On Monday, October 4th I received an email from Brittnell Anderson of Cogs and Marvel inquiring about giant gold crane mobiles for an upcoming event in New York City on October 21st. He had come across some pictures of gold spiral mobiles I had made in 2010, and wanted something similar. We soon spoke over the phone to discuss the details of the project and I learned that he wanted three 5 foot wide circular mobiles with hundreds of paper cranes all in gold.
I knew I could make the mobiles, but could I get it all done in the 16 days I had? Research needed to be done to find materials for the rings the cranes would hang from, as well as to find the right type and size of paper, hundreds of cranes needed to be folded, and the mobiles had to be assembled and delivered. Brittnell and I had gotten to the point where I had sketched out a design for the mobiles, and I had calculated an estimated number of cranes I would need, and figured out what size squares the cranes would have to be folded from to properly fill the mobiles. The mobiles would resemble chandeliers; each would have a larger outer ring with a 5 foot diameter, and a smaller inner ring with a 3 foot diameter, and roughly 100 large cranes would be hanging from the rings.
If I didn't have to fold all 300+ cranes I would have enough time to do everything else, but after my experience with the massive Abu Dhabi Project in 2019, I knew it took longer than I had to get everything done. I told Brittnell as much, and he asked if I couldn't pay someone to help me fold the cranes?
That got me thinking... although I am a bit of a perfectionist and control freak when it comes to my art, I didn't see the harm in paying experienced origamists to fold portions of the cranes for me.
Since I don't personally know anyone who folds and sells paper cranes, on Tuesday morning I went straight to Etsy in search of people who sold paper cranes similar to mine. They also had to have experience folding very large cranes as these would have to be folded from at least 10 inch squares. After finding seven good candidates and emailing them all, I heard back from five sellers that same day. Two couldn't help as they were too busy at the moment, one wanted to but didn't have a large enough paper cutter, and two (Kumi and Jessica) said they could. Jessica of Tangled Bee Co could fold 100, and Kumi of Kanzashi Shop could fold 140. That left me with between 60-100 cranes to fold myself. I put together a total for the cost of the materials, labor, and the cost of Express Shipping of everything and sent it over to Brittnell and by Tuesday afternoon it was all approved.
Tuesday night I drove to my closest Paper Source in Wellesley, MA, and bought all 6 sheets they had in stock of Gold Lokta Paper, item #101943. These sheets are 20x30 inches in size, so one sheet could yield either 2 large cranes, or 6 small cranes. Based on the numbers needed of each size I was able to calculate how many sheets each Etsy seller would need to fold her batch of cranes.
On Wednesday I had placed the orders for gold papers from The Paper Source, and had the papers shipped directly to the Etsy sellers. I accidentally put Kumi's address for Jessica's order, but I called Paper Source and spoke to Margaret who fixed the address for me right away. So far everything was going on schedule, and the papers were due to be delivered to Kumi and Jessica by Thursday afternoon.
On Thursday I got a message from Jessica saying that her paper was being delivered to the wrong state. Turns out, in the Paper Source system, when you place an order with next day shipping the label is printed immediately in the warehouse. By me calling and changing the address right after I placed the order, it only changed the address in the computer system, but the label had already been printed in the warehouse with the wrong address. So both packages of paper were being delivered to Kumi on Thursday, and none to Jessica.
In the end Kumi had FedEx return Jessica's package to The Paper Source warehouse, and I just placed a new express order for Jessica to be delivered by Friday afternoon. Her paper didn't end up arriving until the following Monday, but she still managed to fold all her cranes and ship them out to me on time. By the next Friday, October 15th, all the birds had arrived on my doorstep with 4 days remaining for assembly.
While all the paper shipping drama was going on, I was busy folding cranes from sheets purchased at local Paper Sources in the Boston area, as well as sourcing materials for the rings. I found out about these fiberglass hoops used in the fishing industry that came in several diameters including 5 feet! Unfortunately the closest place that had them was Memphis Tennessee and there was no guarantee that they would arrive by the 15th (the latest possible date I could get them by and still get everything done). The fiberglass hoops had to be shipped as "freight" (by truck) due to their large size, and the cost to ship them far exceeded the cost of the rings themselves. On top of all that, if any should break in transit I wouldn't have time to replace them. I had to find a more time efficient and reliable solution.
That Saturday night, October 9th, I enlisted my mom's help in looking for materials for the rings. While I folded cranes at home we "face-timed"on and off as she walked through our local Lowe's Store. I had been doing research on giant hoops, and found several people that talked about making giant hula hoops out of electrical conduits, or plastic piping. Her trip to Lowes was very helpful, and the next day I took my own trip there and bought some Shark Bite Pex Piping, a pex pipe cutting tool, some pipe couplings, pvc glue, and gold spray paint.
Over the next couple of days I assembled my hoops and spray painted them out on the deck. During the process of going through 5 cans of spray paint, I came to the painful realization that the rings would have to be covered by something else - the spray paint was too easily scuffed and damaged. The process of attaching all the cranes to the rings would involve a lot of friction, and the paint would get damaged, so I needed something tougher to cover the surface of the rings. Although I had been trying to avoid using ribbon on the hoops so as not to have them resemble hula hoops, I knew that at this point, ribbon was my only alternative. This was on October 13th, one week until the delivery date.
After some quick online searching for a ribbon solution, I visited my local JOANN Fabric and Michaels stores and bought up a bunch of gold ribbon. When I got home I found that the ribbon from JOANN was a better match, and asked my husband to get more at the JOANN near his job. The ribbon was the perfect solution - it's textured and shimmery, but not glittery, and it's also tough, so it was able to withstand all the rubbing and shifting of strings over its surface without being damaged at all. In the end the spray painting was still a good idea, as the hoops had originally been red and orange, so the paint covered up the original colors and gave the hoops a more professional finish, especially if any sliver of hoop became visible beneath the ribbon!
To make sure the strings of cranes were evenly spaced, I had to measure the circumferences of both the inner and outer rings, and divide that measurement by the number of strings that fit on each ring. I had to measure between the cranes both vertically and horizontally to make sure they were evenly spaced in both directions. Once everything was measured and properly placed, I secured all the knots with glue. It was finally Tuesday morning, and I had one mobile left to finish up and glue. I was on track to finish in time for the Wednesday delivery date.
Sometime midday on Tuesday, I wrote an email to Scott, my contact at Cogs and Marvel, to ask what time the mobiles needed to arrive in NYC the next day. I got no reply, and a couple of hours later I called the office directly. At that point I was informed that I hadn't heard back because Scott was busy on the phone all morning working on rescheduling the event. The person it was being held for was not going to be able to attend due to unforeseen circumstances.
The event has been rescheduled for sometime between now and the end of the year, and I'll still be going to NYC to deliver the mobiles the day before the event. Check back for Part 2 where you'll learn who the event is for!