robert j. lang interview
robert j. lang interview robert j. lang interview
sep 21, 2012

robert j. lang interview


designboom recently spoke to origami artist robert j. lang about his work and the changes he’s noticed in the art of paper folding over the years.

DB: please can you tell us a bit about your background in origami? RJL: I started origami at the age of six. a craft book that had a few origami instructions was what sparked my interest. origami was a way of making toys with nothing more than scrap paper.

how did it develop from a past-time to a full time profession? over the course of 30 years or so, I devoted more and more time to it. eventually, I reached a point where I felt I could, and should, take it full-time.

how did you learn origami? I worked entirely from books for many years. I corresponded with neal elias, an american master, when I was in my teens. it wasn’t until my 20s that I met other folders in person and got to see other origami directly and interact with others.


grizzly bear

who are some of your favorite origami artists? yoshizawa, neal elias, fred rohm, michael lafosse, satoshi kamiya. sipho mabona, brian chan, joel cooper, eric gjerde and chris palmer.

what are the key differences between the origami of today and that of 40 years ago? there is vastly more diversity today. the most complex origami is orders of magnitude more complex than that of 40 years ago, but there are also many styles today that just didn’t exist: tessellations, mathematical abstract, hyperrealism.

socially, it is also quite different: there is now a large, worldwide community where everyone is in constant touch with everyone else. thus, when someone develops something new, others can quickly and easily learn about it and build upon it. thus, the pace of change in the art is vastly higher.

jack russel


SUV opus 507

how does your passion for mathematics feed into your origami work? mathematics allows me to achieve artistic ideas and goals that I would have no idea how to accomplish otherwise. in addition, there artistic goals that come directly from mathematics, where the art is created to address a mathematical aesthetic.

what challenges have you set yourself with future projects – what direction do you see your work moving in? I’m working on developing life and expression in my representational work, on developing new mathematical ideas in my geometric/mathematical work, and on developing new ways of using origami within art (e.g., rendering it in other materials, such as metal).

making of american flag: the piece is made with a single sheet of 13×17" (33cm x 43 cm) wyndstone marble paper.  first the fold pattern is drawn then numerous base folds are made.

before a series of intricate smaller folds are made to start forming the stars and upper stripes, folds are held in place with masking tape.

finished american flag by robert j lang  – more details here

what are the most common techniques / folds that you use in your work? I design mostly in the style known as ‘origami sekkei’ or ‘technical folding’ which tends to be fairly complex. I do a lot of ‘wet folding’ in which the paper is dampened during the folding process.

what has been your most difficult project to date? each project I take on is a new challenge. the american flag is was of the most challenging, because I had only a week to design and fold it and have it ready for photography.

what tip would you give to an origami beginner? strive for precision; you should never make a fold sharp, or even make a folding mark on the paper, before you can tell that it is forming in the right place.

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