Introduction: Origami Fire - 1000 Paper Cranes

In October of this year, a huge fire burned in Napa, Sonoma and Lake Counties. People were evacuated and many lost their homes. As a teacher, I wanted to provide my students with an activity that brought them together and allowed for quiet contemplation or conversation about what we had experienced over the last few weeks. I also wanted to express how thankful we all were to the many firefighters who worked so hard to contain the fire. I started with the idea of our campus making 1000 paper cranes (a sign of hope) and it evolved into this fire sculpture. Students worked for several months folding the cranes in the maker space and the cranes are headed to our local fire department next week.

The success of this project in bringing students together to work collaboratively on a single art piece makes me want to do more origami sculptures in the future.

Step 1: Gather Materials

You will need:

- Wire (I used .064 gauge)

- Wire cutters

- A wicker basket (My original basket was round with a 12" diameter, but any size/shape will work depending on how big you want your 'fire' to be).

- 3x3 Origami Paper in fire colors (I bought 4 boxes of these and used the fire colors. The rest of the colors went in our makerspace for other projects.

- Black Material OR Black paper (enough to fill the bottom of the basket)

- Directions on how to make a paper crane (There's an instructable for that here)

- Glue Gun (optional, if you want to cover the ends of the wire for safety)

Step 2: Cut the Wire

My wire came in a spool and was already 'curled' as I pulled it out, but you could also wrap straight wire around a cylinder (like a water bottle) to get the same curled effect. Cut several different lengths (~1 foot to 3 feet) depending on how tall you want your fire to be. I used 15 wires total. Each crane body is ~0.5 inches so you can usually fit ~24 cranes per foot of wire so plan accordingly. Extra wires are harder to weave into the basket later in the project, especially in the middle, but it's fairly easy to cut off any additional un-needed wires so I suggest erring on the side of too much wire rather than too little.

Step 3: Weaving Wire

Take your wires and weave them through the basket. Start from the inside of the basket, poke through the side or bottom to the outside of the basket, and then bend the wire back through the basket. To make the Fire shape I put most of the longer wires in the middle and the shorter ones on the edges.

Step 4: Cushion/Support

Use black fabric or black construction paper crumpled into balls to fill the bottom of the basket and further support the wires.

Step 5: Make the Cranes

Detailed directions on how to make cranes are already available on instructables so visit here for step by step directions! (Directions also came with the origami paper I purchased, and I put copies out for students to use.) Students put their finished cranes in a tub to be added to the sculpture later.

Step 6: Add the Cranes to the Sculpture

There is naturally a hole at the bottom of the crane. Stick the wire through the hole and then poke it through the top (being careful not to poke yourself). Keep adding cranes in color order starting with yellows at the bottom, then oranges and ending in red. We ended each 'flame' with one gold crane to add sparkle. Repeat until all the wires have cranes on them. (Note- There's not a specific number of each color to add to the actually looks better if different flames change color in slightly different places.) I had my makerspace TA's add the cranes and keep a running tally.

Step 7: Safety First! Cover the Sharp Ends of the Wire. (Optional)

The ends of the wire can be sharp where you cut them. I chose to use a hot glue gun to add a drop of glue to the end of each wire. You can get gold hot glue sticks if you want it to blend in more.

Step 8: Adjust Shape

The wire makes the shape very adjustable. Bend wires to get the shape you want and/or add additional black paper or fabric to support wires in the position you want them in.

What collaborative origami sculptures could you see yourself making?