Photo: Katie Panzer
“I grew up in Japan and everyone learned [origami] folding when we were in preschool or kindergarten,” says Kumiko Morse. After moving Stateside, she spotted origami jewelry on the Internet and thought, “Hey, I can do that.” Channeling the traditions she was taught as a young child with her new-found inspiration, Morse began folding again, creating her first pieces of origami jewelry in May 2010. After a lot of experimentation, she found techniques that would allow her to turn her paper-folding skills into wearable art that is both beautiful and unique.
All of the paper that Morse uses is shipped to her from Japan. “When I get the paper, I don’t get to choose which ones I get, so it’s always a surprise,” she says. The element of surprise is part of Morse’s creative process. The variation in the papers she gets means that most of her pieces of jewelry are one-of-a-kind. Origami, in its nature, is a very delicate art form and, on its own, is not durable enough to be worn. Using a top-secret liquid coating, she is able make the fragile origami nearly indestructible. “I got one wet and tried to smash it and I couldn’t,” she says, describing the durability of her creations.
Recently, Morse began to integrate more expensive materials—such as sterling silver hardware and Swarovski crystals—into her jewelry. “I noticed that some cheap materials rust really fast, but I was worried if they were too expensive, people wouldn’t buy them,” she says. To satisfy both cheapskates and spendthrifts alike, Morse says she uses a range of materials so that everyone can find something pretty that’s in their price range.
While Morse enjoys her craft, she doesn’t see it ever becoming a full-time job. “I really enjoy folding and making this stuff. When I’m motivated I can do this all day for a week and then sometimes I don’t want to do it at all, so it depends on my motivation.” You may not find her creating her jewelry around the clock, but Morse definitely has a passion for her craft. Hopefully she will be gracing the crafting scene with her presence for the foreseeable future.