Interview: Tristan

Today we’re joined by Tristan. Tristan is a phenomenal origamist, a first for Asexual Artists. He makes phenomenal shapes by folding patterns. Tristan does both representational and non-representational origami. His work is extraordinary, showing a great complexity and beautiful detail. Aside from origami, Tristan also runs the Asexual Agenda (which is a wonderful site) under the pseudonym Siggy. It’s clear he’s a passionate and dedicated artist who loves what he does. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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Floral Dodecahedral Space, semi-original design, modular origami


Please, tell us about your art.

I make origami, specializing in non-representational origami.  I started out with modular origami, in which multiple sheets of paper are assembled into a larger model, typically in a symmetric shape, and typically without glue or string. Then I started making origami tessellations, which are folded patterns that could in principle repeat infinitely to tile the plane.

I dabble in representational origami too, especially after I started going to origami groups, but in my heart I’m all about the abstract and geometric forms.

Origami is best understood in analogy to music.  Just as music has composers and performers, origami has designers and folders.  I do both: I fold models designed by other people, and I fold my own original (and semi-original) designs.  Original design is a very complicated process that calls for a lot of experience, specialized techniques, and trial and error.

What inspires you?

My original designs are often based on some mathematical shape or idea.  Sometimes inspiration comes from math that is unrelated to origami, and sometimes it comes from the mathematics of folding itself.  Even when I’m folding someone else’s design and choosing what colors to use, I’m always thinking about the mathematical structure of the coloring.

Other inspiration comes from other people’s designs.  Much of origami design is about incrementally mutating existing designs.

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Compound of Five Octahedra, design by Meenakshi Mukerji, modular origami

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I have a story that is typical for an origamist.  I did some origami as a kid, and then I revisited it as an adult, discovering that it was a deeper and more intricate art-form than I ever could have appreciated before. When I was a kid, I made traditional origami, but as an adult I had a better sense of my own aesthetics, and immediately gravitated towards modular origami.

I have not always wanted to be an artist.  I wanted to be a scientist.  I was a scientist, and now I’m switching to tech.  But here I am, also doing art.  If I had an opportunity to make a living from my art, I would strongly consider it.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

Sometimes I write my name on my models with invisible ink.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

It is common to value art that was technically challenging to create.  But in my own designs, I value the opposite; I prefer designs that are simple enough that other people can learn to fold them.  So my advice is to internalize the difference between technical prowess and aesthetic value.  There is value in art that is not difficult to create.

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Cube Tessellation, original design, tessellation


Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m gray-A, and gay.  I’m also gray-romantic, but I don’t talk about that part much.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

No.  At the moment, I mostly interact with other origamists offline, and it doesn’t come up.  However, at least a few people find me through my blog, where I write about being ace all the time.  I also sometimes incorporate ace or aro colors into designs, because why not?  And none of this has ever led to any problems.

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Stairway Leaf, original design, neither modular nor a tessellation

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

There aren’t many interactions in my life where people might directly express misconceptions.  But I would guess that a lot of people are confused by my relationship with an allo person, and are too polite to ask.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

When I first identified as ace, I spent a lot of time trying to analyze my feelings and build detailed models out of that.  After almost a decade, most of those details seem to fade away in significance.  It’s fine to spend time analyzing one’s feelings, but if it’s causing you a lot of stress, remember that figuring out every little detail is ultimately optional.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

Photos of my origami can be found on my flickr page.  There’s also some origami content on my blog, A Trivial Knot.  Finally, some readers might recognize me as Siggy, the admin of The Asexual Agenda.

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Three Axis Woven Design, design by David Huffman, tessellation

Thank you, Tristan, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.