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.