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Real People: Chemistry student finds stress relief with art of oragami


Origami, the ancient Japanese art of paper folding, certainly demands patience and dexterity. For Suwanee resident Rebecca Gieseking, creating intricate, creased shapes takes even more: It’s a challenge to her imagination and science skills.

“The engineering aspects have always been part of my artwork,” said the 24-year-old. “I like making connections between a very logical thought process and also being creative. I couldn’t design what I do without the artistic and the scientific parts.”

Gieseking, a Georgia Tech Ph.D candidate in chemistry, first found her passion for origami when she was a child, and by the time she joined the Girl Scouts, she had a favorite model she followed. The hobby made her consider a career in art.

“In college at Furman University, I double-majored in chemistry and art, but I wasn’t doing a lot of origami,” said Gieseking. “Then I started graduate school in 2010 and didn’t have much time to paint anymore, either. But at the end of my first year, one of the world’s leading origami experts came here and talked about the artistic and scientific side of it, and I was drawn back to it.”

Gieseking began designing avant garde bowls and vases that can take several hours from idea to completion.

“First, I sketch out shapes I think look interesting, then I figure out all the dimensions, how things are to be aligned, how to approach taking one sheet of paper and turning it into these shapes,” she said. “How long it takes depends on the complexity; more complicated pieces take maybe an hour or two to do the design and work out the math. Then it takes time to get the paper painted with everything aligned correctly, followed by four or five hours of folding.”

The results are complex pieces of art that look functional but are, in fact, delicately creased stacked bowls, abstract vases and tree ornaments that resemble seashells. As a member of the North Gwinnett Arts Association, she’s had her creations displayed in Suwanee and Lawrenceville, and some pieces are in the gift shop of the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum on the Tech campus. Buyers have paid between $75 to $100 for her work, but she isn’t actively looking to sell. For now, origami is more of a hobby that gives her brain a rest from the stress of grad school.

“I’ll often just move my laptop off the desk and work on something,” she said. “It’s a different outlet for a similar type of thinking. In my research, I’m thinking about how molecules fit together - which is not all that different from thinking about how paper shapes fit together. But for now, I’m sticking with chemistry; it’s a much more stable career path than origami.”

Every other Wednesday, H.M. Cauley brings you positive stories from our community. To suggest a story idea, call 770-744-3042 or e-mail hm_cauley@yahoo.com.



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