The scene: two knights face off in an intense battle; one knight slashes with his longsword while the other crouches to block the hit with a round shield.
“Both are shouting with their mouths open while the capes are flowing in the action and the wind. The shielded knight has scaled armor with many rectangular shapes to convey a more grounded and defensive character, while the other has sharper angles and diagonal shapes to imply aggressiveness,” said Juho Könkkölä, 24, an origami artist from Jyväskylä, Finland, describing his most recent work of art.
Könkkölä says the folded origami marvel took him 2.5 years from conception to completion, with 109 hours of that time spent entirely on folding. Yet another wonder is that the life-like fight scene is folded out of one single piece of Wenzhou rice paper.
“It is the greatest origami of mine and is a culmination of years of work in a single sheet of paper. Before I thought it wouldn’t be possible to create such a thing, but I managed to prove myself wrong,” he said.
Proving himself wrong was a process that took Könkkölä hours of planning and design, countless iterations, and lots of practice.
Könkkölä has been folding origami for 15 years. The art started out as a way to pass the time, but he then began to learn more complex patterns. In 2018, he began designing his own figures and has since studied various mediums, materials, and methods in order to begin developing his own way of origami design.
While he uses mulberry and other rice papers at times, Könkkölä says he relies on Wenzhou rice paper for most of his pieces because of its thin strength, precise fold, nice texture, creamy tone, large size, and the way it looks when wrinkled. He says that it holds creases well after the treatment process and is “one of the best papers” he has found for complex origami.
The young artist got the idea of creating the two knights out of one sheet of paper in 2019. After theorizing about the possibility, he began designing his final crease pattern in January 2021, and then folding it in September 2021. Along the way, he realized the extent of the challenge he had dreamed up for himself.
Könkkölä was trying to pose a structure more complex than any he had ever tried before, and he says, “one of the greatest challenges was to overcome efficiency requirements.”
“Another great challenge was to figure out how to make the characters symmetrical, while keeping the structure asymmetrical, as there is no elegant way to fold two figures from one sheet with symmetrical structure and required efficiency,” he said.
It was an ambitious idea, but Könkkölä held onto it. His tedious process began with developing the individual parts of the two knights. “For example,” he said, “I went through dozens of iterations to just create the swords for the figures.”
Then, he worked on the details of the main structure: how the capes worked, where to place the limbs and faces on the sheet of paper. He folded thousands of creases in order to pre-crease the Wenzhou. Then, after collapsing it all into a “blocky figure,” he—carefully, so as not to tear the weakened paper after so much handling—folded it further to bring life to all of the details and shapes in his imagination.
Action and persistence proved out Könkkölä’s theories. After the convergence of his ideas, planning, practice, and patience, the artist realized his concepts would work.
“At around the 95-hour mark of folding the final piece, it was a huge relief to see the capes finally working. Before that, I only knew that it would be a possible theory,” he said. “The rest of the process after that was mostly just finishing touches, so I was already excited to see it finished.”
Finally, in January 2022, the piece was wet-folded into the dynamic form that can now be seen in Könkkölä’s portfolio.
To overcome his hurdles, Könkkölä had developed a new approach to designing complex origami figures, which, he says he will use again in the future. “Many of the other challenges I overcame by trusting the process and my skills and just doing the piece,” he said.
The figure of two knights follows on the heels of a Samurai, and a figure riding a dragon, in Könkkölä’s annual personal challenge to improve upon his work. For those curious to see what might come next, Könkkölä lets us know that there is more to come.
“We will see what I can come up with next year,” he said.