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Rounding the Paper Corner

This series showcases artists at work. Each essay is succinct, introductory, and captures art in motion before labels are applied.

`I BELIEVE it was my frustration and inability to cope with the world of the office, that drove me to paper sculpture.'' Roy Iwaki, a California craftsman, is explaining his method of creating unique paper sculptures using a discipline he calls ``round folding,'' which he describes as ``...a three-dimensional art form with a two-dimensional portability.''

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It was architectural training at the University of California at Berkeley that enabled Iwaki to gain new insights overlooked by traditional folding techniques. Round folding is full of surprises. Rounded corners permit changes and diversity and circular folds may produce fascinating hollow, shell-like forms.

`SOME say it takes a warped mind to develop a warp fold. [His technique is also known as warp folding.] I take it as a compliment. I consider it as an act of creativity, following folds that part from convention and go beyond unknown horizons.

``I find myself constantly defining the difference between origami and round folding. Essentially, it's the difference between a straight line and a curve. With a straight line you can predetermine design. Let a curve turn a corner ... there's no foregone conclusion as to what might happen.''

His subjects are masks, roosters, stylized heads of wolves, hares, horses, serpents, and dragons. Occasionally, he strays from paper to use materials such as thin sheets of metal, which react in a very different manner.

WITH an economy of means, Iwaki uses the simplest of equipment: an X-acto knife, craft paper, cellophane tape, and stapler. He starts with a flat sheet of paper, stiff yet pliable, which allows him to bend, fold, and manipulate whatever is necessary for the desired pattern. He scores the paper with his X-acto knife, conscious he must never cut through the paper. His lines are curved, not straight.

When completed on one side, he turns the paper over to repeat the process, following the curvilinear lines that form his design. He works with a firm grip, yet his mind and hands are facile. A sharp eye keeps him right on target.

Iwaki is now writing a book (the publication date is yet to be determined) on this deceptively simple technique. It will provide instruction in curved-cutting methods and will contain helpful sketches.

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``The time has come,'' he declares, ``to share this knowledge with others.

``It is the obligation of those chosen to be the conduit of new ideas,'' he says, ``to spread the word of their discoveries.''