18 things I learned from the 2017 365 Challenge

People think a 365 challenge is all beer and skittles, well there was a number of things I learned this time through that might be worthy of reflection.


What follows is a lengthy rant, strap yourself in if you are game:

  1. 365 craft challenges are a LOT of work – that work takes time, and the time is time you would usually be doing something else. I wish I had remembered this from last time. Sorry work, I spent less time thinking about you and I could tell even if you could not. People who wait for time to become available before they take up a challenge do not really understand how time works: there is NEVER enough time, you have to make time for things you feel are important.
  2. 365 Origami challenges use a LOT of paper – particularly if you decide to include non-trivial folds and modular constructions. Thank you Daiso for introducing me to 35cm washi – many times it saved my bacon and other times* not so much (*see 3).
  3. Shape matters, particularly in paper – square really should be square and few types of origami paper actually is square. Daiso Washi is NOT square – in some cases hideously so, but it is remarkable how you can kludge to compensate for the odd geometries on some models, and irritating that on some models the irregularity is magnified by the intensity of the design. This challenge I also used more non-square starter shapes: triangles, polygons and so on were used frequently. The idea that Origami can only be done on a square needs to change – different shapes make possible different model structures and that is a good thing.
  4. Bi-colour folds that incorporate well-designed colour changes are HARD to design and easy to derail due to inaccuracy in folding. I take my hat off to designers that manage this well. this challenge I folded some real doozies and some that were entirely forgettable.
  5. Fold fatigue happens – my nerve damaged hands coped variously during this challenge. Most times the exercise was really good for me but some of the more brutally repetitive folds were hard work – aching hands and bruised finger tips are no fun, broken nails are a nightmare also.
  6. Sometimes, no matter how many times you try things, some diagrams make NO SENSE. Representing 3D movements of layers of paper is really hard in a 2D diagram, and some diagrammers (myself included) assume skill levels that the folder may not have.
  7. Being able to read Japanese, Spanish, French, German and Russian would be a REAL advantage – most of the complex/supercomplex models that interest me are from non-English diagramming countries and all too often I find myself guessing as to what an annotation means – doubly perplexing if the diagram is not clear. It is interesting that most Australians speak only English – I think it stems from being so far from everywhere.
  8. Process matters to me most. The end fold is much less interesting than the process you use to get there. I really like models that look nothing like what they end up with until right near the end – keeps you guessing and keeps you folding honestly (as you do not know what part matters because it will be highly visible and what parts will be tucked away – all parts matter). I think this is also why I would struggle to fold commercially as repetition bores me senseless, making models in quantity to sell is not interesting at all.
  9. Not all paper is the same, and the regular (15cm/7cm) origami sheets are relatively useless to me – too small for complex folding and paper quality that often ruins a model. I have used a bunch of my hoarded supplies on this challenge, but have lots more specialty papers that I can now take my time using. Every type of paper takes folds differently and I have struggled to find colour combinations (particularly of bicolour paper) that work for some folds.
  10. Most people have NO IDEA how much time (and I suppose skill) goes into making a good version of a model, suitable for a gift. This is another reason why I think I could not fold commercially as I would have no reasonable way of charging so the remuneration matched the effort to complete the piece. I take my hat of to those few professional origamists out there – I wish I knew how you do it without going nuts.
  11. I _thought_ doing a second 365, 5 years after my first would be easier. I was wrong. In many ways this time around has been harder. Finding models I wanted to fold, at the one-a-day schedule has been a nightmare. I played with the idea of being proactive and getting a bunch of folds in cache already done but I was not organised or motivated enough to manage that with any that actually made the challenge easier. I hate folding last minute and the stress of the schedule is difficult to reconcile with the ephemeral creativity needed to complete it.
  12. You do these challenges for yourself – if other people show interest along the way then that is a bonus, but doing it for likes (or more rare comments) is a mugs game. The length of the challenge means even the most dedicated follower loses interest on and off, and that is fine. The satisfaction of completing something is buzz enough, or should be.
  13. Support from family and friends makes ALL the difference. If my ever tolerant wife (and occasional guesser of what it is – if she could guess what it was then it was possibly a keeper, otherwise it was in the bin and something else was folded) and kids had not encourage me, I would have given up early on this year. I am also hoping they will be the sensible one if I EVER suggest I would do a 365 folding challenge again. They have my permission to slap me out of it.
  14. Copyright infringement (ie. illegal copies of published diagrams) is rife on social media – Pinterest it seems to me is the worst offender. People “pin” things online that should only be in published, purchased works and I am sure I have used such found objects but have tried to use things I have rights to.
  15. Not everyone has skills, but there have been times this year where belligerent novices have flamed me for not either (1) giving them copyrighted diagrams and/or (2) helping them fold something waaaaaay outside their skill set. This is frustrating and just plain rude. I have NEVER said this blog is an instruction/tutorial site. I document folds I have attempted in ways that help ME remember how I folded them, if the site is helpful to other folders then that is fine. It is not, however, the primary purpose.
  16. I cannot fold when (1) fatigued, (2) Intoxicated, (3) stressed, (4) marking or (5) on holiday. This has meant that this year I missed the one-a-day schedule, but always caught up again when time allowed. I fold best when I am relaxed and I have done some basic research on the fold at hand – looking ahead or trial folding parts, folding them in my head. I have gotten very good at looking at a CP or diagram and seeing the time involved in each part. Matching that to the state of my hands and head means I can fold smart.
  17. Not all models work first time, some NEVER work for me. Viewers of this blog do not see the dozens of failures that get binned because of mistakes, inaccuracy, paper fatigue, errors in scale, poorly drawn diagrams (misleading/incorrect steps) and mess – paper absorbs everything and sometimes that blob of tea or stray crumb of buttered scone ruins a model and I have to start again. Nearly every time I have to re-start, I tend to fold much better so there is a plus side to this.
  18. Paper is AMAZING – it can do almost everything. The more I work with it, the more I am sure I missed my calling as a materials engineer – the structures, processes, techniques and applications for Origami seem to be so “hot right now” in the science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics world – a ready made STEAM application for anyone still reading this endless rant.


If you have made it to the end of either this post or the 365 challenge posts then well done you. I hope there has been some interest and wonder along the way. I hope that you take up that spare bit of paper and fold it, or try to, before binning it. A blank unfolded piece of paper is nothing but potential – it needs your help to realise that potential.

2 thoughts on “18 things I learned from the 2017 365 Challenge

  1. As you say, the beauty and the joy of folding is in all about the process, not the final outcome. I am a silent follower of your blog and i really admire your dedication to this collosal project. Only folders can aprecciate the effort required for it.
    Personaly i found this blog very inspiring and helpful.
    Best wishes for 2018!

    1. Thank you John, I hope you continue to find stuff that is interesting here. After a hiatus I will be back bending paper again, but not at the one-a-day schedule

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