Tuesday 27 March 2018

Beautiful, Intricate and Unique Floral Art - Hanakami by Michael Lai

I have long being fascinated by the tactile art form of Origami, the art of paper folding to create intricate designs. The end result is always so effortlessly beautiful! However, even if a design looks deceptively 'simple', believe you me... it takes a lengthy series of complex folds and a ton of patience and dexterity to create that intricate form. 

A few weeks ago, I came across a series of innovative zen art pieces created by artist & Origamist Michael Lai. His craft is a variation of the traditional Japanese art form of Origami. Instead of using traditional origami paper, Michael creates his intricate handmade designs from pressed flower petals!

Michael is the first artist to use pressed flowers for this age old art form and after discussions with the origami association in Japan, he coined the term "Hanakami" meaning "Flower paper" in Japanese to separate his craft work from others using the term Florigami or Floral origami. 

Like Origami, Hanakami also has great relevance towards improving mental health and mindfulness through meditation, focus and contemplation. 

After research, it has been established that Michael created the world's smallest "handmade" origami crane! Yes, smaller models do exist however they have been made using tools and microscopes while Michael only uses his dexterous finger tips and senses he has trained through mindfulness and mediation.

After the success of his first exhibit, “Hanakami (花紙) cranes and micro-terrariums”, which was an exploration of intricate patterns, delicate textures and vibrant colours, Michael and Alick Lau (Manager for a Indiegogo crowdfunding project) created their first crowdfunding campaign and also established Studio Hanakami, an art studio to create more of these amazing zen art works. 

I had the opportunity to interview Michael to find out more about his fascinating craft- the art of Hanakami and his journey from scientist to artist and the way forward.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I was trained as a scientist and have been working in IT consulting for the last few years. Origami is something of a hobby for me but in the last couple of years I have developed an interest in applying the skills and technique to help people improve their mental fitness, in a similar way to how you might train your physical fitness. I do think that mental and physical fitness are so closely linked that you have to work on both things at the same time to get the maximum benefit.

Can you share with us your creative journey to where you are now?

To cut a long story short, I went from making origami cranes to miniature origami cranes to using novel materials to make miniature origami cranes and now I want to see how the process of making miniature origami cranes using novel materials might help solve other problems people might have.
What has been the inspiration behind Hanakami and your work?

While searching for the perfect material for making miniature origami cranes I stumbled on the idea of using flower petals. This has never been done before to my knowledge, so it was just a matter of talking to people who work with flowers and a lot of trial and error to figure out how to do this. I am inspired by people who use nature as the inspiration and raw material for their work, because there is a beauty within nature that doesn't need any embellishment.What are the mental health benefits of your work?

It is a little bit different for everyone, but like physical exercise the process of producing the origami models is not unlike a series of mental exercise that can help you to improve mental fitness by increasing concentration, focus and mindfulness. And like physical fitness you don't obtain the results overnight, since it requires you to continually spend time and effort in order to improve.

Do you have a favourite design?

Every finished model is unique in its form and pattern because of the material used, and while I mostly only make the traditional origami crane model it is also my favourite to fold.What is a typical workday like for you?

I hope there isn't such a thing as a typical workday for me.

Can you describe the design process?

It's a week or two to dry and press the flower petals and at least an hour to fold the origami model. In between there is also some preparation involved to select the flower petals and work out where to make the cuts for the 'paper'. That's assuming every petal ends up being suitable for the preparation stage and that every piece of 'paper' ends up being a perfectly folded crane (which it doesn't, and the success rate varies considerably depending on lots of different factors).What are you working on at the moment?

Adapting some of the techniques and ideas used in the workshops for other demographics, in particular for younger children and the elderly because I think there are different areas that need to be targeted when it comes to mental fitness for these two age groups.

What according to you is the next big thing in interior design?

This is not something that I know very much about, but with apartment living becoming the norm in the cities a lot of people will be looking for new ways to add a personal touch to spaces that are not designed to allow a lot of personalization so it will be interesting to see some creative ideas especially with 3D printing becoming more accessible and popular.

What 3 words describe your work?

Purpose, perspective and perception.
Can you share 3 things people don’t know about you?

I haven't worn a pair of jeans since primary school; I have a terrible sense of direction but don't mind getting lost (probably because I am used to it); I have only drank coffee twice in the last twenty year and both times by accident (a story for another time)

Which is your favourite room in your home and why?

When I have lived in places with one, the sun room because it is just a lovely place to do anything when you have good lighting and a clear view of everything around you. There was a place I lived, quite close to the beach and it had a small sun room but it looked out to the ocean and on a clear night you could watch the stars, listen to the waves and smell the sea breeze.
What's your favourite inspirational quote?

At the moment it is: “A life without cause is a life without effect.” ~ Paulo Coelho
If you've ever folded a paper crane or would like to learn how to, Michael runs classes and workshops on origami to introduce the mental health benefits of this traditional form of art. You can contact him through here for more information on workshop details. In current times, when life is so uncertain, fast and disruptive, it is truly an art to seek serenity and be mindful.

A series of framed photographic prints and artworks from his 2017 ‘Hanakami Cranes and Micro-Terrariums’ exhibition is currently available from Studio Hanakami

Till next time... be sure to peek into this beautiful, intricate and unique world of Hanakami by Michael Lai!


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