Bitter Sweet

As I approached the date of my retirement, I genuinely struggled with how I could sum up my work-life, and how was going to say thankyou, personally, to so many people I have loved working with.

Collapsed blooms get shaped

It occurred to me that Origami could be my savior, and something hand-made and precious was the order of the day, so set about making Naomiki Sato’s pentagonal “Hybrid Tea” roses – in my opinion the zenith of his glorious rose designs. From a pentagon, with some skill, you sculpt a spiraling bloom of some 25 petals – genius as it is folds only – no cuts, no glue. Originally I was going to present them stemmed, but re-worked the idea to have them sit on calyxes instead.

I gave myself 3 weeks, and it turned out that was not really enough time, as each bloom from go to woe takes just over an hour – even when batch folding. It was a labour of love, and I got it done, and resulted in an amazing coincidence. I listed the recipients, and it totaled 33 – this number corresponded to the number of years I have been working at this current school – it was clearly meant to be.

Exacting pre-creasing

Acquiring paper, cutting perfect pentagons, calculating the relative size different between flower and calyx was the first task. I found if I cut the largest pentagon I could from an A3 sheet for the bloom, then the corresponding largest pentagon from an A4 sheet was perfect for the calyx.

Production-line techniques then ensued – precise pre-creases, pre-collapse wrangling and locating landmarks for secondary petal separation all have to be done first, and at this scale it is fiddly folding, and you need about 7 fingers on all of 3 of your hands. Once the dissected spiral collapse is complete the really hard part starts – shaping the petals to be soft curls in staggered cascades – quite a knack.

My sacrificial test bloom taught me the collapse, then how to refine the spiraled bundle, and how to clean up the centre and then how to form the petals using a trusty Japanese (pointy) chopstick as my only tool, then that one was designated to landfill and the production run began. To ensure consistency, I did the steps in batches, completing each of the 33 repeats before starting the next maneuver.

This also taught me a valuable lesson – you see I _had_ toyed with the idea of mass folding these things and selling them to a Florist (indeed I have been approached by a couple of Florists, numerous times), but realised that there was no way to fold these in quantity, for a price they would be willing to pay.

Time was running out, crippling RSI was setting in, but they were done and seeing those beauties en-masse was a joy. I tagged them, then stealthily “gratitude bombed” most onto desks before the recipients were in (I wanted the joy of discovery), and caught up f2f with the balance. Had I more time, I could have easily doubled the number and still missed people – whether you received a bloom or not know you have my deepest gratitude for taking the time to get to know me – I know I did not make that easy, I am the way I am.

Shaping is everything

Being part of a place for so long, and experiencing the overwhelming avalanche of praise and well wishes roll in wave after wave was not something I am emotionally equipped to process, and days after I begin to shake even letting my mind wander back to it. Bitter sweet is a curious expression – everyone said it must be that when leaving a place you have loved working in for such a long time. I have been blessed to have worked with so many creative professionals, been part of the Dream Team (Tim and Phil – love you guys to bits), and deeply honoured to have Tim Stephens so eloquently see me off. I know my wife and I are ready for something different, I know I do not want to teach or mark anymore. Time to live life on our schedule.

So long and thanks for all the fish.

4 thoughts on “Bitter Sweet

  1. Congratulations Peter. These are beautiful and I am sure the people who received your gifts will treasure them.


    1. Had I more time (and less nerve pain in my hands) I would have made many more – the blessing of being surrounded by so many wonderful people is something that is difficult to repay indeed

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