Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What is your background?
My name is Won Park and I am an origami artist. I specialize in folding money, mostly the U.S. dollar bill. I was born in Korea, and my family and I immigrated to the United States when I was three years old.
How did you become interested in origami? Is it something you started as a child, or came to as an adult?
When I was very young, around the age of five, we were very poor, so my parents couldn't really afford to buy me many toys. So what my mother did was go and collect old phone books that people threw out. Then she would cut out the pages and cut them into squares and show me how to make very simple origami models. Those are some my strongest and fondest memories. She was my very first teacher in the art of origami. As I got older, I went to the local libraries and borrowed all the origami books they had to offer, and learned as much as I could with what was available.
How did you come up with Dollar Origami?
I was in my math class in high school and was bored that day. So I naturally wanted to fold something to pass the time, but I did not have any origami paper on me. So I took out a dollar bill from my wallet and started to play around with it. I was very surprised by how resilient the bill was and decided to see what I could make with it. From then on, I was hooked and focused on how to make origami out of dollar bills.
Describe your creative process. What are the steps you take to complete a figure?
I try to visualize the completed model in my head and then go from there. It's kind of like trying to reverse-engineer something in your mind. It can get very frustrating at times, but when I do get it right, it's very rewarding.
You add so much detail when using dollar bills for your origami pieces, for example using the circles on the dollar bill as eyes for Yoda. How do you come up with these little nuances?
I cannot take credit for this; many other origami artists who folded money before me have done this. What I can say is that when I design a model, I will see if I can incorporate the details of the dollar bill into my design whenever possible. It just adds that extra level of detail to the final model.
How long does it typically take you to complete a piece?
That all depends on the model that I'm folding. For example, I can fold a simple ring in under ten minutes. On the other hand, if I were making the Koi fish, I would need around two and half hours from start to finish.
You have a pretty dedicated and passionate fan base. Do you do workshops or lessons?
I currently don't have workshops or offer lessons. I would like to start a YouTube channel dedicated to folding money and teaching how to fold my models. However, when I am able to attend origami conventions, I try to make it a point to teach at least one class on money origami.
What is the largest origami figure that you have ever built? How many pieces of paper/dollar bills?
That would be the U.S. Capitol building that I did for a book cover. The book is titled Republic Lost, by Lawrence Lessig. That piece had fifty one-dollar bills and one fifty-dollar bill, making the total exactly one hundred dollars in the piece.
What is your favorite aspect of being a part of the origami community?
I would say being able to meet like-minded individuals who are as passionate about the art form as I am. Also being able to inspire new young artists and encourage them to continue to create and find their own styles.
Are there any figures you have in mind that you’d like to complete but haven’t yet?
Oh, I have loads of those. Here are few that come to mind. Most of these are related to sci-fi because I'm a huge nerd. Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, the dragons from Game of Thrones, and many more Star Wars models too. I would also like to work with geometry to create more abstract models in the future.
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