An origami model from 2002 and one from 2022.

Santrupthy Das

The Folded Universe - My Folding Journey and Curricular and Pedagogical Interventions for a Collegiate Level Course in Folding

From the formation of mountains, the transmission of sound or the bending of light in the creation of rainbows to kinetic built environments, deployable space satellites or devices, and therapeutic methods in the healthcare industry - folding has been an integral process of generation of new forms, processes, and information. This research explores the practice of folding inspired by origami, the ancient Japanese art of paper folding, and proposes curricular and pedagogical interventions to introduce folding as a studio-based collegiate discipline. At the confluence of my various interests, this study is primarily an auto-ethnographic narrative supported by literature and professional interviews. Serving as both the product and the process of this thesis, the interactive artist's book is meant for the participant to pause, engage and find meaning in folding.


Exploded Isometric view of the different components of the book.

Artists' Book for Thesis

Digital model

The first part provides a philosophical grounding and addresses the overarching idea of origami, art education through the lens of critical disability studies and my journey as a hybrid professional. Next is a discussion on the significance of teaching folding as a studio course and professional practice in folding followed by curriculum and pedagogy for collegiate teaching. Origami models displayed inside a transparent case forms the mini museum. These pieces are curated to give an overview of my relationship with origami. Lastly, I also wanted to add a few origami papers to this book - thus giving it the look and feel of conventional origami books. This entire set is arranged inside a box inspired by a Chinese Thread Book. It has multiple pockets of varying sizes and that makes it suitable to store the contents of my research in the way I want to present it.


Thesis research notes in an accordion book.

Unfolding Practices

Paper/ Folding

My art installations seem like mini architectural projects. Had I not had heartening experiences as a student, I wouldn’t have ventured into the pleasures of teaching. I would not have been interested in research had I not seen its value in architecture and design. Because I was folding in between lectures, that became my style of note-making. Because I love Mathematics, I am able to design folded pieces that involve complex geometries. And because I can visualize these forms, I also include them in my architectural design. Lastly, because I understand the basics of what I create, I can translate that into ways in which my students can learn. 

I would not have been the educator that I am, had I not been the architect that I am. I would not have seen the endless possibilities with folding if I was not exposed to the endless possibilities in everything else.


Final dragon and work in progress images from an origami workshop.

DOP - The POD Dragon

~22' of handrail

Hands-on experience is the most effective way of learning since lessons are more internalized. The thing that attracts me to origami is that it engages my mind and hands at the same time. Art creation cannot be limited to a lecture theater setup - in my class, we change seating arrangements as per need. Instead of receiving printed templates, I also encourage my students to draw/sketch/draft patterns on their own. Most times while creating corrugations, there is no fixed pattern that all of them work on. I teach them the “how” and challenge students to figure the “what” out. I offered a 5 week course to RISD Project Open Door teens where I taught them how to design their own corrugations and they went on to design, make and install this dragon. Only the process was shared, the final outcome was their innovation and creation.


Living room decor inspired by origami fan.


Printed paper/ Folding

Coming into a new country, origami was my way of making this space my own. When I finally had two roommates to share space with, we used our individual interests to curate our living room - salita. (salita is Spanish for a little living room.) 

My roommate, Sarah reflects on her experience - “Especially as designers and artists, we felt more deeply connected after having made something together. The origami piece still is a symbolic centerpiece of our living room which we adore.”

My other roommate, Diana saw this as an opportunity to integrate this hand-done folded sculpture with digital methods of art creation. She notes - “Santrupthy calls her work the folded universe, so in this case each folding was a parallel video as it can be as precise as the exact form of each folding and project different customized textures on the paper, like a patchwork of lights and folds.”


A yellow disc with corrugations and the Gayatri Mantra written on it.


Paper/ Folding

Growing up in India, my surroundings were mostly diverse. That fed into who I became (and am becoming) as a person. As a young girl, I was encouraged to try as many things as I could. I was someone who could do so much. Seeing myself through so many varied perspectives, I expect to see the same in anyone else I meet. 

The human in me feels comfortable and much more at ease - than otherwise - when she interacts with heterogeneous groups. When I fold for myself, sometimes my interest in Indian mythology, my desire to celebrate my loved ones, and my knowledge of Mathematics meet pleasantly. I designed a model inspired by my course on Indian Mantras at Brown University. It had the Gayatri Mantra written on it, the paper was also manually divided into 108 parts (108 being a sacred number in Hinduism) using concepts of calculus. 


An origami model from 2002 and one from 2022.

My Folding Journey

Paper/ Folding, Photograph
2002 and 2022

At 5, I wanted to teach. 
At 10, I wanted to teach art on the moon. 
At 13, I was folding for most of my days.
At 18, I entered architecture school and started exploring design. 
By 20, I was teaching art and design, origami specifically
And then I wanted to do just that - to teach origami to everyone. Origami, in fact, paved the way for my first-ever ambition in life to be actualized - to teach. 
Teaching is about taking a part of one’s heart and pouring it into another’s. Teaching is about that little voice inside me assuring me that I leave every room and person better than I found them. Teaching is about learning and unlearning and relearning every single day. Teaching is about folding and unfolding and refolding every single day. 
At 25, I want to do my bit to open up the wholesome universe of folding


Purple fractals assembled on a teal wall.

Fractal Wall

Paper/ Folding

It is vital for educators to sustain their own professional practice. This spoke to me to the greatest extent right as I put my research together now. I worked on a collaborative project in the last month of my final thesis at AS220, a non-profit community arts organization in Providence.


Suspended curved paper sculptures of varying sizes and heights.


Bristol paper/ Folding
Varying - 24" to 4"

As I attempt to make a point about the significance of folding, I found it important that actual folded work be evidently present and that people have an opportunity to engage with it. The installation I did for Rhode Island School of Design’s Color Lab brought my hybrid identities together.


Origami fractal workshop in progress.

Creating Together

Paper / Teaching

Folding needs to be lent as a skill or tool to the art and design community for people to use as they please in their own work instead of trying to attract people to shift from whatever they are doing and dive into folding as a core.


A folded sculpture with a palm reaching out of it.

Reaching Out

Paper/ Folded, digitally edited

People will continue to fold. Folds led to the very initial creation of the world. Folds sustain and have sustained so much! 

That is the thing about processes, styles and people, that do not know where to fit into, they all stand out and create entire universes of their own.


RISD Grad ShowRISD Grad Show

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