One Thousand Origami Cranes, Without the Paper

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The peace crane is a familiar origami form. What makes the work of award-winning polymer clay artist Judy Dunn different is that her cranes are folded from polymer clay rather than paper. On October 23, 2006, Dunn folded her 1000th crane from polymer clay. The cranes are a symbol of peace, prosperity, fidelity and long life, and Japanese legend has it that by folding 1000 cranes, a wish will be granted by the gods.

Origami is the ancient Japanese art of folding a sheet of paper into various forms. Polymer clay artist Judy Dunn of Acton, Massachusetts has put a new twist into this ancient art form. On October 23, 2006 she folded her one thousandth crane, but not from paper. This crane was the 1000th crane Dunn had folded from polymer clay.

About six years ago Dunn began an attempt to fold 1000 cranes the traditional way, from paper. She had learned of the legend that folding 1000 cranes would grant the folder a wish from the gods. Dunn also learned of the the story of Sudako. Sadako was a little girl in Japan who contracted leukemia from exposure to the radiation of the atomic bomb. She attempted to fold 1000 cranes to be granted a wish of healing. Although Sadako was not able to fold 1000 cranes before her death, a peace memorial resides in Hiroshima in Sudako's honor, and for all children who died as a result of the atomic bomb. People from around the world send 1000 cranes to the memorial each year, with the wish for world peace. All these ideas were in Dunn's mind as she folded the cranes. Over time she had folded several hundred cranes.

But in the spring of 2003, Dunn started working with polymer clay. Her fascination with the material became immediate. The versatility of the medium, and wide palette of colors appealed to her artistic sense. Yet almost from the beginning Dunn was asking, "Can I fold a crane?" After some experimenting, Dunn figured out how to do what seemed impossible. Fold a crane from clay, and cure it. Creating a durable, sculptural crane, using the same folds she used to create a paper crane.

"Part of the enjoyment of making cranes from clay is doing all the decorative work on the surface of the clay, prior to folding the crane," says Dunn. "Each crane ends up being unique because of this process."

The other thing that keeps Dunn folding cranes is the stories and people's connections to the cranes. There was the pair of gold cranes purchased for a parent's fiftieth wedding anniversary. Or the crane that traveled to China as a gift to the foster mother for a newly adopted daughter. Or the connection that was made with a family in Indiana who lost a son/nephew/husband to the war in Iraq. He loved origami and folded cranes to hand out to the kids in Iraq. The crane has become a symbol to memorialize his spirit for this family. "It is a gift to be able to create something that I love doing that also has so many rich emotional connections for people. It is what keeps me folding cranes," says Dunn.

Dunn is an award-winning polymer clay artist who also creates one of a kind jewelry and sculptural vessels from polymer clay and metal clay. Her work has appeared in several national publications. Dunn's work can be found in galleries and shops across the country, and at the several fine art and craft shows she does each year. Her work can be seen on her website, http://www.judydunn.net.

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