Step 1: Description.
On my desk, there is a glass vase full of paper cranes. They tumble out of the open top of the vase, poking tails and heads into the air, the vibrant reds and blues of the origami paper catching the light from the desk lamp. The vase is incidental, a square-ish, open-topped glass candleholder from some long-forgotten candle; the cranes were made in an anxious fervor, one after another, until they reached the top of the vase and required a new vessel.
There are other jars around the room full of cranes, but this is the first and the biggest. The cranes themselves are small, no more than an inch tall and two inches from wing tip to wing tip. Their colors are all bright, with bold patterns shining out from the glass walls they are pressed against. Holding them, they’re light but prickly to the touch, all pointed edges and sharp angles. My favorite is the blue one, pressed right against the glass; I remember folding it.
I remember feeling the paper under my fingers, rough and thick, much heavier than the other shards of paper strewed across my desk. I remember folding it and marveling at the heft of this particular crane, at the proud way it carries its head and the perfect symmetry of the tail. That’s the thing about folding paper cranes—any mistakes in the first four folds make an imperfect crane with a crumpled face or tail. The blue crane was perfect: one of my first to be perfectly in balance with the ideal symmetry that Japanese origami calls for. At the bottom of the vase, the cranes lie stiffly as they hold up the weight of those that came after them, a kind of archeological study of lessening perfection from the top of the vase to the bottom. There might be one hundred cranes in the vase, but only one or two perfect ones.
Step 2: “Formal” Analysis
The paper that the cranes are folded from all has quintessentially “Asian” designs. They feature flowers, butterflies, and geometric forms; the colors tend towards red, green, and blue: all good, strong, bold colors. However, mixed in with these bold colors are some cranes folded from different paper: this paper features the same kinds of designs, but it also shows lighter, more pastel colors. There is, in short, a cacophony of colors within the vase, and although they are all different and do not necessarily match, they are all go well with each other and look as though they have come out of the same color palette.
The glass vase is hefty and solid—it is not a particularly beautiful piece of glass, but it is well-constructed and it shows off the contents inside very easily. The cranes themselves were all hand folded, which means that every crane has its own story. Looking at the vase, the first thing the eye does is try to understand what it is looking at; “paper cranes” are not a common thing to have in a jar on one’s desk, so discerning the shape out of the many present is the first step. After that, the eye begins to see all the individual cranes, taking note of their colors and patterns; finally, the last thing that the eye takes note of is the glass vase, because it is unobtrusive and transparent.
This type of art can be classified as plastic art, or potentially even sculpture depending on how it is presented and understood. As the person who folded all these cranes, I identify them as plastic art rather than sculpture because of the way it felt manipulating and folding each of the cranes individually. It could also be installation art, if the glass vase and the cranes are taken as a whole unit rather than as separate parts of the unit (Visual-arts-cork.com).
Step 3: Tactics and Strategies.
The appeal of this particular jar of cranes is probably unique. Perhaps a vase full of paper cranes would appeal to hipsters or other people who are fascinated by visual art; it seems unlikely that this kind of art would appeal to people who are uninterested in decoration or adornment in their homes, because there is no function to a vase full of paper cranes other than visual appeal. There is no purpose or use for them; they are beautiful, each in their own way, but they are certainly not particularly useful as anything except in their creation, when I fold them to reduce anxious feelings.
In addition, it is an object that is only useful in full lighting conditions. Even in low lighting conditions, it is almost impossible to see what is in the jar; the cranes are not distinct enough, so they just begin to meld into each other and they completely lack shape in the dark. In well-lit conditions, the individual shapes of the cranes can be seen and the contrast between their paper is much more attractive to the eye.
There is something special about this jar of cranes, however—the special nature of these cranes comes when someone asks me if I folded them all. They are almost always surprised when I answer in the affirmative—that I did, indeed, fold all the cranes in the jar (and many more). It almost always serves to start a conversation about the nature of origami, and how difficult it is to fold a crane: as a conversation starter, the cranes are excellent. I tried to look at these cranes from a number of different perspectives, including the Moving Pictures perspective and the visual strategies perspective.
Step 4: Image Styles.
This is an interesting object, because it could fall into so many image styles. It fits the description of representationalism because the cranes themselves represent a stylized image of a crane. There are elements of abstraction to it as well, as it is certainly not photorealistic or realistic in any way; the forms of the cranes are heavily stylized and abstract.
Although my little glass vase of cranes is nowhere near as ornate or gaudy as things in the Rococo style the cranes are purely decorative, as are many of the things that were created in the Rococo style. During this time, there was also a focus on Orientalism in literature, so perhaps there are also elements of Orientalism that can be found in art that reflect the Japanese nature of the vase of cranes that sit on my desk.
There are elements that my little vase shares with junk sculpture as well—although the cranes are not junk or found pieces of art, they still rely on being in a heap for the completion of the aesthetic. Although they do not represent any one image type fully, they certainly have elements of many, and there are probably many more subcultures of art that they could be associated with.
Step 5: You and the Object
The glass is cold under my fingers as I try to understand this object with all my senses. I’m hesitant to lick the glass, and I decide that it’s too dusty to do so, but I can imagine what it tastes like—cold and cool, like water that has been stopped in time, rather than frozen. I tasted the cranes, though—they have a strange, woody taste with a chemical bite. It’s probably not safe to ingest origami paper, so I move on to smell: there doesn’t seem to be much of a smell, but I stick myself in the nose with the tail. The sudden poke makes me sneeze, which makes me feel a little ridiculous—these cranes are the product of my nervous fidgeting, and now I am licking them for a project.
I pick up a handful of the cranes and I enjoy how they feel in my hands: light, ephemeral, slightly prickly from the sharp edges. It reminds me of holding a rose lightly and feeling the pressure from the thorns. They whisper as I pick them up and brush against each other like dry fall leaves. As I let the handful fall back into the vase, some fall onto the desk. They all fall right side up, as though they’re looking at me expectantly, waiting to get put back into the jar.
These cranes reflect my need to fidget when nervous—it helps me study, work, and even deal with personal problems to create with my hands. I used to doodle, but then I came upon a large stack of various kinds of origami paper, and I began making cranes. This also shows how bodily-kinesthetic I am; making things like this with my hands gives me a way to truly relax, and to understand whatever problem I am having.
It gives me something to do to let off excess energy as I deal with problems—and it is more constructive than doodling, because the cranes make pretty decorations. Of course, this is high on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: the need for decoration or pretty things in one’s life is not as fundamental as food, water, shelter, or affection. I do find that it helps my life in a very real way to be involved in some form of art, whether it is something as simple as folding cranes or something more complex, like blowing glass.
I also find that being able to do things like this help fulfill my social needs because I find that it makes me a very interesting individual to be around. I am biased towards enjoying the creation of things like paper cranes, whereas I am less likely to do things like play video games; because of this, my social circle is different from someone who may be describing a video game console or jacket on his or her desk. I don’t really have feelings for or against these cranes; when I look at them, they remind me of my anxieties, but they also remind me of the ways that I dealt with my anxieties and began to behave in a more constructive manner.
Stage 6: Findings
Because I am the maker and the designer of these cranes, I think this is a very interesting question: when creating them, I had no thoughts about what they would be after I created them. I did not even have anything to hold them at first until I found the vase. The vase is probably used differently than intended, however. I imagine the vase was designed for use with candles or flowers, not necessarily for use with paper cranes, but it doesn’t deviate too far from the accepted use for a glass vase.
The quality of the design is the same throughout—it is an age-old formula created by the Japanese for folding cranes. However, my workmanship varies heavily throughout. When I was first starting, I was sloppy and the cranes were poorly constructed as a result; however, as I improved, so too did the symmetry and beauty of the cranes.
I discovered that I had created more than a hundred cranes in only a few hours and placed them into this jar. I also realized that the workmanship on some of the cranes is excellent; this makes me feel proud of the work that I have done on these cranes. The only thing that was really surprising was how quickly I fell into the pattern of making these cranes. They were easy to make and they became somewhat addictive to make while I did other things as well.
I have discovered that these cranes are pretty, but they are not particularly useful; they are the product of my hard work, however, and despite their flaws, I feel rather attached to them and the ugly glass jar they sit in. They are a talking point in my room and they represent a strange skill that not everyone has that I learned myself; I find this to be very rewarding. The cranes themselves are not particularly important to me once they are finished, although I do spend some time trying to figure out what I am going to do with them now that I have so many sitting in various places around my room—there must be something more useful to do with them than letting them sit in a glass vase on my desk collecting dust.
Visual-arts-cork.com,. 'Art Types: Categories Of Visual Arts And Crafts'. N.p., 2015. Web. 29 June 2015.