Step 1: Google. You stare at images on the internet. Most of them are boring sonobe unit structures (sonobe units are generally the first units people tend to learn, since they are “the easiest” to make and assemble), but the “little turtle” ones catch your eye. You’re hesitant to do this, because the last time you made something with those, you had to tape it (of course you have no glue, you’re not a two-year-old), which is technically cheating and morally wrong. You do it anyway because you like to torture yourself.

Step 2: Spend an hour trying to figure out what colours to choose. Firstly, you did some math, and you have come to the conclusion that in order for each group of 5 in your deformed dodecahedron to be a different  combination, you need 6 colours. You stare at your collection of origami paper. Oh no, what a tragedy, you have (*gasp*) too many options! You choose the following: pink, pink but with circles, slightly less pink purple, slightly more purple purple, slightly more blue purple, and blue with nice squares on it. Based on the internet, you are fairly sure you’re supposed to have bright, funky colours spread more widely along the colour spectrum, but you’re unoriginal and a disappointment to all your middle school friends who once spent half an hour trying to figure out what shade of grey to match with what shade of pink.

Step 3: Find the instructions for a “little turtle” unit on the internet. You have to do this, because you have the memory of a goldfish when it comes to things that aren’t completely useless (like your school computer password from grade 3) and you can’t remember how to make them despite having made 60 of them in a row a few months ago. Fun fact: after hours of painstakingly aligned edges and carefully coaxed corners, the tape’s falling apart and it’s sagging, abandoned, on a lonely dresser island. Normally, you rely on that one book you got when you went to China at like, 12, but that one had sadistic tendencies, as proven by its instructions to cut your paper in half. Therefore, you turn to the internet, and thankfully, you find one (1) visual sheet of instructions on Pinterest (you are reluctant to use Pinterest for absolutely no reason, but you’re desperate, ok?). Videos are slow and annoying, you think, as you flashback to that one time you made a half hour long video on how to fold a basic origami rose.

Step 4: Interpret instructions. Here’s approximately how it goes. First, you execute the easy stuff. These are the folding-in-half lines. Then, you attempt to read the highly confusing arrows by comparing consecutive steps. This is incredibly funny, because you yourself often use highly confusing arrows when taking notes and whatnot, and you can read them just fine, most of the time. Sometimes.

Step 5: Mentally prepare to do this 29 more times. Actually, make that 31, because you’re a cautious coward, so you need to make two extra units in order to convince yourself that you are indeed capable of doing this.

Step 6: You’re on your third unit. The sight of square paper already makes you feel a deep sense of dread and nausea. How did you get here? Why are you doing this? Why are you doing this and why are your classmates somewhere over the rainbow not spending their time folding paper and doing actually useful things like, I don’t know, studying? Most of all, you stare at the pile of paper waiting to be folded as if that will make them magically fold themselves.

Step 7: The fifth unit has just been tossed aside. Thank god, you can finally stare intensely at a different colour. By now, you’ve thoroughly analyzed yourself, your assortment of dubious decisions, your entire life, and every single one of your friendships at least a dozen times. You even have detailed dialogues about how each of those friendships would end, with vividly realised settings, complex backstories, and music to add some dramatic flair. You even got the last word a couple times.

Step 8: Develop an alien language to describe what you’re doing. You, being impressively incompetent at chinese, have so far relied entirely on diagrams. The imposter syndrome would trample you if there was anywhere for you to impose on. There are many especially flavourful terms in your vocabulary, such as “tetraenvelope fold” and “parallel-train-tracking the asymmetrical cat ears.”

Step 9: It’s getting late now. Your left hand feels detached from your body. Your wrist is screaming in pain, and not because you’re old. And your fingers would probably convince someone that you’re a corpse (mentally, you are).

Step 10: Guess what. After much toil, overthinking, and unhelpful perfectionism, you now have a pile of 30 quirky little shapes sitting on your desk! And, even better, you haven’t even gotten to the difficult part yet! You need to kick awake all of your dwindling brain cells to figure out what exactly is the shape you’re supposed to be making and how to persuade the pieces to fit together properly, as well as obsess the even distribution of each colour (and colour combination).

Step 11: You have disassembled the shape twice by now. It’s been hours. Your hands don’t even exist anymore. But here you have it. A paper ball thing that will likely haunt your nightmares for the next couple of days (what is the deformation of the surface of a sphere with 20 holes in it?) that you now proceed to banish to the corner of your window.

Finished product:


Photo: Maggie Pang