Best of 2012: 100 Paper Cranes

January 2012 was a rough month. In a state of confusion, I somehow reasoned that the only way to move past it would be to fold 100 paper cranes. Yeah, sure, that makes sense Paul…

The Japanese tradition exists for folding a thousand origami cranes for good luck. But my time and manpower was limited. From the conception of the idea on a Wednesday night at 11PM after work, I had until Friday 3PM to complete this task, not forgetting another 8 hour work shift in between.

So I went hunting for decent quality origami paper in Glasgow, which proved harder than expected. Due to the time limit, and the quality I was looking for, I needed square sheets, and it needed to be of a reasonable thickness. I tried at least four shops before I wound up in Miller’s art store and found some alarmingly expensive origami paper in packs of 30. I only needed 100, but I had to buy 120. At this point I was fully invested in the idea though, so no half-measures.

The process of folding an origami crane is something I’ve gotten reasonably good at, particularly while working at First Data, where I folded cranes of all sizes, and even once rose to a challenge of folding one with one hand. There are variations on the design, but I have my own preference. However, I did not want to cut corners here, everything had to be just right and consistent. So I practised a couple of times and settled on a method of folding and creasing that would make sure each bird was as close to perfect as possible.

One down, ninety-nine to go...
One down, ninety-nine to go…

Then I timed myself folding this, and factored in hand fatigue, and realised that each bird took around 4 minutes to fold to a high standard. So for 100 birds, that’s around 400 minutes. That’s only 6 hours and 40 minutes

Factoring in rest-time, I settled on a window of around 8 hours to complete the task. Unfortunately  at this point it was Thursday, work was about to start, and I had only completed twenty birds. So from getting home through to the early morning, I was going to be folding a lot of paper…

A little bit of a head start.
A bit of a head start.

I went for a drink after work with the usual suspects, which was nice. Midnight rolled on, and I headed home and got to work. The next challenge I discovered was that the front room in our flat is pretty damn cold in January. Even with all the heaters cranked up, it was so cold that my fingers began to seize up pretty quickly. So I worked wearing fingerless gloves. I listened to a bunch of music at barely audible levels so as not to wake anyone.

At this point I'm nearing the finish line, and desperately trying to avoid RSI...
At this point I’m nearing the finish line, and desperately trying to avoid RSI…

It’s surprising the muscle fatigue that sets in when you’re folding for so long. You have to change positions, pause and stretch, fold on different surfaces, in different chairs…

Anyway, dawn came and went, and finally I was done. Initially I looked at the pile I had created and thought “this doesn’t actually seem like that many.”

It doesn't look like that many does it?
It really doesn’t look like that many does it?

But once I ran a string through them, in a repeating colour pattern, they stretched from one corner of the room to the other.

It actually turned out a bit longer than I had anticipated. Which is nice.
It actually turned out a bit longer than I had anticipated. Which is nice.

Numb, tired, spent, proud, I went to bed for a few hours before work started and I would have to present this gift. That part was a whole other thing.

By the time I was done, I didn’t really know why I had started, or if this was the right thing to do, or what I even meant by the endeavour. But I had done it. And that was something. And it meant something to me, even if it didn’t mean anything to anyone else.

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