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Taking origami to the ‘epic’ level

<p>Bonnie Cherni stands beside an origami shark, one of her many works on display at Kahilu Theatre. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

Bonnie Cherni stands beside an origami shark, one of her many works on display at Kahilu Theatre. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)

<p>Bonnie Cherni’s gallery exhibition “Epic Origami” is on display at Kahilu Theatre, featuring a large range of origami animals. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

Bonnie Cherni’s gallery exhibition “Epic Origami” is on display at Kahilu Theatre, featuring a large range of origami animals. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)

<p>Bonnie Cherni’s gallery exhibition “Epic Origami” is on display at Kahilu Theatre, featuring a large range of origami animals. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

Bonnie Cherni’s gallery exhibition “Epic Origami” is on display at Kahilu Theatre, featuring a large range of origami animals. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)

<p>Bonnie Cherni stands beside an origami dragon, one of her many works on display at Kahilu Theatre. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

Bonnie Cherni stands beside an origami dragon, one of her many works on display at Kahilu Theatre. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)

<p>An origami elephant is on display at Kahilu Theatre, one of many creations by artist Bonnie Cherni. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

An origami elephant is on display at Kahilu Theatre, one of many creations by artist Bonnie Cherni. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)

As a young girl growing up in Wyoming, Bonnie Cherni was surrounded by mountains, horses, and cowboys. Wyoming is one of the last places most people would expect to produce an accomplished origami artist, or “origamian.” However, that’s precisely what happened when Cherni met a Japanese exchange student and was introduced to the art of paper folding.

Drawn to its difficulty and beauty, Cherni took an interest in the art of origami. Through her research, she discovered a designer by the name of John Montroll and has been folding his designs ever since.

Cherni refers to her artwork as “epic” origami.

“I aways say that origami is the art of paper folding and epic origami is the art of folding anything,” said Cherni. “I’ve folded shower curtains, metal, and canvas, to name a few. It’s so fun to make a sturdy animal that can live outside or in the garden. The thing that bothered me most when I first began folding was that the pieces were so little that they would blow away or fall over. I decided that I didn’t want mine to fall over anymore.”

By challenging conventional images of origami and pushing the boundaries of technique and design, Cherni began creating origami pieces that could withstand the elements.

“Many origamians are only comfortable with folding paper,” said Cherni. “I enjoy trying new things and new mediums. I find origami much more exciting when it can live outside and stand on its own. Whether it’s four feet tall, or has huge wings and a tail, it’s just neat when you can bring it out into the community and know it’s not delicate like traditional pieces.”

Some of Cherni’s work is currently being shown at Kahilu Theatre in Waimea where she also teaches origami for its summer arts program. She enjoys teaching children the art of origami and seeing their excitement as their piece takes form.

“I’ve taught many kids and people internationally,” said Cherni. “It feels magical when you’re doing it. It’s really exciting to go from a flat square, to building it up, to standing it up on four legs. That’s my favorite part — to create a whole sculpture just by folding.”

Cherni described how origami helps people develop persistence and feel a sense of accomplishment. She notices how it allows people to overcome challenges and gain a sense of pride from completing a project.

“There’s always sculptures in my house that I’m folding because I love how it feels. I love to start with nothing and create something with my hands. It’s magical how it takes shape. I never need encouragement. I like being able to take a flat piece of anything and fold it into a whole animal. It’s kind of like a symphony.”

Cherni enjoys going to great extremes with her sculptures, from really tiny to large and colorful. She feels her work is creating a lot of excitement because origami is an art that is easy to receive.

“People understand animals and they understand origami,” she said.

Since its beginnings in the 17th century, origami has evolved into an international, modernized art form. Once famous for its intricate designs and colorful paper, it’s developed to include large structures of various mediums.

There is one medium that Cherni has not experimented with yet.

“I haven’t done any gold origami pieces,” she said. “I’m just dying to fold with solid gold. That would be really fun — an appreciating investment.”

Cherni’s work is currently on display at Kahilu Theatre in Waimea. Kahilu Theatre’s gallery committee is currently seeking artists who may be interested in exhibiting their work for the current season. For more information, contact gallery@kahilutheatre.org.