Modern Origami Inspired Curved Folding in Copper

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Copper Folded Sculptural Sequence with brushed finish and bright patina with engraved glass base: Title: Opening, Change, Inner Spiral, Movement 7.5 dimensions: 9 in high, 26 inches wide, 6.5 inches deep, year competed 2024
Folded Copper Sculptures on white marble bases: folded from 12” x 12” sheets of copper;
Title 4 Sculptures: Opening, Movement, Inner Spiral, Change
Movement 24 – folded from 24″ square copper sheet with bright heat patina. Awarded Honorable Mention in Lewton Brain Foldform Contest. Thank you for the prize!

Creating Movement 24:

rolling score line into 24 x 24 inch sheet metal with edges annealed and folded. Area to be scored and folded is annealed repeatedly as the shape starts to form
Copper is a metal that work-hardens quickly, so it must be softened by annealing using heat. Controlled application of heat allows some areas to curve while other areas fold.

paper models in 6 x 6 inch scale

During summer’s excessive heat Ema started to fold origami paper as she did when she was a child. She played my own variations using recent origami folding concepts developed by mathematicians in Japan and the USA. She created countless folded shapes, some representational, but many abstract forms that are based on the interactions of curved lines. Five organic forms rose to the top as having the most sculptural potential.

The testing of folding these shapes in copper without cutting channels into the metal to create the folding path was tested using thin copper foil. The softness of the foil and the thinness of the material allowed the shaping of the folds by hand with only a hand scoring tool to create a guiding path.

maquettes in 6 x 6 inch copper 0.012 inch thick foil – same size as paper models
Photographed on glossy black aluminum folded base
12 x 12 inch paper models were created using heavy weight paper –
paper and copper 12″ sculpture shown with annealing heat scale

After the successful folding of foil, the next stage was to create heavy weight paper models in larger 12″ x 12″ scale. The paper was too weak to hold it’s shape without aid, but allowed us to imagine the scale of the planned copper sculptures, and provided a guide to folding the copper sheet metal.

The process of solving how to fold the thin copper sheet was begun. These sculptures are created using 0.021 inch thick copper sheet metal. This metal is too thin to use machined channels to thin the material on the folds, because the copper on the folds becomes too thin and it becomes to weak to handle the stress of shaping and folding. A new method was needed to fold this material.

12 x 12 folded form “Movement” shown with final patina
side view of “Movement” in 12 x 12 scale
12 x 12 folded form “Ocean” with final patina

Unlike models, sculpture must consider the durability of the materials and the surface finish. All edges must be smooth and the form must be strong enough to withstand the rigors of transport and long term display. Each form required modification to be executed as a finished sculpture.

With the success of the 12 inch scale forms, 18 inch and 24 inch material sculptures are developed. At this scale simple paper models are no longer useful.

Folded Copper origami sculpture by Ema Tanigaki
Folded Copper origami sculpture by Ema Tanigaki –
Title: Inner Spiral 18
Ocean 7.5 on engraved glass base.