Big Rapids Artist Linda Stephen Brings Origami Art Back to Artworks


BIG RAPIDS — Paper is the medium of choice for a Big Rapids High School graduate whose writing is tied to her love of Japanese culture and one of its oldest art forms.

One of many local artists returning to teach classes, Linda Stephen has been a visual artist for 19 years and began collecting beautiful handmade Japanese papers in Japan 30 years ago.

Stephen has over 25 years of experience in origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. Fluent in Japanese, she studied at the Japan Center for Michigan Universities and worked for six years as a teacher and translator in Shiga, Japan.

In 2014, she worked with Artworks to create a collaborative community artwork with 400 people in “Big Rapids: Enfolded by Beauty” workshops at Artworks, Ferris State University, elementary and middle schools, and the United Church of Big Rapids.

Stephen collected thousands of tiny geometric flower petals and incorporated them with his own invented origami sculptures into a Mitchell Creek Park scene.

“I’m a writer, so I love journals,” Stephen said. “I’m also a mathematician, and I call origami math that you can hold in your hand. So it’s kind of a combination of math and art. It’s magic what you can do with a single sheet of paper.

There are over 80 different techniques in several origami categories including action origami, modular origami, wet folding, pureland origami, origami tiles, kirigami, strip folding and tea bag folding, among many others according to the Origami Resource Center.

Stephen primarily uses a wide range of handcrafted Japanese washi papers and hundreds of craft papers make up his palette, from sheer, thin chigiri-e rice papers, to crinkled momigami papers, to screen-printed yuzen cloth papers. bright colors.

After choosing key papers, she creates 3D origami paper sculptures that add shadow, give dimension and bring the artwork to life.

“To me, origami is a metaphor for the potential that lies within every person and every place in our world,” Stephen said. “I like to show that by making a mistake you can invent something new thanks to origami. Origami is naturally geometric, and it allows you to do so much trial and error, and I love seeing how different minds work when I teach it.

Stephen has combined his love of origami art and writing into a picture book cover and art for “The Day Went to the Park”, published in partnership with Christine Manno, who has won the 2021 Nebraska Book Award for illustration.

She will be presenting a workshop on origami and Japanese paper arts at 10 a.m. on August 30 at Artworks in downtown Big Rapids.
Ten of Stephen’s handmade origami landscapes will be on display for Artwork’s “Made in Japan” gallery, including community collaborative artwork “Big Rapids: Enfolded by Beauty”, scenes from Lake Huron , Lake Michigan, award-winning art “Summertime on the River,” and art illustrations from her picture book.

Passionate about her work and her teaching, Stephen hopes to inspire future artists through her workshops and events.

“I love sharing with people both the possibilities of paper, but also helping them grow and be confident in who they are,” Stephen said. “I hope my art will inspire viewers to live with intention each day and appreciate the beauty, people and moments in their lives.

Stephen now resides in Lincoln, Nebraska with his children. She visits her father Don Stephen and many friends in Big Rapids every summer.


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