Pandas, bamboo, tigers, monkeys, and elephants – these were requested for a custom Asian Jungle Themed Mobile. This was going to be a challenge – the only models I knew how to fold were the monkey and elephant. I had folded one panda before, but didn’t like the final model, so this time I needed to find a diagram for a different style of panda.
When starting a custom project where I need to fold something new, I like to fold the biggest and most important models first. If good diagrams can be found for these larger models, then everything is downhill from there. The pandas were to be the stars of this mobile, so I began scouring the internet for instructions on how to fold pandas. I wanted a model that not only looked like a panda, but one that conveyed the cuddly rolly-poly nature of a panda bear. There are plenty of simple panda diagrams out there, requiring few folds, and the pandas are flat, two dimensional models. After exhausting all my online resources, I turned to YouTube in hopes that I’d find a good video tutorial. I came across a 3D model designed by Jackie Chan. This panda reminded me of a little beetle – very round and compact, and I thought it just might work. I folded a small one first just to get a feel for it, but didn’t like the way it looked – it resembled a bowl, where its’ underside was completely open and hollow.
Frustrated by the lack of success with the panda, I decided to take a break and work on the bamboo for a little while. I wasn’t sure if the bamboo stalks should stand alone in the mobile, or if they should be paired up with pandas. After going through instructions on how to fold origami bamboo, I decided to make bamboo my own way. Taking some direction from a YouTube video tutorial in Spanish, and then making modifications, I was able to create a sturdy bamboo stalk complete with nodes where the leaves would grow out of the stalk. Each leaf was folded from a small 2 inch square sheet, and inserted into the nodes in a spiral pattern.
Next, the familiar elephants and monkeys were folded, and I was left with the tiger and the panda obstacles. I folded a panda model that I had used in a previous zoo mobile, and studied it on my work surface where the bamboo stalks and other models were laid out. This model was flat and two dimensional like the others I had seen, and he didn’t convey the roundness of the panda bear.
On my work surface, the imperfect beetle-like panda sat there looking up at me, drawing me in with his little eyes and tiny nose. Deciding he was too cute to be overlooked – I had to make him work in the mobile. Knowing that he would never work in the mobile on his own, I placed him on a bamboo stalk, and found the solution to my panda dilemma. His hollow underside would be placed up against the bamboo, and you would only see his round exterior. It was perfect!
After folding two more even larger rounded pandas, I moved on to looking for a tiger model. Cats, whether large or small, are very graceful creatures, and it’s challenging to convey this grace through a stiff, folded paper model. I have folded a variety of lions in the past, most of them in a lying/sitting position, and a few house cats, but none of them ever looked graceful or overly realistic to me. The tiger is a powerful animal that moves so beautifully, and I didn’t think I’d find any instructions to fold a tiger that looked like it should. Having decided to use tiger striped paper, the goal was to find a model that looked like a large, muscular cat. Easier said than done! After seemingly endless searching for the perfect tiger, I decided to try modifying a smilodon (saber-toothed cat) model that I found a video tutorial for. The model looked pretty good, not graceful, but certainly powerful, and I thought it would work as long as the large fangs could be eliminated from the model.
In my experience, it’s a lot easier to fold origami using the traditional picture diagrams than to try and follow video tutorials. This smilodon tutorial was over 2 hours long, and the video image wasn’t always clear, so the fold details weren’t easy to see. After one slow and frustrating hour of following along with the tutorial I decided that I needed to find the diagram for the model if I was going to finish this thing at all. Luckily the tutorial mentioned the name of the person who designed the model, Satoshi Kamiya. I finally found and printed the images of the diagram, and continued folding my first tiger. After a while and some modifications to hide his fangs and lengthen his tail, the tiger was ready – now, I just had to fold two more.
Once all the models were folded, I brought out a set of wires and began experimenting with the mobile’s layout. Something was missing – there wasn’t enough variety in the creatures. I needed to replace two of five monkeys with something else. After some contemplation and online searching, I decided I’d try folding a couple of red pandas. A raccoon diagram would work well, since the red panda is essentially shaped like a raccoon – only larger and in a different color. I folded these tricky little fellas from a reddish brown paper, and they were just the thing to tie the mobile together.
As I had worked on the mobile, I had posted some pictures of the progress on Instagram, and my customer and her husband had been eager to see the completed mobile. My customer was delighted with the final product, saying she liked it even better than the previous mobile she had ordered. It was the perfect gift for her friend’s new baby.