Friday, January 27, 2006

Patricia Crawford and Neil Elias

After just buying Robert Harbin's Origami Step-By-Step and being blown away by the complexity Patricia Crawford's models displayed already in the early 70's, I decided to look into her work a little more. Of course, I'm always reminding myself that Neil Elias was at work creating very complex models around that time as well -- I never seem to remember that such complexity could be found in the world before the 80's ...

Of course, it's well known that Patricia Crawford quit origami design in the 70's. Looking through the Origami-L archives, it looks like there are several theories as to why. Most people say that her husband forced her to quit, but either way, it is then said that she picked up sculpture. What a tremendous loss to the origami world! Fortunately, Robert Harbin (and Neil Elias, more on him in a moment) had made contact with her before she quit designing and chose to popularize her work through his book. It is said that he wrote the book Step-By-Step mainly as a showcase for her work. What a great guy!

Looking in the Origami Database, it became clear that there are only two other books that feature quite a few of her works, Origami 3: The Art of Paperfolding by Robert Harbin, and Creating Origami by J. C. Nolan, both of which have 5 of her works. Of course, there are other places to find her works, such as Origami 4 by Harbin (1), Origami 2 by Harbin (1), New Adventures in Origami (1), the 1980, 1981, and 1984 BOS convention books (1 each), the Origamian vol. 12 #2,3,4 (4), Tanteidam Convention 3 (1), and a Centro Diffusione Origami publication, QQM 16, (1). Of course, all of these books are practically impossible to come by except for some of the Origami 1-4 series of Harbin, which rumor has it from BOS that they will be republished soon. Thankfully, Harbin's Origami Step by Step is currently in print as a reprint, featuring no less than 14 of her works.

Finally, the Origami Database shows two other interesting sources of her works. The first is the BOS Model Library, which has 11 of her models. Basically, as far as I can tell, the list on the Database is the list of folded works that are being housed at the BOS headquarters. So, these apparently don't represent diagrams, just finished models. Finally, the Database mentions the Complete Notebooks of Neil Elias. Assuming that these were simply out of print, I contacted the BOS Supply manager asking him of the item since they included 11 of Crawford's models including other rarities. After sending the e-mail, I realized that maybe the list simply represented all of the diagrams featured in Neil Elias' notebooks that the BOS has possession of -- sort of like the listing of the BOS Model Library. So, I e-mailed him again.

It turns out that Dave Venables from BOS, the man in charge of the Elias heritage, is soon planing on releasing a CD-ROM through the BOS Supply with as many diagrams found in the Elias notebooks such as he was able to acquire publishing rights. My several e-mails must have caused quite a splash since the next day the entire listing of the Complete Notebooks of Neil Elias was taken down from the Database. When I say entire, I mean several hundred. Currently, the list is back up, but clearly stating Not Yet Available in caps.

Somehow, Elias must have been able to make contact with Crawford as well so that he was able to diagram her works. Looking throug the list of models in his notebooks, it's quite impressive the list of models from other designers he was able to get a hold of. The list even includes several Akira Yoshizawa model diagrams! It should be noted, though, that Elias lived in the pre-Internet world, where many famous designers knew each other through snail-mail and sent each other models and diagrams in the mail. Many of these models were not widely circulated or published. So, I'm excited that Elias took the time to record diagrams of all of the models of artists he had befriended throughout the years. It's a nice record of the current status of origami at the time in the world.

I hope that the CD-ROM will be released soon so that I can soon see some of Crawford's other amazing models along with all of the other gems found in there, not the least of which are all of the incredible Neil Elias models. I wonder if Patricia Crawford is still around ... It would be nice if the origami community honored her in some way for her major contributions to the art during the early 70's. Same goes for Neil Elias.


Blogger michelle said...

just wanted to drop you a quick note - i did a search engine on neal elias and came across your blog. I am neal's grandchild. It was nice to see that those are still thinking about him and what a legacy he left in the origami community.

3:08 PM  
Blogger OrigamiFolder said...

Holy smokes, that's amazing! Thanks for the heads-up! I happened to stumble across your blog at just the right time!

8:11 PM  
Blogger Leon Loose said...

I was relearning the baby grand by Patricia. I also would know if she is still with us. I have most of the books listed.
Leon Loose

5:27 PM  

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