Monday, May 5, 2008

Origami Mystery

Last week in a bookstore near Amherst, Massachusetts I noticed a tiny origami crane sitting on a shelf of dinosaur books.

I hardly gave it another thought until the next day, when I saw another one perched on the napkin dispenser in a diner.

Later, in the Bela restaurant in Northampton I saw three more miniature origami cranes next to a flower vase. I asked the waiter how they got there. “I don’t know,” he said. “They just appeared. We love them. But no one knows who put them there.”

At the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, five more cranes appeared on the corner of the table where I had just been signing books.

No one claimed them, so I put them in my sketch pouch. Where were they coming from? Did they reproduce spontaneously, like the road kill kitties? Or was there some sweatshop in the Pioneer Valley staffed by nimble-fingered elves?

What was I supposed to do with them? Did someone want me to disperse them in public spaces? Was I an unwitting pawn in some vast culture-jamming, shopdropping conspiracy? I felt more befuddled than ever. But I sensed a call to action.

I glued thin wires under them so that they could fly. I placed one in a grocery store near the taco mix. I put another one on a display of Mentos gum.

Three more origami cranes are in my sketch pouch waiting to be set free. Maybe you’ll discover them in a convenience market, a big box store, or a donut shop.

18 comments:

alain said...

Just a line to tell you how I admire your work. I wish I could paint something one day with few percent of the skills you have. Your blog is a great source of inspiration and reflection for my own work, as a paleontographist myself. You can see my work at http://www.paleospot.com

If one day you come in Paris for sketching and painting, warn me! I would be pleased to take lessons on field.
Greetings from Paris.
Alain Bénéteau

James Gurney said...

Merci, Alain. You are very kind. And very talented. The feathered velociraptor on your website is magnificently real. Avec admiration, JG

Meredith D. said...

My understanding is that some folks are using them to symbolize peace.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thousand_origami_cranes

Joe Sutphin said...

Jim,
funny enough, they look to me to be Pterodactyls:)
I found this post fun though, someone got me an origami-a-day calendar this year and its pretty fun to play with each morning.

Kristi Valiant said...

How fun is that to find lil' cranes everywhere! I love how first it was one, then one more, then 3 more, then 5 more - increasing like some kind of crane conspiracy!

rbaird said...

And how lucky they are, to be found by someone who would pass the joy on!

Jen Z said...

I love stories of subtle interaction with our communities, one of the reasons I loved and was inspired by the movie "Amelie". I like the idea that the cranes are part of a peace movement, and would like to think you've helped them migrate to touch more peoples' lives.
Oh, and if you ever decide to meet up with Alain in Paris, it's just a hop skip and a jump to Berlin, where you can see the original Berlin specimen of Archaeopteryx as well as other great specimens at the museum of natural history. :D

Bowlin said...

Reminds me of the site Little People.

http://little-people.blogspot.com/

Eric Orchard said...

That is truly strange. But really neat too. I went through a period of finding miniature keys around the city. It started to freak me out.

Susan said...

There's an old (Japanese, I think) story of how a 1,000 paper cranes were made to bring good health to a little girl. Maybe someone is on a mission. Whatever is it, I think it's kinda cool that you passed it on! Great site. Love your dinos!! My 12 year old daughter wants to be a paleontogist, so dinos have become part our lives. She hopes to go to Montana and helped at a dig site next year.

judetwee said...

It's a Japanese myth that if you fold 1,000 paper cranes, you can have one wish granted.

But generally, they're just fun to do! A friend of mine makes cranes smaller than my pinky nail (about a centimeter long) when she has spare time.

Ginger*:)* said...

Someone is making a wish. When you create 1000 paper cranes your wish will come true. How generous of this creator to share them with others.

In a church in New Haven Ct there is a giant "chandelier" of paper cranes all strung on fishing line filament and hanging by the thousand in an alcove of the church. When the sunlight hits them they warm up slightly and begin to move a bit with the energy of the heat.

Ginger*:)* said...

Me again.. do you by any chance remember the
'gutter' houses and constructions in the streets of NYC a while ago. They began appearing on Canal street. Tiny constructions left in the gutters and near the drains...they were temporary little works of art to be enjoyed only if you happend to be looking down long enough to notice before they became dust and debris.

a. fortis said...

This is great! I love it, and I love that you helped the cranes "migrate."

Cadet Declan said...

Culture jamming?! I'd never heard of that term but I understand it completely! It’s something my friends and I do all the time. I always get a kick out of leaving some small, odd thing(s) in a public space that will baffle (and hopefully amuse) the next person to see it. Anyway, thanks for giving me something to call our silly activities.

amy_xox_909 said...

A website has been inspired by this blogpost :) http://craneland.webs.com/

James Gurney said...

How wonderful. Thanks, Amy.

Sue DiCicco said...

You might be interested in the Peace Crane Project!
http://peacecraneproject.org
http:armedwiththearts.org
We are creating one art project each year, inviting every child in the world to participate and then share their art with others. This year, the children are encouraged to write a poem about peace, fold it into a crane, then place their crane within their community, to be discovered by others just as you did. We are also connecting schools and community groups around the world with one another for a one on one exchange and friendship. I hope you will join us and encourage others to participate as well.