Sasebo teenager becomes origami master
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Scott Macri was 7 when his dad, stationed in Japan at the time, mailed him an introductory-level book about Japanese origami.
It was on a whim. A keepsake. A birthday gift that was “just something from Japan.”
Like most American 7-year-olds, Scott could not speak Japanese and certainly did not read the language. However, diagrams showed the youngster how to fold paper into recognizable shapes of birds and other animals. He worked through that book, making each origami project contained in the pages.
Cmdr. Paul Macri, officer in charge of Sasebo’s Ship Repair Facility, returned to the United States and learned his son had an acuity for origami. Then came another assignment to Japan, and the U.S. Navy officer sent Scott more origami books on birthdays, Christmas, other holidays and just for the heck of it. Then Macri sent boxes of special Japanese origami papers, and more books and more papers.
Young Scott, now 18, folded and creased his way through the books’ diagrams, making intricate paper objects while developing great dexterity, concentration and patience.
A few years ago Macri was assigned to Japan again — this time in Sasebo. He brought his family on this tour, and now Scott is in his third year at Ernest J. King High School, where he’s class president.
“When he was 7 and I first saw what he could do I was impressed, and amazed at how quickly he learned,” Scott’s father said.
“It’s important to be well-rounded, too, and it’s made me really proud to see him go from step to step towards more complex items, and he appreciates the tie-in with math, because there is a lot of math involved here,” Macri added.
The self-taught teenager now is an internationally recognized origami innovator. He was invited as an instructor at the Origami Tanteidan 10th Annual International Origami Convention in Tokyo last month, along with hundreds of origami enthusiasts from Holland, Spain, England, France, New Zealand, the United States and, of course, Japan.
And he still doesn’t speak or read Japanese.
“A lot of people think I got started because I live in Japan, but in origami there are a lot of symbols used and if you figure out what they are telling you to do, you don’t have to know a lot of language,” Scott said Friday between classes.
He was invited to be the guest instructor for the international convention planned in Spain next year. He is a member of the Japan Origami Association Society, the British Origami Society, USA Origami and Parajata (Spanish Origami Society).
Scott designed patterns for folding single sheets of origami paper into insects that include such detail as the cilia on legs, wings and antennae, and does so without snipping or cutting with scissors, using additional paper or adhesives of any sort. It starts with a square piece of paper and becomes something entirely different and intricate.
“I wouldn’t say any one of them was the greatest challenge, because once you’ve done it and figured out how, it’s not a challenge anymore,” Scott said.
“But this fly I folded, the green one here,” he said. “Do you see the abdomen there, and all the detail? Well, that was a challenge for me.”
Part of the magic is in the different kinds of paper. Some is very light and tissue-like, some is about the same as paper used in an office copier and there’s even “what they call foil-backed paper, which helps to hold a shape a little better,” Scott said.
Most of his designs would fit in the palm of your hand. “I really prefer working with the smaller pieces that start out about an inch by an inch, and I have to use toothpicks to hold folds in place. I always have toothpicks in my pockets,” he said, pulling about a dozen from his jeans pockets.
“But the purists use absolutely nothing and never cut the paper. Everything you see here is \[from\] one piece of paper,” he said, gesturing toward the tabletop full of origami pieces he’s made.
Many origami masters attended the event in Tokyo as part of a discussion panel, including David Brill, Tom Hull and Eric Joisel. Besides lectures, the other way the JOAS members share knowledge and techniques is through classes in which traditional models are taught, or their creators teach new designs.
Scott submitted three original designs for peer review. These three original designs are now registered in the JOAS.
His most recent design, “Jet Fighter,” was chosen for display, and he was invited to teach a class at the convention on how it is made.
After high school, Scott would like to move to a bigger forum for his creativity — he plans a career in architecture.