'Origami Club' unfolds at College Terrace Library
Sawako Tajima teaches free workshops on the paper-folding art through Aug. 17
Maya Homan sat at a folding table outside the College Terrace Library turning a colorful square of paper into a boat. With a few more deft creases, the boat became a sailboat and then morphed into a pinwheel. And then Homan, 10, did something origami instructor and College Terrace resident Sawako Tajima found remarkable: She turned the pinwheel into a dog that she designed herself.
Each week since June 29, Tajima and her son, Hide, a Palo Alto High School senior, come to the library children's room for the "origami club." The free summertime workshop, which takes place Wednesdays from 3:30 to 5 p.m., runs through Aug. 17 and features a different theme each week: flowers, animals, "useful" origami (such as boxes), airplanes, sea creatures, accessories, fun stuff and traditional forms.
Tajima, a soft-spoken native of Nagoya, Japan, teaches Japanese at Palo Alto Adult School during the school year. She's also a volunteer at Palo Alto High School. The origami club is a loose-knit group with no membership, she said. All the children need to do is show up while at the library and the fun begins.
The club is an outgrowth of a March origami crane project, she said. After the March 11 Japan earthquake and tsunami, she organized people to fold 1,000 origami cranes at the library as a benefit for disaster victims. Tajima put out fliers with instructions to make the cranes and, on the flip side, information about where to send donations to help the stricken.
"In Japan, people believe that 1,000 cranes can cure a sick person. They believe their good wishes will be granted when they fold the cranes with sincere prayers," she said.
Tajima is no stranger to teaching origami. She has had an annual table at the College Terrace Residents Association picnic, keeping bored kids occupied with paper magic. Besides being beautiful, origami teaches children geometry concepts. It's also good for developing fine motor skills, she said.
Mary Fetter, 9, said she enjoys making "fortune tellers" — four joined, peaked pyramids that one manipulates with fingers in a rotating pattern.
Homan said she discovered the origami club after her mother sent her to the event with her nanny.
"I think it's pretty good. I like origami," she said, while puffing air into a paper ball that she then tossed in the air.
"The interesting thing is that some kids don't need the instructions," Tajima said, noting how well Homan had grasped the art form. "They create their own things."
Most weeks, the club takes place inside the library, although on Wednesday Tajima took the opportunity to enjoy the sunny day and combine the club with a magic-act event taking place on the lawn.
On the library's glass door, stenciled letters summarize its philosophy: "One world, many stories."
Inside, the many stories of origami unfolded in the children's room. Origami penguins, monkeys, pandas, squirrels, flowers, boats, bookmarks and doll's clothing populated a windowsill, enticements for the next session.
The 1,000 cranes that sparked Tajima's idea for the origami club hang in long garlands from the bookshelves, symbols of the neighborhood's connection with those far away.
"When I organized it, people's reaction was overwhelming," Tajima said of the crane project. "That's one of other reasons why I wanted to contribute something to this society (through the origami club). I still really appreciate what they did."
Sue Chang, a library associate, said origami books are a popular checkout item.
Now and then, children stopped their activities to play with the windowsill animals or marvel at the multitude of colorful cranes. They squeezed their wings to make them flap as though they could fly.
Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at email@example.com.