Review: A Thousand Paper Birds by Tor Udall

Published by Bloomsbury Circus

On the surface, this book (Udall’s debut) is about a man called Jonah, trying to come to terms with his grief following the sudden death of his wife. He meets several characters though his time in Kew Gardens, one of whom addresses her own problems through the medium of origami. Whilst a main theme of the book is sadness and loss, but it also shows how the human spirit can rise to find happiness again. The reader is taken on an extraordinary journey and like all good books, things are not as they initially seem.

This is the first novel I have read that integrates origami into the story so effectively and Udall has clearly made a serious study of the subject. On her website, the page of “inspiration” is a montage of images, which include many beautiful models, including those of Robert Lang and Seb Limet. Origami references are scattered throughout the book, even including a quote from Yoshizawa. One chapter includes the building of a “Memory Tree” where people fold cranes and write down things they have lost or found and hang them from a tree.

Peter Engel is acknowledged in the credits for his book “Origami from Angelfish to Zen” as is the classic Hokusai woodprint “A magician turns sheets of paper into birds”, which one of the characters has as a tattoo on her arm. However it’s clear, at least to an origami reader, that Udall has done far more than simply insert references, she understands that folding paper can be a spiritual journey. For example:

“She watches the movement of her hands across the paper, wondering if the real magic of origami is in the doing rather than the end product.”  

“Origami has shown her that nothing is set in stone. A bird can be refolded into a boat, a fish, a kimono or any other extravagant vision. At other times it aches to return to its original folds. The paper begins to fray. It tires, it rebels.”

To be clear, this isn’t an origami book, it’s an enchanting story of loss and rebirth. However, if (like me) you see origami as far more than a recreational novelty, you’ll be delighted to see how sensitively our art has been woven into a story.



Mark Kennedy needs our support

Mark Kennedy is my friend who is fighting cancer and faces surgery in the near future. He and his wife Arlene are trying to be optimistic.

Words cannot express what a wonderful human being Mark is. His friendship is a true gift and his personal generosity to me cannot be repaid. I have been lucky enough to know him for nearly 30 years and know just how much of himself he gives to the origami world, many of whom are his good friends. He has a massive spirit and a huge heart – I hope for a positive outcome.

If you know him, please take a picture of yourself with one of his many 1000s of “origami pins”, or a model that has taught you, or anything else, and send with a message to

Bog Roll Blues

Today, I have mostly been assisting Sophie to fold toilet rolls for a video shoot on behalf of a big manufacturer. My hands were deemed to rough and industrial for the purpose, so she was “volunteered”!  She had never folded before, so faced a steep learning curve, since toilet paper is not easy to work with. She did superbly ;)

Thanks to the Brills for their company. The post title is a tribute to my beloved Groundhogs!



A senseless waste of trees in Sheffield

Sheffield’s trees are being needlessly felled under a secret ‘Streets Ahead’ highway renewal PFI contract, run by Amey on behalf of Sheffield City Council. What is needed is a more considered and expert-led approach to the management and guardianship of the city’s street trees, for the long-term benefit of both residents and the environment.

The Council claim felling is a ‘last resort’ and the contract includes several common, low-cost methods for repairing pavements without felling trees. However, an investigation by the Information Commissioner found that these are not being used, even though they have been paid for. Trees with many decades to live have been destroyed, ignoring the advice of SCC’s own Independent Tree-Panel and maximising Amey’s profits. 5,000+ trees have already gone and another 1,000 are at immediate risk, with a combined value of £60 million. They have recently voted to chop down some trees planted as memorials for fallen soldiers.

You can read more here and on Facebook. Please do what you can to complain about the issue and help those who are trying to peacefully protect these trees.

As a paper-folder, my relationship with trees is a close one and I’ve always felt that creating small works of art is a better use of paper than the countless other ways in which it is wasted. I’ve been trying to create a design that forms a kind of symbol for the issue, part of the long tradition of political iconography.

Below are JPG instructions and here’s a PDF. Feel free to use it in any way to help publicise this campaign. If I can help in any other way, please get in touch.


Butterfly feedback from Origamido

Michael LaFosse was kind enough to give permission for me to include one of his designs in my butterfly book (and it was designed specifically for me!). He writes:

Aloha Nick!

Richard and I have just received our complimentary copy of “Dinosauri in origami”. It is a wonderful collection of models, and a very handsome and generous production. We love the code scan features for printing papers and the online video links for folding lessons. Your clear diagrams are superb, as usual. Well done!

All the best,

Michael and Richard