Today’s Do What You Love interview is with Andrew Ooi, a Canadian ‘free folding artist’ who creates exquisite works from paper. I am slightly jealous of Andrew as he has exhibited at the ‘World Washi Summit’ which sounds like my idea of heaven! I delighted to be able to introduce his work to you, and get a glimpse into his life surrounded by paper.

1. Please can you share a bit about your creative journey to here. How did you get to be doing what you are doing?

It all started with a paper crane. I watched on, eagerly, as a friend transformed a square sheet of paper into wings, tail, neck and head. I desperately wanted to learn how to make one.

I spent every free moment folding paper. Soon, it became an impulse. Even on the subway! Nearly every station had a stall of the free daily. Hours of commuting, cutting and creasing the newspaper, went by in minutes. It was a struggle to look out for my stop!

As my skills progressed, I challenged myself continuously. When I felt I had mastered a particular fold, I attempted others more intricate and complex. With each new crease, I came closer and closer to forming and defining my work. ‘Folding’ was an art and art form combined.

I searched books, magazines, art galleries, and art-supply stores to build upon my perspective and practice. Origamists offered technique. Furniture and interior designers demonstrated the beauty of negative space. Artist, Bridget Riley (who features on Artsy)  provided clear inspiration; Jun Kaneko, indistinctly, but equally vital. A selection of papers was tested along with many kinds of folds. In the end, what I most responded to wasn’t the fold itself, but what the fold could express.

I gave this abstract expressionist attitude of folding paper the name ‘free folding’. It’s the distinguishing mark of my aesthetic. It’s the particular context of emotional space I aspire to create. And, as an artist, it has been the fundamental approach to my art.


2. What is a ‘free folding artist’ and what do you create?

A free folding artist is someone who uses folds – improvised or organized, multidimensional, and in any media – as a way to express the world around them if it were of their own making.

3. What is your motivation for creating what you create?

My main motivation in my artwork is re-presenting my reality. How do I come by my point of view of the world? How can I convey that certain feeling to another person? Intuitively, I fold, which acts as both my canvas and my paintbrush. The final artwork is an impression of my mood in time and space, through all of its changes and transformations.

4. What is special about paper as your material of choice?

Paper really is a unique medium. Different kinds of paper behave in different ways. Weight, texture, translucency, and memory – the ability of the paper to retain a fold – are essential components to assess in creating an artwork. Bold marks are best in heavier, fibrous papers. Subtle creases illuminate in fine, handmade. Ultimately, what paper I decide to use depends on the intended environment I want the viewer to experience.


5. What is your favourite paper to work with and why?

It’s not so much a “favourite” as it is the “right” paper for a piece. Watercolour papers, like Fabriano Tiziano, are ideal for work subjected to excessive folding, or requiring a strong, definite structure. Understated marks, creases made and smoothed out, have this brilliancy about them in handmade Japanese papers, such as Gampi Udaban. Again, the paper of choice really depends on the specific work I’m creating.

6. I noticed that you exhibited at the ‘World Washi Summit’ – sounds like heaven! What was that like?

Incredible! It was great to be among other artists using washi, Japanese paper. The range of artwork, sometimes with the same kind of Japanese paper, was staggering. The paper makers from Japan, also in attendance, were rapt too. The opportunity to share the mutual appreciation of each other’s craftsmanship, paper maker to artist, artist to artist, and paper maker to paper maker, was one-of-a-kind!


7. What does ‘doing what you love’ mean to you?

To me “doing what you love” means being able to make art, even if it wasn’t my profession.

8. What is the best part about working as an artist?

The best part about being an artist is exhibiting my work and getting immediate feedback. It helps me guage how well the art is relevant to the times.


9. What is your big dream for your creative endeavors?

For now, I’d love to show my work, internationally. The feedback would be terrific and the exposure would help me establish free folding as an accepted art and art form.

[All images courtesy of Andrew Ooi.]

To find out more about Andrew visit his website or connect on Twitter (@scotfr33)