Origami is not a full-time job. At least, not for most people.
Marcia Joy Miller ’75, a full-time origami teacher and designer, knows this.
That’s why she wrote her first book, Origami for Busy People: 27 Original On-The-Go Projects (Tuttle Publishing)—to give the average busy person a chance to relax with origami during the few free hours of his or her day.
“As an origami teacher, I met many adult students who told me that they wished they had more time for paper folding in their schedule,” said Miller. “This longing to include more origami in their busy lives, plus my desire to share both my love for origami and my original designs inspired me,” said Miller.
She worked on the book “over many years,” writing the text, taking the photographs in the book, and creating all-original, previously unpublished origami designs. Miller also designed 48 sheets of origami folding paper that are included in the back of the book.
According to Miller, the undertaking was a labor of love for a passion she has held since she was four years old, when she was introduced to origami by a neighbor. However, she did not always see herself in the field of origami.
A psychology and criminal justice double major while at the College, Miller previously worked as a computer programmer and analyst after taking computer science and mathematics courses as a graduate and continuing her mathematics education at Rutgers University.
The jump to origami initially baffled her, but Miller said she now understands her motivation.
“It was even mysterious to me for quite some time why I eventually decided to invest all my energy into a career in origami,” said Miller. “I think the reason that I am so drawn to origami is that I have always enjoyed both analytical pursuits, such as mathematics and puzzles, and creative activities, such as art and music.”
After a long road, Miller said she is now happily investing herself “full-time” in her passion. Her real interest in the full-time development of her origami skills, she said, was sparked in 1996, when she attended her first origami convention, which was sponsored by the national origami society Origami USA (of which she had been a member since the 1980s), in Manhattan. The conference motivated her to unearth her first original origami design, a hummingbird that she had set aside for safe keeping in a shoebox about four years before, and determine how she folded it. After that, she became a “prolific designer of origami,” and to this day creates new projects regularly.
“Since 1996, origami has been a full-time passion for me,” said Miller. “I created illustrated instructions for some of my designs, and they have been published in international origami journals.” She has been teaching origami to adults and children, from beginner level to advanced level, at schools, parties, and various origami events since 1997. Presently, she is working on promoting her book.
Divided into four parts, the book begins with a brief introduction to paper-folding technique and proceeds to suggest projects tailored for three times of day: what Miller calls “coffee-break origami,” “lunch-time origami,” and “after-work origami.” Her designs include plants, animals, geometric designs, decorations, toys, useful objects like a trophy bowl, and what Miller calls her most complicated design, the Sculpted Vase.
All the projects are accompanied by easy-to-follow instructions and target both beginners and experienced folders, said Miller. Once created, the completed projects can serve a variety of purposes. Miller said that she personally will display her sculptures in exhibits or in her home—as framed art or scenes displayed in clear plastic boxes. She has some works packed away in boxes because she has “run out of room.” She also enjoys giving gifts to friends, family, and even “total strangers.”
“Periodically, I clean out my origami and give away the surplus as gifts,” she said. “It is funny that some of my most memorable origami gift-giving experiences happen in doctors’ waiting rooms with total strangers.”
According to Miller, just as strangers enjoy receiving her gifts, anyone can learn and benefit from her passion, and that is the point of her book.
“I recommend origami to everyone because it is a very pleasant activity that is relaxing and a lot of fun that can be done anywhere, alone or with other people,” she said. “There are not too many hobbies that you can do by yourself and also with others …no scissors or glue required.”
“It seems that wherever I am, I am paper folding or inventing new origami designs,” added Miller, who plans to begin work expanding her “busy people” concept into a series of origami books. She also has a Web site (www.marciajoymiller.com) that includes illustrated instructions to some of origami designs not in her book.
According to Miller, who now resides in New Jersey with her husband, after a lifetime spent searching for the right career, she now knows she’s found it.
“For me, origami makes use of all my talents and skills… I did not know, however, how to accomplish this goal so I abandoned it as a young adult,” said Miller. “When Origami for Busy People was published, I realized that I had fulfilled the dreams of my youth.”