Bernard Peyton, age 57, married, BA Harvard University 1972, MS University of Montana 1984, Ph.D. University of California Berkeley 1995.
My profession is wildlife biology. Since 1977 I have been doing field research and conservation on endangered species such as spectacled bears in the Andes. Recently I switched back to art, a career I had when I graduated from college. This time, however, it was not painting or lithography that inspired me. It was something I encountered as a child. When I was 9 years old my step-father Robert Olney gave me Isao Honda’s book on origami and said “here, this might interest you.” Thus began 45+ years of folding enjoyment. In late 1998 I began designing my own creations in paper. The years I spent in the field observing wildlife and their habitat were a rich reservoir to tap for this purpose.
Most practitioners of origami focus their attention on the edges of the paper because less paper is needed to make an appendage such as a leg if it is folded from an edge than from the middle of the paper. A common problem in model design was how to get rid of the paper in the center, the part that did not contribute to any of the model’s features, but was annoyingly attached to them nonetheless. I became enamored with exploring what the middle of the paper could do. And not just the middle, but seeing how much natural behavior of a subject could be bent and twisted out of the part of the paper many folders hide. This is a world of curved surfaces and folds that go “somewhere about here” because it looks “right”, not because the folds line up with folds that preceded them. This sculptural approach, though not new, is growing in popularity. Combined with the wonderful assortment of paper that is available in so many colors, textures, and weights, and different techniques such as back-coating paper and wet folding, designers of models can look forward to elevating what they learned as a craft to an art form. My aim is to make art, teach, and brighten lives with origami.
Origami has also contributed to my conservation work. Just as many folds need to be in place prior to extending a leg on a folded bear, many people with different jobs need to be organized and trained prior to advancing a conservation measure for bears in the wild. Origami has disciplined me to back off from my own expertise and explore what support from other disciplines is needed first to make a conservation project successful.