Paper Trail

Paper Trail

Professional origami artist Joseph Wu, BSc’91, is rarely without a sheet of paper — and probably folds in his sleep.

Video Transcript

“The response after I say ‘well, I’m a professional origami artist,’ is usually: ‘What?!’

 You know, a lot of people will look at a piece of origami work and think ‘wow! I don’t know how you did that!’ Well the idea just appears in my head in less than a minute.

I’ve had pieces shown and sold in various galleries all around the world – in Asia, in the United States, in Europe. Haven’t made it to Australia yet but I hope to one day.

 I started origami when I was three -- and still living in Hong Kong at the time – and it was my dad who got me started. He bought me a book and taught me how to read the diagrams, and I just sort of took it from there.

It’s become my comfortable place, my refuge. If I can grab a piece of paper and just start working on something then it helps me to get grounded again.

I do, literally, fold everywhere: I fold in church, on the train, on the bus, walking down the street. I remember getting in trouble at UBC from some of the profs because I’d be folding in class.

The UBC Bookstore put on the Festival of Creative Artists. That was my first art show I ever participated in. I was in the faculty of Science at the time so I hadn’t even considered the idea of being a full-time artist.

Things started changing quite drastically in my life when my son got diagnosed with ADHD. I started thinking ‘wait a minute – well this is me, and this is me, and this is me. And I thought 'well, I guess I must have ADHD as well.' And so I ended up spiralling down into a cycle of depression because of that.

For so long I haven’t been comfortable telling my story, but what I do now is more of a reflection of how I am  than just me doing something that looks pretty to impress people. The idea of using the medium to convey a message is fairly new. I’m one of the ones who is trying to do that -- convey meaning beyond the art form itself.

I’m going to have my first solo gallery show. The theme is going to be harmony. We have become such a divided society – everything is so polarized from one side to the other – that I want to remind people that we aren’t going to agree on everything but we can still get along, we can still live together, we can still have a sense of harmony in spite of our differences."