That's Lancashire TV Appearance

At the studio with Noemi De Luca
In March 2016 I was invited to sit on the famous blue sofa in the studio of Talk Lancashire, a local television service broadcasting to 1.1m viewers in the county of Lancashire, my home turf.

It was great to meet Noemi De Luca in the flesh after seeing her only on the small screen. Her bubbly nature brings an exciting uplift to the programme and, before going on air, she sat me down on the sofa and we chatted for a while to get me comfortable and used to surroundings of the studio.

Andrew, the technical guy was busy setting up the additional video footage and clips and when Holly, the controller, told us everything was ready to roll we started our on air chat.
Noemi had certainly done her research on me as she covered many aspects of my work and asked me how I came to be a professional paper folder.
The thirty minutes on air flew by and I was soon on my way to my next venue with my head still in the clouds. The full programme is available on line and both parts are available to watch in the links below.

  Part 1

Part 2

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Are You The Speaker?

The reception I receive at some of the venues I visit can be varied. Sometimes, if the speaker secretary is not present there can be no one to greet you and tell you what the procedure is for the session. On occasions when this happens and no one else approaches you have to seek out someone who looks official to ask what the usual structure is and to inform them of your requirements. Usually someone is helpful and can assist you but sometimes you have to fly by the seat of your trousers.

On one occasion I attended a meeting in a very posh hotel suite at a nearby seaside resort (the location of which shall remain nameless) and just such a thing happened. I entered the room with my trolley to see around a dozen people already there. I asked if anyone was Mrs 'Speakers Secretary' and was told she was ill and would not be coming. Usually the conversation will continue with “But Mrs 'Stand In' will see to you” however this time the conversation stopped dead as this smart but slightly ignorant (my own quick assumption) lady turned back to her colleagues to continue with what was to her a very important conversation. I asked if the table at the top was for me. “No,” she snapped, just turning her head toward me this time “That's where Mrs President sits - and she's not here yet.” She paused, then, with a little grunt as if to say she knew she should say something more to appease me but didn't know what, continued with “The speaker goes on the stage”. She turned back to her conversation, feeling satisfied that she has brought our brief communication to a satisfactory conclusion. I wanted to tell her that I do not usually work from a stage as I tend to run around the audience during the fold-along but I felt, from her body language, I would be wasting my time. There was to be an audience of around seventy people that day so felt confident someone would approach with instructions. Well, I was wrong. As more and more people arrived I enquired if anyone was Mrs President but “She's not here yet” was the usual reply.

Time was getting on and I had not even started setting out my display yet and, from what I could determine, there was only ten minutes or so to go before the start of the meeting. Most sessions such as these start off with the usual notices and business first which would at least give me time to get sorted but, sometimes I am 'on' first so this set up time cannot always be guaranteed. No one had yet occupied the president's table to ask. No one had come forward to greet me. There was no obvious table for me to display my work on and, as the clock was ticking, it was time to act. I looked around for someone that seemed important and my eyes settled on a newly arrived balding grey haired portly gentlemen sporting a handlebar moustache. He was smartly dressed in a suit complete with waistcoat, pocket watch and chain. For clarity I will refer to him as Mr 'Pocket Watch'. “Excuse me” I boldly sounded as I approached him “I was just...”, “Ah yes...” he interjected “...You must be the speaker.”, “Yes, I was wondering...” “Ah, jolly good, jolly good, should be marvellous eh” he continued as he shook my hand. I returned with “I...” but his focus was back to his chums and was deep in conversation again. He was about to deliver the punchline to an awful joke. I had heard this joke several times before and thought to myself, no one will laugh. They laughed!

I was getting nowhere fast and the clock was ticking. Mrs President's table was still empty. The only information I had to go on was that “The speaker goes on the stage” as relayed to me beforehand by Mrs Indignant. I needed to do something to ensure I was ready should I be summoned first. I was starting to think I was superfluous to the agenda and would probably not be missed if I turned my trolley round and left but I have a reputation to keep so had to start thinking quick. I decided I should be safe using the front edge of the stage to set out my display as that was previously confirmed as the domain of the speaker. My props and material boxes could stay on the trolley so I could wheel it to wherever was needed at a moments notice. I moved it to the front in close proximity to the still empty Mrs President's table half expecting Mrs Indignant to come and tell me that I cannot possibly park there. I slid open the front of the models box and started to set up my display.

Most times, as models start appearing from their boxes, people come over and take a closer look, start cooing and wowing and asking questions. I thought as soon as the models go up on the stage someone will come and talk to me and I can find out what the score is. No one did! Never mind I thought, I can always go for a walk on the beach afterwards to save wasting the day totally. I completed setting up, wandered off and sat on a chair near the corner of the stage.

As the clock clicked its way towards 2.30 the room was quite full and humming with peoples various conversations. Mr Pocket Watch looked up at the clock on the wall, checked his own pocket watch on his chain and while replacing it back into its own purpose made waistcoat pocket, he and Mrs Indignant both made their way over to Mrs President's table. They both sat down. Mr Pocket Watch smacked the gavel three times on the table shouting “I say everyone, let's make a start shall we eh”. What I thought!!! HE was MR President. And Mrs Indignant was second in command! He stood up and continued “I want to introduce eh...”, pausing he looked in my direction and I could read by the look on his face that he had no idea who I was. I turned toward him and raised my hand surreptitiously pointing to my name on the breast of my shirt”...Mr Stephen Watson Origami...” he continued without even trying to conceal the fact that he was reading from my shirt. He faced the audience again “...and I am sure he is going to amaze us all with his wonderful tricks”. Oh boy.

I moved forward and smiled. As the applause died away I thought to myself, this is going to be one of those automatic talks. An Automatic talk is where you deliver your presentation and do not get any feedback from the audience, not even a snigger at the carefully implanted jokes, slipped in to instil a little humour into the proceedings. You just have to switch into automatic mode. It does however make it very difficult to determine how the presentation is being received. On the very rare occasions, when I get an audience without any feedback, I do not let it phase me. I do give a good and entertaining talk if I say so myself and if the audience does not appreciate it, I just resign myself to the fact that I have done my best and not to take it to heart. They do not need to book me again. It happens very rarely but it does happen sometimes and it felt like this could be one of those 'sometimes'.

That walk on the beach sounds a good idea I thought to my self as I heard my voice cut into the remaining few claps. I made my start. “My name is Stephen Watson, and it is official, I AM an origami nerd”. This is the opening line I always use and I deliver it in the same manner as a drinker would as he introduces himself at the weekly Alcoholic Anonymous meeting. It is like the starter motor on a car, an opening line to get you moving when you are undertaking a journey and not knowing how rough the road will be. Once you start you are on your way and this line gets me mentally focused on the task ahead. After the word 'nerd' I pause for a split second and smile as I draw breath to continue. What happens in this brief pause will tell me just how tough it is going to be. It is my first opportunity to gather initial feed back. I got nothing, not even a grin. “Can everyone hear me OK?”. Nothing. “If you can't hear at the back give me a wave and I will” pausing with a hint of a little wave and awkward smile “Wave back”. Nothing. As I started my third line “I am a member of the British Origami Society and ...”. I am already thinking 'oh well auto mode on' but before I get to the end of this third sentence I heard giggles. I need not have worried, it just took a little time for it to sink in that I was trying to be funny. Perhaps it was going to be alright after all.

Forty five minutes later I could safely say the talk was a hit and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. During the folding session I picked on a few to generate laughs and this technique worked a treat. The session finished with a long and rowdy applause and the display was swamped with people wanting to find the models that 'did something' that I hinted at in the talk. Obviously and to my relief the majority of those attending were not of the same disposition as Mr Pocket Watch and Mrs Indignant. Indeed I had erroneously assumed the worst as I had mistakenly painted everyone with the same attitude.

Mr Pocket Watch gave a thank you speech and presented me with the cheque and as everyone clapped again he said to me “I say, spot on there boy, spot on eh”. I acknowledged everyone again with a hand gesture and a mouthed 'thank you' conscious that I needed to get my gear quickly packed up. I have the packing away sequence off to a fine art and find it delaying when people offer to help so I was glad to be left to my own devices. The hum of the room got quieter as people started to leave and when I turned round to go there was no one left. Even Mr Pocket Watch was gone! The only movement in the room was a member of staff who was making his way round the tables throwing the circular table cloths into a woven wheeled basket. “Wow” I said to him “Everyone dissipated fast”. “They always do” he replied without flinching from his autonomous movements. “You only get three hours parking on the sea front and that traffic warden is a little bloody Hitler. He'll be out there now, waiting to pounce on em”. He stopped in mid motion, looked up at me, “Your not parked on the front are ya?”. “No”, I said, “I was here early and got a spot in the hotel car park”. With a 'that's OK then grunt' he resumed his mechanical motions of table cloths into basket without another word.

All in all it turned out to be a success. Mrs Speakers Secretary called me that evening to apologise for not being able to be there to meet me in person and informed me that everyone had thoroughly enjoyed it and would I come back next year?

As for Mrs Indignant, well I did get some revenge. When preparing for the fold-along segment of the presentation I usually hand out the paper and the creasing sticks myself, bantering humorous lines as I weave between the tables, mingling with the audience as I seek out potential people I can safely pick on as we fold. Those with an open and smiling disposition do not object to and often enjoy the humorous jibes I throw in their direction during the hands on session. Their colleagues enjoy it even more as they see their friend being made the butt of a joke or two. I had estimated that there were over eighty people present so, after making my way round with the paper, I offered Mrs Indignant an awkward amount of creasing sticks which she automatically grasped with both hands before realising it “Be a darling and distribute these down this side of the room for me would you”. The shocked look on her face was a picture. I smiled at her and with a wink of an eye quickly turned away to hide a cheeky grin which I just could not conceal. As I was no longer in range for her to object she had to comply. I had already started distributing sticks down the opposite side of the room so ther was nothing she could do about it.

The sand was still very soft and wet as the tide had only just started to recede but that cool half hour walk along the beach before heading home was so refreshing after the heat of the hotels function room. I kicked the sand from my shoes the best I could before getting into my car knowing I would be trying to vacuum that said same sand out of the footwell carpet for weeks to come.

Jess, The Plane Killer!

Alison, a recent visitor to the Art of Origami website, sent in a picture of her dog Jess. Butter would not melt in the mouth but the swallow tail plane Alison folded did not last long when Jess decided to play with it!

Jess with the incriminating evidence!

She was trying to recall how to fold the plane when she spotted the video instructions for a plane very similar on the website.  This brought back memories of her older brothers teachings and she reproduced the original model.  That was until Jess wanted to play.

Two new video tutorials

Due to numerous requests at the talks and demonstrations I do I have finally produced two new tutorials.  They are available along with all the other video's at  Just click on the 'Fold a Model' option in the menu.

The paper plane
This is typical of the paper plane your grandfather would have folded when he was a schoolboy by tearing a page from his exercise book.  With a little trial and error by tweaking the wings and tail you can achieve loops, circles, swoops and dives.

The paper banger, also known as the snapper or flapper, is an excellent fold to frighten your friends and family. It's great at parties too! You will need a large rectangle of paper. A3 size is ideal but you can use three layers of paper (on top of each other to form one thicker layer) from the colour magazines you find in the weekend newspapers.

Hutton Ladies pretending to be 10 Years old

Last night (28th Feb 2012) I visited the ladies group at Hutton for the third time in as many years. As most of them had seen me before and were familiar with folding I asked them if they would like to tackle something a little more complex than normal or use the time to learn some simple folds that they could do with their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren etc. on a rainy day. As they all wanted to gain 'street cred' with their families they opted for the latter so, for just an hour, we all pretended to be ten years old!

The first thing we folded was the origami banger which is always a hit with the younger children. Fifteen minutes into the session and over 50 women are practising the technique of making the loudest bang they could! “This will get them up in the morning” one announced and, “I can't wait till the grandchildren come to visit at the weekend!” exclaimed another. Nearly everyone managed to produce loud 'cracks' from their paper bangers and after a few minutes rubbing and nursing arthritic shoulders and elbows we were ready for the next item.

Freddie the Frog was the next model we folded. This simple eleven fold frog, when folded correctly, will jump when stroked and with a little practice can be made to do a variety of athletic manoeuvres. Everyone was keen to learn this one so they could pass the skills on to the younger ones. I explained to the group that not only do children enjoy folding this model they love to colour it and make up games and stories with it so it is a popular model to keep them entertained and out from under feet.

Freddie the jumping frog

Finally it was time for the ladies to learn a fold that would give them some street cred with their friends who visit for tea. We only had a few minutes left so everyone chose a napkin we folded the cutlery pocket. Guaranteed to impress and with only five folds it is a quick and simple method to bling up the dinner table.

Napkin Cutlery Pocket - An easy fold!

It was a relaxed and fun evening and with many complaining of aching sides from too much laughter everyone was ready for a well deserved cup of tea and a chance to take a look at some of the models I had taken along with me. I was certainly ready to put my feet up when I got home. It's not easy being ten you know!

Tony Livesey's towel-a-gami!

You always learn something new on Tony Livesey's programme! 

He was fascinated to discover that there's such a thing as towel-a-gami - that's origami, but with towels and in July 2009 I was invited into the BBC studio's in Blackburn yet again but this time to talk about Towel Folding.

Producer Alison and her towel double!
No one is really sure about the origins of Towel Origami but it is safe to say that the activity of folding towels into representations of animals and objects became popular in the 20th Century. Folded towel models of this kind have frequently been appreciated by guests on cruse liners and in expensive hotels.

Never having tried it before I grabbed some towels and decided to have a go myself. Using only a pair of sunglasses as an accessory I set to.


The swan came from one bath towel rolled tightly to give it the stiffness needed to remain upright.

Reading Sunbather
This reading sun bather was made from one bath towel and three face cloths (one face cloth is inside the body to give it depth)

Eddie the Elephant

Eddie the elephant can be a bit tricky if your towels are nearly new, as in this case. His body is a bath sheet and the head a hand towel.

When using towels the folding method is rather different to that of paper. You are unable to make sharp strong creases. Softer techniques have to be used such as rolling, moulding and some stretching.

Origami in Advertising

In October 2008 I was invited to contribute with origami to an advertisement for Nokia Phones.

Needless to say I jumped at the chance and after a few days development I set off for the capital with an assortment of models to hand. The shoot was on location in a London suburb in what looked like an ordinary terraced house. The place was in fact regularly used by advertising agencies as a location for many an advert and I arrived there at 8am, along with the cast, crew and even a catering organisation for what turned out to be a thirteen hour shoot, all for a 60 second advert!

Sadly the advert was not used as Nokia scrapped this range of phones in light of Apples iphone release. However the work was a great experience for me and watching these professionals at work gave me a real insight into the methods used to produce this sort of media. Something which will come in handy in the future.

Shooting the musical notes scene
The whole advertisement was to be shot in stop motion animation and the two cameras used in tandem were state of the art computer controlled SLR's. An Apple Mac with specialist animation software, designed for just such a purpose, controlled each camera. Each frame was painstakingly prepared and shot with both cameras from different angles. The images were checked before everyone moved in to animate their particular object, moving it a tiny amount before the 'all clear' call was given and the cameras clicked again, capturing another frame.

Origami notes in various stages

Five different models were required in all and each one was to fold itself from a sheet of notepaper. To aid the process several models of each was folded in various stages of completion and each one was worked on for a few frames before being replaced by the next. Here the musical notes sequence is laid out and ready to go.

Two computer controlled SLR cameras were used
Late in the evening I caught a taxi back to the station and headed for good old Lancashire leaving the production team with several more days work ahead with the post production where the scenes were edited into the rest of the animation and the sound track composed and added.

The £2,500 Swan

After folding and displaying a traditional modular swan, a friend of mine asked me if it would be possible to fold one from five pound notes.

This got me thinking. The ratio of a five pound note is not disimmilar to the paper size required for the swan, perhaps a little longer but I could not see any reason why it could not be done.

After folding the 500 or so units to make the first swan I was not looking forward to repeating the same tedious procedure again but I had to admit the idea was intriguing. How big would it be? What would it look like? Would it stay together? Would the colours of the notes detract from the shape of the model? It was no good, I knew it was only a matter of time before I just had to try it and find out. Perhaps I really should buy myself a television!

2,500 Five Pound Notes!
There was one limiting factor however. There was no way I could afford £2,500 to try out my theory. The only alternative was to scan in a fiver and reproduce it 500 times. As I did not want to be done for counterfeiting, I only reproduced one side "for illustrative purposes only" of course. Also, to ensure that there was no way these specimens could be used in any underhand way, the finished model was glued together. When I have finished with the model it will be destroyed.

As far as the size goes it is not too bad, around 20cm (8 inches) in both height and width. I feel the colouring does detract a little from the graceful shape of the swan and the longer length of the fiver does mean the additional paper inside each folded unit makes for a wider, squatter swan. Many people admire it and think it is a fine model but I have to admit I prefer the original white swan myself.

Does my friend still want one folded from real money? Well, if he does he will have to come up with the wonga and I am sure his bank manager will be happy to provide him with 500 brand new £5 notes, not!

Victorious Englandus

After being asked to fold something for the 2006 World Cup I decided I did not want to follow the usual clich├ęs.

With a day or two to think about it I came up with a rare orchid called the "Come on England" plant.

The design is based upon the traditional lily with a little modification to produce the desired red lines in white to represent the St George's Cross of England as depicted on the England strip.

Victorious Englandus

Here be Dragons!

In 2009 I was asked at very short notice to fold a large dragon for display on our local park for the St. Georges Day Weekend.

It was just after mid April and about the time that the dragons come out of their winter hibernation. Hibernation I hear you say, dragons don’t hibernate! Well yes, some do. Those that do not travel south for the winter and decide to stay put in England will usually go to ground around the end of September when the darker night start drawing in and sleep away the colder days to emerge around about St. Georges day the 23rd April. 

 Walking through the park early this morning, before children were up and dressed I came across a young dragon just emerging from its winters nap. It was sitting on a raised bed just by a large Twisted Hazel tree. It looked to me as if it had made the dark undergrowth beneath this tree as its winter home. It was sat quite happily with its wings half stretched out to catch the early morning warmth of the sun.

 I approached cautiously with my camera at the ready and could tell from my vantage point that it was, due to the thin snout and longer tail, a young female. Definitely a Neale/Shafer hybrid I thought to myself, which is not common around this part of the country. I estimated her wingspan to be around four feet so, as fully-grown dragons have a wingspan of around 50ft this was obviously a youngster. I knew that from hibernation it can take a day or so before their internal temperature reaches ignition point so I was safe from her fiery breath and as she seemed a little lethargic I knew I could get just a little closer. She spotted me and followed me with her cat like eyes as I walk cautiously past. She moved her wings up and down a little, weather it was a 'don't come any closer' warning or if it was just to circulate the warm air under her wings I do not know but I was not going to take any chances.

Standing by the Hazel tree I took another photograph, I knew I was chancing my luck and she may be airborne any minute I slowly backed away so as not to spook her and just stood and watched for another few minutes before quietly leaving, not believing my luck at being so close to such a wonderful creature.

Making the Model
The wingspan needed to be around 4ft, which meant I needed a sheet about 2mtr x 2mtr square. I could not believe how tiring it was to throw around a sheet this size, climbing inside at certain points to ensure nice accurate creases. After the first few folds the work became smaller and more manageable and a round five hours later we had a dragon.

Creating a LARGE bird base

Moving on

Developing the neck and tail
Forming the wings
Creating the front and back legs

 Pleating the wings.  All that is left to do is add the pleats to the tail and neck. Then lastly, form the head.