The Art Of... Traditional Paper Folding | Kids VT | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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The Art Of... Traditional Paper Folding


Jacob Zimet has been folding paper for seven years. That may not seem like a long time, but it's more than half his life. At age 12, the Randolph origamist has participated in worldwide conventions and taught the craft all over his hometown and beyond. At the end of this month, he'll lead a workshop at Studio Place Arts in Barre.

Jacob comes from a family of paper-folding fanatics; his dad, Matt Zimet, got Jacob and all three of his siblings hooked on origami. They started by following diagrams in origami books, which show where and how to fold to create simple structures. Once familiar with the technique, the kids began diagramming their own objects.

"It's planar geometry," Eva Zimet, Jacob's mom, confides. "They don't even know they're doing math."

Educational uses aside, origami is a fun distraction for kids of all ages. Kids VT spoke to Jacob about his illustrious origami career.

KIDS VT: What do you like about origami?

JACOB ZIMET: I like to use my hands. Folding it is fun. I can do pop-up books, too.

KVT: Is there a special type of paper or tools you work with?

JZ: Yeah. [It's called origami paper]. It tends to hold a crease better than regular paper, and it's thinner, slightly, so you can fold it and it doesn't bulge. It sometimes helps to have a bone folder, too, because you can make very sharp creases, and you can poke with it. But other than that, you just need your hands and the paper.

KVT: What kinds of things did you fold at first?

JZ: I made the traditional models: a crane, a fish. Some of the folds can be hard. If you have an eight-sided thing, you have to poke it with a bone folder.

KVT: When did you start teaching?

JZ: I've been helping with workshops for about four years. There are these conventions all over the place every year and origamists come to them. They're all mathematicians, too. We went last year [to an origami convention] in New York City. It was really cool. I was really impressed with the models that the origamists made.

KVT: What was the coolest thing you saw there?

JZ: There was a soccer field, with a goal, a soccer ball and a goalie trying to catch the ball. It was all out of one piece of paper.

KVT: Whoa. Did you make anything that complicated?

JZ: I made a guy sitting on a bench, reading a book. The piece of paper always starts out pretty big and it always shrinks a lot. That one started at 15 inches and went down to five inches.

KVT: Do you have a favorite thing you like to fold?

JZ: I really like a devil. It has horns and wings and it's pretty cool.

KVT: I heard you folded paper with some visiting Japanese artists at Studio Place Arts last fall and they were impressed with your skills. [SPA's executive director Sue Higby says they "kept referring to him with great reverence as 'the professor.'"]

JZ: Yeah ... that was kind of flattering.

Learn the art of origami at "Peace Cranes & Polyhedra: Traditional Paper Folding," taught by Jacob Zimet at Studio Place Arts in Barre. February 26 & March 5, 1-4 p.m. $5 material fee for one class, $8 for both. Space is limited; call in advance to reserve a spot. Info, 479-7069.

The Art of... spotlights creative skills that enrich kids' lives. Got a class or teacher to recommend? Email us at

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.