From the moment we discovered the now wildly popular Star Wars Origami, we knew we had to talk to the book’s creator Chris Alexander to find out how he came to combine such a unique set of interests. It turns out he did something we recommend time and again in UNBORED! He followed his passions and didn’t get frustrated when his first attempts weren’t what he hoped they’d be. In fact, he spent 5 years–you read that right–figuring out the best way to make an origami version of Slave I.
Here’s an interview Chris did with us about his love of Star Wars and origami and how the two came together.
UNBORED: Star Wars! Origami! What inspired you to combine the two?
ALEXANDER: The real question should be why I didn’t try it sooner. I’ve been doing origami ever since my mother introduced me to the art form when I was just 4 years old. The original Star Wars movie came out when I was 13. Twenty five years later I was teaching an origami penguin to some school children and noticed the penguin is very similar to the B-Wing fighter from Return of the Jedi. I modified the model and made my first Star Wars design. I was very proud of the model and set myself the goal of inventing an X-Wing by the end of the month. A short while later I was showing off both of the models to a friend who suggested I write a Star Wars origami book. I told him I didn’t know how to do it. He said I should “teach myself.” I took his advice and the rest is history.
UNBORED: You fell in love with Star Wars after seeing Episode IV: A New Hope. What did you love about the movie?
ALEXANDER: Star Wars is a cool movie. What else is there to say? It has everything. Heroes, a beautiful princess, the most iconic villain in movie history, light sabers, space battles, droids, the Force….The special effects were awe inspiring. My friends and I switched from playing Cowboys and Indians to Rebels and Imperials that summer. At the time it was a ground breaking movie.
UNBORED: Star Wars has inspired so many different kinds of art forms. Why do you think it’s such an inspiration? Are there other kinds of Star Wars art that you particularly like?
ALEXANDER: I think Star Wars taps into the child in all of us. We all grew up with fairy tales. This one just happens to be set in the future, but A Long Time Ago. That galaxy has such unique creatures, technology, and mystic themes that an artist can’t help but be inspired to dabble with them. I particularly like the fan made models of the star fighters.
UNBORED: Your mom taught you origami when you were 4. What about it appealed to you?
ALEXANDER: I think it was the way a flat square can be transformed into something else without scissors, glue, tape, crayons… just a few folds. It was almost like magic.
UNBORED: Was origami something you did a lot when you were a kid? Or would you say you dabbled in it from time to time?
ALEXANDER: I made a lot of origami toys when I was a kid. Boats, planes, a top spinner, that fortune teller kids love so much. I still have nightmares about that one. “Chris, pick a number… pick a color… It says you’re a dork.” As I got older, the models I folded became more and more interesting. Like all hobbies I have periods where I don’t fold anything, and then weeks where the creativity just flows.
UNBORED: Were any of the projects in Star Wars Origami particularly challenging for you to figure out?
ALEXANDER: The two most challenging projects were Slave I, and the life sized Jabba the Hutt. It took the better part of 5 years to finally get the Slave I design right. The ship has tiny struts which separate the wings from the fuselage. In origami it’s very hard to make large features separated by tiny appendages because you need to hide all the extra paper. Jabba presented a completely different set of challenges. When folding a typical model you can pick up the paper, rotate it, and flip it any way you want. You can’t do this with paper 20 foot by 20 foot. I had to reinvent the folding process to bring Jabba to life.
UNBORED: Do you have any advice for kids about how they can discover and pursue their own unique interests?
ALEXANDER: I’ll pass along the same advice I had. “Teach Yourself.” If you find something that inspires you don’t be afraid to try your hand at it. These days there are so many sources to draw from that you can learn to do anything. There are thousands of tutorials on YouTube, google, and good old-fashioned books. Always remember that it takes a long time and a lot of practice to get good at anything. The worst mistake is to get discouraged by early failures. Think of them as learning experiences and try again.
For more information and to try your hand at a few projects, check out starwarsorigami.com.