Zen of an Ultra High Dive

  • A fisheye photo image was printed on one piece of paper, and carefully cut and pleated to form a cluster of crystalline prisms around this diver. Those forms stretch in every direction and dimension, to  suggest his subliminal awareness of and connections to his surrounding world.
  • In the first moment of his high dive, his body seems to hover with a symmetric composure. Instantly, he will start to free-fall for 90 feet into that deep chasm. He has expertly prepared a precise sequence of mid-air gyrations. Upon impact, three seconds later, his body’s speed will reach 53 mph.
  • In any part of his body that doesn’t slip into the water perfectly upright, he will feel the same force as though he had fallen from a 13 foot height onto bare concrete.
  • This competition actually worked out great for Michal Navratil of the Czech Republic, who finished first in the Mostar event (quick video) of the 2016 Bull Cliff Diving World Series.


This is the original photo that I modified:

Michal Navratil
Michal Navratil of the Czech Republic dives from the 27.5 metre platform on Stari Most during the seventh stop of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina on September 24, 2016.

Technical note: the Kirigami sheet was folded so that all its internal angles were 45 degrees. Abstract Kirigamis are usually folded to 90 degrees, but for photo landscapes, I find that the image can’t be seen as a whole anymore.

All Rights Reserved by William James, 2018.

Seen on the Street


Breaking the smooth surface, his head pops out of an upper plane, while several cymbals  pop out of others. An avenue near the top is deeply inset between arcs of step-like folds. Those arcs surround the busker and the viewer, placing us inside of a little urban niche.

All the cut lines are gentle curves, so as to emphasize  the centering effect of the curvilinear perspective, itself the effect of using a wide-angle camera lens. Fold lines always need to be straight in the one-piece kirigami format.

Turning the piece vertically, you would see this:


This work is the second part of my original series (also see Airshow).

This photo ocured in a news report about a band called Urban Funk Machine.

Printed on Red River 80 lb. Luster Card Duo #1986 in an Epson SC-P600.

All rights reserved by William M. James © 2018 .

Jets Paint Contrails Above a City Skyline


In a nearly tangible sense, these jets arise fast, high and vivid into the airspace far above a modern city. Although the original photo itself was a beautiful capture, the wonder of free flight seems amplified in the three dimensional sculpture. The third dimension has opened up a spatial fracture. The lofty but rigidly confining urban skyline very nicely offsets the wide-open, fluid domain of the airspace. The upper pictorial space is folded convex, and the lower space is folded concave, which provides an almost cinematic sense of uplift.

You can glimpse the internal design of the spaces in the left/right scan of the piece above. A vertical scan makes a different impression, almost like a spectator’s view.


Although it is usual to use right angle folds in Kirigami crafts, by using only 60 degree folds the positive spaces are nested in behind the negative foreground space. In the unmodified photo, perspective foreshortens the contrails back into the lower left. The pleating of the sky by the folding also suggests to me a visual simile for a sonic wave front being lead forward by the airplanes.  Or, in a different sense, the pleating also evokes  billowy cumulus clouds.

This design came to me because I was dissatisfied with the original version and had decided to try to do something different with it. There was still an unused flexibility in the paper structure, because contained in the design, there are actually two independently foldable Kirigami motifs. So, those can each be folded in two different ways.


In my first version, just below, the two Kirigami domains had been folded with the same polarity, so the jets and the skyline occupied one simple, continuous space.


Which was exactly how I saw that space in the original photo (credited below).  Have I  gilded a perfect lily; or has some value been added? You will decide.

Color trails oblique & spiral Pinterest ec8ca578c7d45f7b197c8802037c03c7

Photo credit: Mohamed Mostafa

Posted: April 16, 2015

Title: UAE, National Day Celebrations

Rights: Public

A 3D Quilt Made of Paper


With it’s pliable folds, the right angles can be changed from introverted to extroverted in many combinations. Pleasing asymmetries can be caused to appear. For example:


See them turn here.



An brief explanation of my methodology follows, if you like. The upper and lower forms have their inner and outer colors inverted. Two identical paper strips were printed with a row of colored rectangles, with different colors on the front and back sides. Although identical at first, I folded them in an opposite sense: all angles were folded in the opposite ways. When partially  folded, one strip looked this way:


These surfaces would faced outward when this upper module was fully folded.

The other side of that same strip looked like this:


All of these surfaces would be glued together to finish the upper module. These almost hidden colors show up only inside the middle pinches.

The lower module as was folded inversely, so its coloration is inside out vs. the upper one.

Copyrights William M. James, 2017.


Fibonacci x Kirigami

In a salute to the Armenian heritage of a clever and lovely woman, to whom my dear son, Peter, is engaged to be married, this Kirigami glows with the colors of the Flag of Armenia.


Another one, made previously, now looks subdued by comparison:


Acknowledgements  The form is one of Guy Petzal’s simpler Ullagamis. A single piece of paper was cut and folded to make each model (plus the mount). The dots embody a mathematical pattern known as a golden ratio Fibonacci sequence, also seen in nature in  sunflowers or pine cones.

A classical form in an improvised space

The 2D pattern for this 3D volume developed as I played with the idea of a pyramid of interlocking planes.



It was my partner Betsy’s creative quilting practice that inspired me to put a batik-like graphic on a Kirigami popup. I picked the tonally coordinated color pallet for my pyramid, and then a vibrantly colored random network which seemed the best as my base image (credit: Adobe stock image bank, “Wired”).


Printed 20 cm x 20 cm flat.

Like a quilt, it will only ever be one sheet of paper (except for the backing sheet), even after folding as a 3D sculpture:


Folding a 3D form is a gradual process that takes a couple of hours. (In the diagram above: Black = cut; red = fold forward, blue = fold backward.)  Tensions arise, both physically and emotionally,  while trying to coordinate the gradual folding of more than 100 right angles. All of those angles most be partially folded in small changes through many cycles.  Like all Kirigami forms, one might either open it back out again to retrieve a single flat layer, or continue to collapse it inward almost to flatness, except for the thickness of four layers of folded paper.

A strong but disorderly web of vivid red links and nodes binds the pyramid to the seven edges of its two framing planes (one edge is shared). It appears as though the pyramid is nested into two sides of a partial outer box or prism. As both the pyramid and its ‘container’ are classical rectilinear forms, I was excited to find that the linking lines which connect those appear messy, improvised, exploratory, non-classical.

Text and images copyright William James, 2016; reproduction is allowed.

Infra spaces, incipient axes

There are people who cut and fold paper, or who manipulate photos in the third dimension. So, who has put both methods together? Here, you’ll find unusual pieces which are a hybrid of photo ‘covers’ with reliefs made by a paper cut and fold process. The designer of the specific 3D forms now being used, Guy Petzall, has named them Ullagamis  https://www.facebook.com/ullagami/info/?tab=page_info. (His are made from unimprinted paper).

A curious proposition arose in my mind: how would one begin to develop a hybrid process to create pieces which are more than the sum of their parts (not less!). So, here’s a small taste of what I’ve learned from having superimposed about 26 different photos on eleven different 3D Ullagami reliefs.

Somehow, a photo of a photo cover on a 3D relief seems to reduce the dimensionality that was gained in the process to less than nothing. So rather than show still photos of these pieces, I’ve made these GIF animations to try to display their special qualities.


2014 Olympic Silver Medalist Yuna Kim printed on Vexilliod Zigzag Ullagami.
2014 Olympic Silver Medalist Yuna Kim printed on Vexilliod Zigzag Ullagami.

The piece shown above uses a photo of 2014 Winter Olympic Silver Medalist Yuna Kim as re-imagined on Guy’s “Vexilliod Zigzag” Ullagami. 

Vexillo ZigZag 2

Kim Yu-na
Original photo

Vexilliod Zigzag Ullagami.


This Ullagami was a great match to the photo. Ms. Kim twists her body, containing all the torque of the power stroke within her compact core. The prisms gathered below her lift and thrust her upward and forward. A pivot axis emerges which aligns with her dynamic body core. A melding of 2D/3D forms visually harmonizes a complex array of implicit forces.

Mandala 1 Pieces

Stone stairs floral bed on Mandala 1
Stone stairs floral bed on Mandala 1

Likewise on a diamond framework, the piece above has instead a calm, contemplative dynamic. The image of a stone staircase arising between two flower beds is grafted on a pattern called “Mandala 1”.  The relief dimension draws the eye, and implicitly also the viewer’s body, forward and upward across many horizontals through the garden and into the trees. Further harmony emerges in the orderly proportionality of the steps in the image to those in the relief.

Mandala 1


Mandala 1 Ullagami

More pieces on Mandala 1 are here:

Marbles Dipole - Mandala 1
Marbles Spirals on Mandala 1 Ullagami

Here is a double-sided piece composed of ‘right side out’ and ‘inside out’ components, nested together back to back. The paper form seems interestingly to associate with the picture as a novel (spider) web. Positive and negative spaces emerge and bind upon the incipient axis.

Spider H Pivot Mandala 1
Colorful Spider on Mandala 1 Ullagami
Wonder Woman Mirrors
Wonder Woman, Menace of the Mirrors on Mandala 1 Ullagami

Mandala 2 pieces


Guy’s “Mandala 2” pattern is also based on a diamond, but this one’s a bit oblique. It reminded me of looking upward at something. The photo is an up view of a bridge tower with its cable stays.  The stays pop out on the surface of the relief and seem to be almost physically stretched, something like a stringed instrument.

Cable Stay Bridge tower on Mandala 2
Cable Stay Bridge tower on Mandala 2
Mandala 2
Mandala 2 Ullagami

Here are some more mandala 2 pieces.

Cactus Whorl - Mandala 2
Succulent Growth on Mandala 2 Ullagami

Inversion of the spider (above) is carried one step further in this panoramic view inside a long spiral staircase. There is no positive perspective that would be associated with normal visual experience. The spaces above and below the viewpoint spiral into empty space, and an inverted piece best represents that kind of visual experience.

Spiral Stain Pan INVERTED on Mandala 2

The original image (found on Pinterest) looked like this:

S spiral staircase 180 Pinterest acbcce1d4cf3423581ed1a4a98cba920

GIFs were made by me using the program, Webrotate 360 SpotEditor, available for free at http://www.webrotate360.com/360-product-viewer.html

All Ullagami patterns used were purchased at Guy Petzall’s Etsy store https://www.etsy.com/shop/Ullagami

All composite works (photo & relief) shown are © William James, 2015. Creative Commons License Type BY  Attribution