Great post!


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