Sonobe: The Origami Unit That Changed the Art Form

Over the hundreds of years that origami has been developed one unit caused a stir in the origami world. It opened a whole new three-dimensional way of viewing the art forms that could be created using multiple units combined together.

 The Sonobe Cube

 

The Sonobe Base:

 

Where It All Began:

It all began, (we think), with Mitsunobu Sonobe when he first published a cube form made from his units in 1968. Once this came out many other origami enthusiasts decided to experiment with module unit Origami. The Sonobe base unit was the key since it could be combined in many ways.

Joshie’s Jewels

Soon thereafter, a new form was developed using only three Sonobe units. Toshie Takahama, in 1970, developed a hexahedron that became know as the Toshie Jewel. It is actually used as a jewel in necklaces and other ornamental structures. In order to form these units the central axis must be inverted so that the middle point goes outward, just the opposite of the former form. This was exciting because it suggested the base could be varied to create more construction possibilities.

The Octahedron Was Formed Using 12 Pieces:

After Joshie’s Jewel came more elaborate designs like Steve Kimbal’s 12 piece Octahedron ball.

These lovely forms were ideal for mobile applications in that they could be hung from a string allowing for circular motion. When strung on string many can be combined to form interesting hanging forms.

This Was Only the Beginning!:

Since the 70’s and 80’s, many new forms have been developed including forms using 30 pieces, 90 pieces, 270 pieces and more. Some create elaborate geometric shapes that have inspired architects and others in building forms. Others have experimented with variations in the forms to create wonderful patterns.

Here Is A Thirty-Piece Form:

 

 

New Surface Treatments:

Once the basic parallelogram shape was established it became obvious that many different color patterns could be developed using two-sided paper. By altering the surface color patterns some amazing designs become possible.  I have only experimented with 6 of these so far, but am interested in finding more and even developing some of my own. Below are a few variations combined in a similar cube form.

You Can Find More Examples:

If you are interested in exploring  Sonobe Unit Origami, I encourage you to go on-line and see what others have done with this exciting base unit. Some have even designed patterns for hanging on a wall or even becoming a wall. There seems to be no end to what you can do with this origami creation.

Strength In Unity:

As I work with these amazing paper constructions, I am reminded of the need for others. In I Peter 2:5, God’s Word tells us that each believer in Christ is like a living stone that must be combined with others to form a house, His Church. “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” As I form each structure it has no integrity or strength until the last unit is added to the mix. When altogether you can actually make the structures better by adding pressure to the outside, just like a snowball. When together we can withstand the pressures that come our way from the outside and even become stronger.

 

Here is a side-to-side comparison of a twelve piece and thirty piece ball.


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