White On Rice, or Ross Symons, is a full-time origami artist based in Cape Town.
Cape Town Etc caught up with Ross to learn more about his passion for origami.
How did you first discover origami, and how has it developed into one of your passions?
I was asked by my brother to learn how to fold an origami crane for a project he was busy with in 2002. I folded that crane and just never stopped. Whenever I had paper in front of me, I would fold a crane. I did this for years until 2013, when I started folding other basic designs. Frogs, rabbits, etc.
I realised while working a desk job as a web developer that I had a real interest in origami. My desk was always littered with origami shapes, and I would fold something for the new guys that started working with us. That interest developed into an obsession which is now my passion.
Where did you learn origami?
The same place I learned everything. On the internet. Tutorials, books, and diagrams are abundant on the net.
How is origami paper different from regular paper and where do you source your materials? Do you need any special tools?
You can use any type of paper for origami, but some is better than others. If I am folding an insect which has fine details, then I would use very thin paper like two sheets of tissue paper stuck together. But if I’m creating a rhino or a bull, then the model looks better with thicker paper, like watercolour paper.
I have a few tools which I use, such as a bone folder – it’s like a letter opener, but it’s specifically used to flatten creases on the paper. I also use tweezers and pliers, but I use my hands most of the time.
Where do you get your designs from and what inspires you to make them?
Many of the designs I find in books and online. I try and think of what would look cool as an origami piece and try to find a diagram. If I can’t find anything, I try to design my own piece, which can take months to get right. Sometimes, however, I’ll see something that another person has folded or a new online tutorial that has come out, and just give that a go.
Could you describe your regular workspace?
Cutting mat, laptop, a cup of coffee, paper. I have a cupboard in my studio which I use to store all my paper and the things I’ve folded, and that’s it.
When I’m busy with a project or designing something, my work area is a complete mess. Once I’m done, I tidy up and start again.
How can Capetonians get involved in origami; are there clubs or groups?
A beginners origami book is a great place to start. You can get one at most bookstores around Cape Town.
Start looking online and doing tutorials of the basic designs. Start connecting with the YouTube and Instagram community and see what they are doing.
There is also an NGO community called Origami for Africa, based in Cape Town, which teaches origami to underprivileged children and they do have outings where the kids teach people how to fold too. You can get in touch with them here.
Some corporate organisations have taken notice of your work and commissioned pieces from you; did you ever think origami would take you this far?
I never for a moment thought this would have happened. But I did see that there were a few artists around the world doing it and thought, ‘if they can do it, so can I.’
This is is just the beginning, though; whether this ‘thing’ will still be origami in the future, I’m not sure. What I’m certain of though is that I’ve proven to myself that if I want to do something and be good at it, I can.
Where to next for White on Rice?
I want to do installations and exhibitions both locally and internationally. Cape Town, London, New York, Sydney, everywhere.
I am doing a lot of origami stop-motion animation at the moment, and I want to bring the digital element of what I do into the physical, so there will be loads more of that to come.
Photography courtesy Ross Symons
Featured image montage
Owls designed by Ross Symons
Horse and dragon designed by Jun Maekawa
Swan designed by Sipho Mabona and duckling by Hoàng Tiên Quyêt
All folded by Ross Symons