Beth Johnson Origami


It all started with an owl. Well, a niece who loved owls. And for this niece’s birthday, Beth Johnson thought she would try and fold one out of paper.

That was the first time she ever used a crease pattern, or, a single diagram that maps out what can often be hundreds of creases in a design. Using a crease pattern was transformative, not only in creating the owl, but, more generally, in how it changed the way she understood the art of folding paper.

And while it was a love of working with paper that drew Beth to origami in the first place, it is the inherent challenge of it, of creating endless numbers of objects each out of single pieces of paper, that keeps her coming back. No cuts. No glue. Just folds.

In her design process, Beth often starts by creating a tesselation, and then shapes the tesselation into the piece she’s making. This was the case with her hedgehog design, below:

A Maker Works member since 2010, Beth values the community and sharing of ideas that takes place in the shop. Beth primarily uses the vinyl cutter, and sometimes the laser cutter, to score paper before folding.

She also uses the vinyl cutter to help create curved folds, which can otherwise be difficult to achieve. Look closely at the clouds near the top of her window display for 826 Michigan, an original design, and you’ll see that her use of curved folds provides added dimension and gives the clouds a billowy, flowing look:


Beth also uses the Maker Works ShopBot in the creation of display pieces, such as these ocean waves cut from walnut wood (the jellyfish are also her design):

In a project she did for the University of Michigan Hospital, an Arduino was programmed to turn on LEDs, lighting up a different jellyfish display:


Beth provides many of the crease patterns and instructional diagrams for her original designs for free on her website, and posts updates of ongoing work to her Facebook page.

These days, Beth’s origami is on display around the world, from Ann Arbor, to Oberlin, Ohio, to New York City, to Spain. And that’s just this spring. In the fall, she’ll present at the Ultimate Origami Convention in Lyon, France.