Ross Symons’ origami creations are jumping into some major animation projects.
IT’S A RARE PROFESSION, BUT ROSS SYMONS IS FOLDING HIS IMAGINATION TO MAKE THE CUT AS AN ORIGAMI ARTIST AND ANIMATOR FOR SOME MEGA BRANDS. FORGET PAPER PLANES. HIS PULP-FICTION CHARACTERS ARE LITERALLY, JUMPING OFF THE PAGE!
WHERE ARE YOU FROM ORIGINALLY? AND WHERE ARE YOU BASED NOW?
I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa but I now live in Cape Town.
YOU HAVE A UNIQUE AND ENGAGING PROFESSION. HOW, WHEN AND WHY DID YOU BECOME AN ORIGAMI ARTIST?
I’ve worked in a few industries but my last job, back in 2013, was working in advertising as a web developer. At the time, I had this fascination with folding paper. It was just something to keep me from losing my mind in a corporate job. I had all these folded shapes around my computer screen and I realised that I was pretty obsessed. So I decided to focus on getting better at this origami thing. In 2014 I committed to folding one figure every day for a year and posted each piece onto Instagram. That kicked off my journey to becoming an origami professional. It was also the year the I quit my corporate job to do freelance work. Fast forward to the end of 2014 and I had quite a large following on Instagram and brands started approaching me to do custom origami installations and origami stop motion animations. It was at this point that I realised that this was what I wanted to do. I now create content for social media campaigns, custom origami installations and custom origami pieces.
ORIGAMI IS AS JAPANESE AS ‘SHIBUI’. DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL OR CULTURAL CONNECTION WITH JAPAN?
Definitely a personal connection. Since I was a kid I’ve had a deep interest in Japanese culture. I just love how they are so professional in their approach to creating. I am also crazy about Japanese animation.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU LEARN THE ART OF ORIGAMI?
I’m still learning every day and I think I will be for a long long time. But in 2014 I got my hands on a book called Origami Designs Secrets by Robert Lang. That book is the origami design bible and has helped me learn how how to design origami figures. That coupled with meeting one of the origami rockstars of the world, Sipho Mabona. He has been a mentor to me since I started designing.
PAPER COMES IN MANY FORMS. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE STOCK TO WORK WITH?
I like working with thicker paper which can be dampened a bit without tearing. This can be anything from 100 to 200gsm. By wetting the paper it helps create more organic shapes. But I also like working with very thin paper which allows you to create more detailed designs.
AS THE CREATIVE FOUNDER BEHIND ‘WHITE ON RICE’, WHAT IS IT THAT CLIENTS LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR ARTWORK?
I think it’s the magic of seeing a sheet of paper turning into a figure that is recognisable as something lifelike, ie. a dragon, horse, butterfly or whatever. That and a bit of humour. I like adding some quirkiness to the work too. Life is too short to be serious all the time. And also, origami is thought of as a craft for kids.
When they see my work or any other origami artist’s work, there is a new-found understanding of what can be achieved with paper and the amount of work that goes into creating a single original piece.
IT’S A DIGITAL WORLD, SO FINDING DEMAND FOR HAND-MADE DESIGN MUST BE REWARDING AS AN ARTIST. WHAT IS IT ABOUT YOUR WORK THAT IS SO POPULAR TO CLIENTS?
Origami is something that not many people do professionally so clients find my work very different. I operate in both the digital as well as the physical realm which for me is really important. I love both of these worlds equally. I think clients appreciate the fact that I’ve managed to use paper to create folded creatures and figures and then animate or photograph them so they go back into the digital world. It’s taken me a while but I’m now good at presenting the origami shapes in a way that is not often seen. In animated stories or still shots.
FROM 2-D TO 3-D INSTALLATIONS AND ANIMATIONS, WHAT IS THE LARGEST PROJECT YOU HAVE CREATED, AND WHAT WAS IT FOR?
I did a project in Johannesburg in 2016 which was 2 animations and 1600 origami butterflies for a brand activation. A brand called Strongbow was relaunching in South Africa and they wanted something different to create hype around the product.
WHERE DOES CREATIVE DIRECTION FOR AN ORIGAMI PROJECT COME FROM?
If it’s for a client that wants something specific designed then I will go in a direction based on their concept.
“I HAD QUITE A LARGE FOLLOWING ON INSTAGRAM AND BRANDS STARTED APPROACHING ME TO DO CUSTOM ORIGAMI INSTALLATIONS AND ORIGAMI STOP MOTION ANIMATIONS.”
But if I’m doing an animation for my Instagram account or designing an origami animal just for kicks, then that inspiration can come from anywhere really. The internet is a great place to find cool ideas but generally I will be walking down the road or drinking coffee and an idea will just rock up. I keep paper with me all the time so if an idea does descend, then I’m ready to go.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE TRAVEL DESTINATION AND WHY?
I love Tokyo and I will go back there over and over again, but every place I visit has its own charm. I do have a soft spot for island destinations too.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD?
If you’re reading this and you are arguing with yourself about whether you should put your new creative idea out there… stop arguing. Don’t think about it and just put it out there. Don’t worry if someone is going to steal your idea. Don’t worry if someone says your work is s**t. Don’t worry if this is going to become an internet sensation. Just get out of your own way and make. That’s what creatives do. We make stuff. So go and make stuff.