Juho Könkkölä, origami artist from Finland. Photo © Courtesy of the artist
1.Tell us what you do and your beginnings.
I am an origami artist and I create human figures from a square sheet of paper using origami folding techniques. I have been folding origami for over 15 years and started it as a young kid. For the most part origami has been my personal thing that I did to spend time. I didn’t think of myself becoming an origami artist, since I considered it a craft or a hobby at the time. That changed when I started to learn how to design my own creations in 2018. It became more a medium of expression for me that I purposefully practiced.
I studied art at the University of applied sciences in Tornio, Lapland, but I never had opportunities to study origami, so I learned it on my own. I studied other art media, such as traditional art, photography, videography, and digital art in 2D and 3D there.
I graduated in 2020 and since then I have been exhibiting my origami works around the country. Probably the most influential exhibition for me was the Generation 2020 Exhibition in Amos Rex, Helsinki. That made me consider starting to focus on origami rather than the other media I studied.
2.What does your work aim to say?
Since the beginning of my journey in designing origami figures, I have always had this one question: What else can I create by folding a single square sheet of paper? My work seeks to find answers to that. I explore the boundaries of what emotions, actions, or personalities I could express with origami.
3.Where do you find inspiration for your art?
The physical limitations of one square comes with many technical challenges when creating human figures. A specific facial feature, piece of clothing, detail, idea, or a shape can create such challenges, and when I want to try to overcome them, they often become the first inspiration for me in the process.
After that, I might start reading stories from mythologies, folk tales, or history until I find something fitting for the challenges and requirements. Sometimes inspiration can also come from my observations or from a general fantasy world.
4.Could you give us some insight into your creative process?
In my process I plan thousands of folds on a crease pattern, I go through numerous iterations, and test the folds to make sure the design is thoroughly planned. I would consider it to be the ultimate mastery of this art if one could completely improvise and fold any kind of figure, but that is something that requires vast understanding of origami design and years, maybe decades of practice. I can improvise individual parts, but improvising entire structures is a challenge, since it leads to inefficiency, and efficiency is crucial in this type of origami.
The design process can take anything from one day to several months, or even years. At this point I want to be sure that the design works well, and it has everything needed to achieve the character. Any major changes most likely require redesign of the pattern, so those changes are better to do in the early stages of planning. Once I am happy with the design, I prepare the final sheet of paper to fold it.
Many artists probably have their arsenals of brushes or tools they use to make their art, I use a toothpick and a single brush. I find the lack of tools quite calming. It is just me and the paper. I can fully get in the flow of the folding process and focus only on it when I remove all the distractions from the work. It is a direct dialogue between my hands and the paper. Folding the carefully planned design is often just the framework towards folding the final figure.
After that I start folding the details and shaping the nuances to create the expression and character, and this is where the conversation happens. Sometimes the paper leads me to different decisions, or pushes me to other directions, sometimes I guide the paper to new folds and shapes.
5.What are your future projects?
For the last three years I have had this challenge to create a piece that improves over my previous works. First year it was the Lord of the Dragon, second year it was the Samurai, and this year it was the Dueling Knights. I plan on creating another major piece for the next year, although it is getting increasingly more difficult each year.
I have many other plans for future projects, such as exploring new themes, continuing my development on creating more expressive faces with variety, and moving onto making larger 2-meter sheets of paper for bigger and more complex works. I also plan to display my works outside Finland in international exhibitions this year.
Juho Könkkölä (Jyväskylä, 1997) is a Finnish origami artist who started creating his works as a child for play. Each work is about 18 centimeters high and mostly makes samurai with a single sheet of paper using the wet and dry origami technique.
The paper he generally uses are 68 x 68 cm Wenzhou rice paper sheets which he folds many times until he finds the right shape and the right position for every single detail, such as a shield or sword. The production time varies depending on the subject, a warrior for example, can take up to over 40 hours of work! Juho Könkkölä lives and works in Jyväskylä.