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The obsessive art of origami

Sumaya Al-Enzi with two of her students during recent workshop
Sumaya Al-Enzi with two of her students during recent workshop

For Sumaya Al-Enzi, origami is her passion and her life. Origami is the art of folding papers, which is often associated with Japanese culture. Sumaya, a Chinese origami teacher, has magical hands that transform a flat sheet of square paper into amazing flowers, dresses, shapes and more through various folding and sculpting techniques. Kuwait Times spoke to Enzi, who has been practicing origami for 10 years, to discover her skills in creating and teaching to make such beautiful shapes.

Some excerpts:
Kuwait Times: How was your first encounter with origami?
Enzi: I learned to make my first origami model when my daughter was two years old. I tried to teach her something useful, so I bought a book for children with origami sheets and instructions, and by teaching her, I taught myself and got obsessed with it.
After I started, I could not stop, and my house got full of origami artworks, so my husband asked me to start pursuing it as a career. Soon, I began teaching at weekly folding sessions. A lot of people found it difficult to fold and I was one of them, so I started to follow some professionals on YouTube and created more models.

KT: Do you remember the first time you folded an origami figure?
Enzi: I started with small and simple origami folding instructions from the children’s book. But I knew that I could improve because I got more ideas every time I folded a sheet – some ideas were simple, some grand. My initial motivation was to help children who enjoy origami to fold more.

KT: What inspires you?
Enzi: Every single sheet inspires me to fold a new model, even when I go to restaurants, the bank or to finish paperwork, I end up creating an origami model from tissue or paper. There’s so much goodness around that it’s hard for me not to get inspired. My fingers automatically fold things, and pictures of folded stuff often make my fingers itch and make me want to fold that model too. This may lead to researching a designer, or lead me to a video, or buying a book to discover another aspect of origami.

KT: Was there a particular moment when you realized that origami was something you wanted to commit to?
Enzi: Yes, when I started to teach and hold workshops and let my daughter also teach youngsters how to make an origami model.

KT: Besides origami, what other interests do you have?
Enzi: I studied nail art in Japan and was working in a salon, but not anymore.

KT: How has your academic work influenced your creative origami design work?
Enzi: Drawing on nails is a hard thing to do – it needs patience and focus. In origami, sometimes it takes a long time to make a single piece and you must be focused.

KT: Your recent pieces are made with a single piece of paper. How did these designs evolve?
Enzi: Making a model from a single piece of paper is the hardest, because one large paper can be turned into an amazingly small flower with many details.

KT: What future plans do you have for your work? Are there any particular projects that you’re looking forward to?

Enzi: I will teach origami to children in hospitals soon, as origami can be beneficial to their mental health. There is a part of your brain that does not work, and origami is the only thing that makes that part work and develop.

Origami challenges the mind, building on innate talents and abilities through a variety of mentally challenging tasks, strengthening the brain. Origami is one avenue that provides both mental and physical stimuli with exercise and helps develop hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and mental concentration. Origami is used in various therapeutic settings, including art therapy and in stroke and injury rehabilitation.

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