If you are a crafty person, you may already be familiar with a paper craft technique called Iris Folding. The craft is most associated with greeting cards, but is also used by scrap-bookers and mixed media artists, and even quilters who duplicate the effect in fabric. Strips of folded paper are laid in a pattern resembling the iris of a camera, to fill the negative space cut from a piece of cardstock or other base. Any light-weight papers can be used for the folding, on a base of heavier cardstock, and there are numerous templates available for free online. All right, now that, spurned by my enthusiasm, you have rushed to the WWW to thoroughly familiarize yourself with this craft…

I’m afraid I’m a sort of rebel. The precision of iris folding appealed to me from the very beginning, and also the fact that it reminded me of a type of drawing I was taught in grade school to illustrate infinity. But I’ve tried my had at various methods of greeting-card making, and the truth is, I just don’t use them, and don’t enjoy making them. Also, I found a lot of the standard free templates a little too cute. It just wasn’t my style.

Some time after my introduction to iris folding, I was leafing through a book I’d been given; an old sample book of hand-made Japanese papers. The papers are all so beautiful, but of each there was only a 3″ x 6″ sample page, with writing printed in several places and holes punched in. I considered various ways I could use this paper in a sort of patchwork effect, to get the most bang for the buck, and eventually I hit on iris folding. It uses only small amounts of paper for the folded bits and with only a few exceptions, the Japanese papers were a good weight. But if I was going to use these very special papers, so precious because of their rarity, at least in my world, then I wanted a special project, and nothing I’d seen online would do. I understood the basics of the craft, so I set out to design my own template, and what could be more appropriate for Japanese papers than a Japanese koi?

It worked. It turns out I knew exactly what I was doing. I used a wide variety of papers, even for the white bits, to lend the fish the variety of texture and color of a real koi. Rather than leave it in a flat cardstock frame, I hand-painted a coffee filter to be reminiscent of water. The entire effect is subtle and pleasing, and it does a good job of showcasing the papers themselves.

If you’d like to try the koi, I’ve written basic instructions and drawn out the template. You can download it here. But I encourage you to spend some time squirreling away a little stash of special papers (if you don’t have one of these already) and then strike out on your own in a way to best showcase what you have.

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