The South African who folds paper for a living

Most people seem quite confused when Ross Symons tells them he folds paper for a living. But the penny soon drops when the 33-year-old Capetonian explains he is an origami artist.

Origami is the Japanese art of folding a flat sheet of paper into a sculpture. For about a year now, Symons has being doing installations and commissioned pieces for businesses full-time.

His work comes to life in short stop animation videos. Symons stumbled onto the art about 13 years ago.

“My younger brother was busy with a project at Vega where he had to get something made by each member of the family. I didn’t have anything to give him so he suggested origami.”

He tried his hand at it and came up with a crane. “I folded that crane for years and eventually in 2013 I wanted to get better at folding paper.”

Working as a web developer at that stage, Symons looked for tutorials online.

He built up his skills and followed through on an idea.

Last year, he came up with a different figure each day and posted them on Instagram. It soon morphed into a profitable small business.

He uses both his own designs and those thought up by others. But he always gives credit where it is due.

“When I am folding, I guess I get a sense of peace in some way. It’s meditative and quite relaxing and soothing.”

His first unique design was a pig commissioned for the Eat Out Awards last year. In a whimsical and comedic animation video, a folded pig battles it out with a cleaver- and wins.

The pig was such a hit that a bacon bar in Franschhoek wanted 250 of them.

Symons folded each pig from 15cm by 15cm pink paper and dangled them down long strings for their display window.

Next on his list was designing a giraffe and zebra to sit on 15 tables at a foreign couple’s wedding in South Africa next year.

The artist said it was difficult for many creative people to charge for an art form or something meaningful.

He believed it was about finding fulfilment and happiness.

“Every day I spend on it, I learn a little bit more about the art and myself. The biggest thing I have learnt is patience,” he said.

“I am not going to be a master overnight but it’s something I can work towards. I haven’t got bored of it.”

By Jenna Etheridge for

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