Origami box for facemask

A prototype of an origami box for packaging the origami facemask.

As I worked on updating and improving my origami facemask, I have also been working on an origami box for packaging the facemask. The box is folded from one single sheet of 80# paper without any adhesive needed. Conceptually, the box presents an unfolding ceremony fo the facemask. Functionally, the box protects the mask during the shipping (the nose bridge aluminum piece shouldn’t be folded flat completely as it will cause the aluminum to break). In addition, it can be reused as a carrying case. See below for more discussions on carrying and storing facemasks.

Unfolding the facemask
The facemask is nicely displayed in the case
The closed origami case with a potential branding

There are a lot of discussions lately about how to properly put away a facemask when you don’t need to wear it. While there are different opinions regarding whether one should fold the facemask outside face in or inside face out when storing the mask, the common consensus is that the facemask needs to be stored in a separate container to avoid cross-contamination. While the paper origami case can be doubled as a storing case for the face mask, it is a bit fragile. Below I played with the idea of folding and putting away the origami facemask in a pouch made from Olyfun fabric. The more I work on this project, the more I realize that the facemask is not just a mask. It is very unfortunate that we might need to keep the facemask on for longer — COVID-19 cases continue to rise globally and now the west coast is under the immense threat of wildfire — we can at least think about how we can better live with the facemask.

Origami facemask in Oly-fun fabric

A colorful array of origami mask made with Oly-fun fabric

Since NYTimes’s Tara Parker interviewed me about my origami facemask design in early April, I have received many emails inquiring about the origami mask design from all around the world. Many people have sent me photos of the masks they made using various materials; however, the mask project was significantly slowed down as two of the manufacturers I had been working with forfeited the project in June — I won’t said it had nothing to do with the nonchalant rhetoric regarding mask wearing in the U.S. Recently, the origami facemasks gained some momentum again with various new interests. Here I will give an update on my latest design which will soon be going through alpha testing by a start-up company.

In my previous blog, I discussed the concept of an app that will allow people to upload pictures of their faces to get the right sizing for a custom-fit mask (I have developed eleven different sizes to fit various face widths and face lengths). This project is still under development. I have recently been working in Python and OpenCV to understand how to measure facial landmarks, and consulted a computer vision expert at Indiana University on the feasibility of the project. I hope to wrap up the development in October.

The new mask has many improved features. Aesthetically, the original stapler technique has been replaced by heat-sealing (the mask is still a no-sew mask to avoid tiny holes in the fabric as the result of sewing) and plastic snap buttons (the color of snap buttons match the many color choices of the Oly-fun fabric).

Deployed view (left) and folded view (right)

After wearing my own DIY masks this summer, I realized that there are two features I really need to improve: comfort and reusability. The original ear loop design, which causes discomfort behind the ears after wearing a mask for more than an hour, is now replaced with a single long loop that threads through the upper and lower borders of the mask and wraps around behind the neck. The single long elastic loop helps secure the mask tightly around the face.

Indiana University professor Ron Day testing the origami mask with the new looped strap design (U.S. patent pending)

For the reusability aspect, I want to be able to disinfect the origami mask at home just like a regular cotton mask. I have looked at many different kinds of materials other than cotton, finally arriving at Oly-fun fabric, a type of fabric made of non-woven polypropylene (PP), for the outer layer. Oly-fun fabric is similar to the fabric used in a typical surgical mask but a lot heavier and stiffer, with a weight of 65 GSM, making it suitable for the folding application. In addition, it is water repellent and breathable. For the inner layer, I use another type of PP that is thinner, smoother, and more comfortable when placed next to the skin. A disposable filter is inserted between the two PP fabrics and is made of melt-blown material that has more than 98 percent Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (I received a donation of the melt-blown material from Derek Yurgaitis of the Meltblown Technologies based in Georgia). The melt-blown filter material is very fragile and can’t be washed in any way, and the PP fabrics can’t be placed in the washer (hand-washing the PP fabrics with soap is OK). However, the PP can be disinfected in boiling water as the PP’s melting point is higher than 100 Celcius.

Details view of the interior of origami mask with two-ply meltblown filter inserted

Punica: folding Miura-ori with divots


Punica, 2019. 22″ W by 22″ D by 26″ Hi-tec Kozo paper, stainless steel

Free access at https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/tmaa20/current till the end of 2020.

Citation: Wu, J. (2020). Punica: Folding Miura-ori with divots, Journal of Mathematics and the Arts, Volume 14, Issue 1-2, pp. 170-172. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/17513472.2020.1733914

The transformation of a flat sheet of paper to a three-dimensional form through folding is easy and yet complex. Conceptually, folding is always in-between, bringing together two edges and the inside and outside. As a material operation, folding is always unstable. A fold stores kinetic energy, which allows the folded form to contract and unfurl. I am fascinated by folding as a tactile process of working with material – for instance, paper, or other rigid sheet materials. I am drawn to these naturally occurring folds and working on understanding how they can be analysed in order to understand the material tectonics. I use balancing, connecting, hinging, suspending, pulling and popping in my works. I often fold intuitively and tactually using small pieces of paper first, oscillating between states of disequilibrium and equilibrium.

Unfolding a folded design reveals a patterned map of creating and generating. And this map, also called a ‘crease pattern’, is often the result of counterintuitive deliberation and calculation based on mathematical understanding. While it is difficult to describe the folded form through the visual characteristics of the folds on this map, it is even more difficult to reverse engineer and come up with logical patterns of folds that can then be folded into desirable forms – in other words, even though one can think of or see what one wants to fold, it is still very difficult to come up with a crease pattern. I often explore mathematical understanding and computational algorithms in generating a map of folds. These final outcomes of patterns of folds are often etched and cut on very large sheets of paper using an industrial-scale laser cutter. These large sheets of paper, sometimes as wide as 5′ and as long as 10′, are then hand creased and folded in my studio.

A simple fold has many possibilities and can generate many visual results, and it can be discovered only by folding. Only through the act of folding that is grounded in material reality, one can find out what the folds want or need to become visually. To bring folds and folding together, I alternate between intuition and calculation, imagination and logic. An accidental crimp or crinkle in the small pieces of paper may reveal an internal logic to organizing and abstracting the fold. When all the folds are organized and folded in a large sheet of paper, the folding in the material may behave in a self-organized way. When this happens, I stop folding. I observe how the material self-folds and self-assembles.

Punica is the Latin name for pomegranate. I named the work shown below Punica as it reminded me of the silhouette of the pomegranate flowers that I saw while growing up in Southeast China. Punica is folded based on flat-foldable Miura-ori tessellation with divots. Miura-ori tessellation, credited to Japanese astrophysicist Koryo Miura, has become well-known for its application in deployable structures, such as the solar array deployed in a 1995 mission for JAXA, the Japanese space agency (Miura, 2009). It is made of repeated parallelograms arranged in a zigzag formation and has only one type of vertices: a 4-degree of vertex. A key feature of the Miura-ori is its ability to fold and unfold rigidly with a single degree of freedom with no deformation of its parallelogram facets. Robert Lang, who wrote several books on origami and mathematics, described a method to semi-generalize the Miura-ori in order to generate any arbitrary target profile for surface with rotational symmetry without almost no mathematics involved (Lang, 2018).

In general, to fold Miura-ori into smooth curvature is materially impossible – the width of paper corrugation will be too small to fold physically. So, in order to generate folded surfaces with smooth and gentle curves, Miura-ori is altered by adding divots. Using linear algebra, I work with algorithm-based design tools such as Grasshopper and Rhino in order to study parametric changes of the folding angles and their relationships to the target smooth curved profiles. In the work shown here, an approximation of the target profile of a sine curve is generated first. And this profile curve is then arrayed and stretched into a rotational double-curved surface with both a positive Gaussian curvature value and a negative Gaussian curvature value.

For the full article, please go to https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/tmaa20/current

Punica, 2019. Top figure shows the sine wave profile when Punica is flat folded, while the bottom figure shows the layered effect with the light.

Fold-A-Face Facemask: Custom-fit Origami Fashion of Pandemic

Illustration by Christine Wang

I have been working on prototypes for origami facemasks, or Fold-a-Face mask, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The early iterations of the design were published by IU Research and by various national and local news media include NY Times, Herald Times, Indianapolis Monthly, etc. Since then I have been working with multiple industry partners on improving the design. One of the ideas is to make the origami masks custom-fit to individual faces. Below I will show a few conceptual ideas related to custom-fit origami masks.

The Fold-A-Face mask is based on origami techniques. Choose the textures, colors, and folding styles that suit you best.  It is folded from a single sheet of material and it can be flat packed for easy carrying.

Illustration by Christine Wang

How does it work?

  1. Take a digital side view photo of your face using the Fold-A-Face app. (Out of privacy concerns, the Fold-A-Face app will create a photo showing only the silhouette of your facial profile, not the details of your face). 
  2. Upload the photos to Fold-A-Face through the Fold-A-Face app and it will come up with the custom pattern that best fits your face.
  3. Choose the colors and folding patterns that best reflect your style.
Schematic drawing showing the concept of Fold-A-Face app

Ford-A-Face masks are also available with three different folding choices to accentuate your facial structure. For each of the unique patterns, you can fold in three different ways to fold a face mask: Triangle, Square, and Diagonal. The Triangle fold gives your face a more cheerful appearance, the Square fold gives your face a more composed appearance, and the Diagonal Fold gives your face a more uplifting appearance. Fold-A-Face to suit your own style and mood!

Origami diagram
Schematic drawing showing various folding choices

Fold-A-Face masks are offered in a variety of hues, shades, and tints, as well. Choose anything, from jewel turquoise to Alice blue. Fold-A-Face uses three-layer materials to provide you protection again viruses and germs. The outer layer is an elastomeric nylon fabric that has a negative triboelectric effect and is hydrophobic, the middle layer is a filtration media that is consistent with the BFE95 material found in normal surgical masks, and the inner layer is material that is soft to your face and is hydrophilic.

Pliant Pleats

Pliant Pleats are inspired by the organic and curvilinear pleats found in nature and fashion. Folded from a single large sheet of Hi-tec Kozo, each of the Pliant Pleats is stretched into either an undulating or even surface with a gentle curving silhouette. When illuminated, the minimalistic quality of material and craft is aglow in the dramatic gradations of light and shadows.

The origami behind Pliant Pleats is based on flat-foldable Miura-ori tessellation. Miura-ori, credited to Japanese astrophysicist Koryo Miura, has become well-known for its application in deployable structures, such as the solar array deployed in a 1995 mission for JAXA, the Japanese space agency. However, to fold Miura-ori into smooth curvature is materially impossible – the width of paper corrugation will be too small to fold physically. So, in order to generate folded surfaces with smooth and gentle curves, Miura-ori is altered by adding divots. Using linear algebra and algorithm-based design tools such as Grasshopper and Rhino, parametric changes of the folding angles and their relationships to the target smooth curved profiles were studied. To produce Punica, a member of the Pliant Pleats collection, an approximation of the target profile of a sine curve is first generated. This profile curve is then arrayed and stretched into a rotational double-curved surface. Since the pleating width is independent of folding angles, it can then be varied to create expressive designs.


​Width 24″, Height 26″

High-tec Kozo, stainless steel, LED

Folded from a single piece of  High-tec Kozo paper. LED globe to provide warm and bright light. 

This light art is shipped flat.


Length 30″, Width 20″, Height 13″

High-tec Kozo, stainless steel, LED

Folded from a single piece of  High-tec Kozo paper. LED globe to provide warm and bright light. 

This light art is shipped flat.


Length 24″, Width 14″, Height 19″

High-tec Kozo, stainless steel, LED

Folded from a single piece of  High-tec Kozo paper. LED globe to provide warm and bright light. 

This light art is shipped flat.

Ruga Ribbons Installation

Rug Ribbons installation designed by Jiangmei Wu. Photography by Tony Vasquez.
Rug Ribbons by Jiangmei Wu of Folded Light Art. Photography by Tony Vasquez

Ruga Ribbons is a 14 feet tall permanent sculpture commissioned by Rowland Design for Liberty Fund library that is located in Indianapolis. “Ruga” is the Latin word for making winkles, creases, pleats, and folds. Inspired by the use of winkling and folding in the material as a primary genesis of artistic forms, Ruga Ribbons is a digitally-precise form created from flat sheets of corrugated plastic material that mimics fabric-like ribbons. Suspended in the void of the main stairwell, Ruga Ribbons creates an ever-changing visual experience for people who come to interact with it as they move up and down the staircase.

Rug Ribbons installation designed by Jiangmei Wu. Photography by Tony Vasquez.
Rug Ribbons by Jiangmei Wu of Folded Light Art. Photography by Tony Vasquez

The building architecture and art displayed in the building, which was designed by Rowland Design, provided the initial inspiration for Folded Light Art’s use of abstract geometry. Folded Light Art then worked with Ignition Art, a fabricator and installer, on solving issues associated with unrolling a couple of hundred unique panels for digital cutting and assembly. These unique panels were then connected in order to create the two ribbons that are intertwined with one another.

Rug Ribbons installation designed by Jiangmei Wu. Photography by Tony Vasquez.
Rug Ribbons by Jiangmei Wu of Folded Light Art. Photography by Tony Vasquez


Stop-motion movie of Ruga Ribbons installation

See the above for a stop-motion movie, showing the installation-in-progress a wonderful crew from Ignition Arts, a designer/fabricator based in Indianapolis.

New Class in Advance Architecture Drawing in Spring 2020

Ruga Ribbon, 2020, by Jiangmei Wu

I’m finally offering an elective class that I have been wanting to teaching in Spring 2020: Advance Architecture Drawing! I will be introducing parametric design to the students in Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture, and Design. I’m hoping this class will also attract students from the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering. The projects will be ranging from designing small scale objects to large scale installations.

In the recent years, the culture of digital fabrication has heavily influenced the practice of architecture and interior design, as well as design pedagogy. This course aims to
further develop students’ advanced digital design and modeling skills by considering the digital-physical workfl ow in the context of contemporary interior design. The main software will be Rhino and Grasshopper. Rhino is an 3D CAD program that uses NURBS mathematical model to represent curves and free-form surfaces in digital environment. Grasshopper is a visual programming language and environment that works with Rhino, Grasshopper allows you to quickly change fundamental attributes of a complicated model, to make complex formations through repetitions of simple forms, and to use mathematical functions to control or generate shapes. In addition to designing in Rhino and Grasshopper, students will have hands-on experiences with a range of digital fabrication tools such as 3D printer, laser cutter, and digital cutter. Through a combination of exercises and projects, the students will design a set of interior objects, from small-scale lighting and furniture to large-scale interior partitions and surfaces.

Course Objectives:

• To be familiar with the culture of digital fabrication in the context of contemporary
interior design practice
• To understand how algorithm and data can be incorporated into the development
of fundamental design method and digital-physical work fl ow
• To be competent in the development of the fundamental design method including research, critical thinking, reiterative design process, design criticism, design communication
• To learn to incorporate the concept of digital-physical workflow into the development of the fundamental design method
• To learn to integrate algorithm and digital-physical workflow with the development
of the fundamental design method
• To be familiar with the digital fabrication tools such as 3D printer, laser cutter and digital cutter.

Ruga Swan at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida

Check this new video about Ruga Swan by Fox 13 in Tempa

Tempa, Florida. Ruga Swan has been touring in the United States and Canada in the past five years. It has been to 13 museums so far. Many thanks to the Museum of Fine Art in St. Petersburg, Florida and International Art and Artists staff who did a great installation for this!

For more information about the tour, please check out the link below: https://www.artsandartists.org/exhibitions/above-the-fold/

Double-layered Weaving of Infinite Bi-foldable Polyhedral Complexes

Weaving of Miura Weave surface using Mi Teintes paper: (a) Front view, (b)&(c) in deployed and folded stages in the first direction, (d) (e) in deployed and folded stages in the second direction.

Citation: Wu, J., Weber, M. (2019). Double-layered Weaving of Infinite Bi-foldable Polyhedral Complexes, Proceedings of Bridges 2019: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science, Johannes Kepler University, Linz, Austria.

Link to full paper in PDF here

Abstract: We present various weaving constructions, as applied to our previous work on infinite bi-foldable polyhedral complexes. These enable one to build doubly or triply periodic structures that mimic certain origami patterns.

Orix: Bloomington Trades District Public Art Proposal

A rendering of Orix, courtesy of BrownStudio

Recently I had an opportunity working with two great local artists who have a lot of experiences in public art: Lucas Brown and Brian McCutcheon. As a team, we proposed a public art, entitled Orix, for the Bloomington Trades District. Orix is inspired by naturally occurring origami folds. ‘Ori’ means fold in Japanese and ‘X’ refers to both the seed of the origami folds and the ambiguous, futuristic, and bionic form that results from the folding and distorting process. In nature, folding can be seen everywhere, and for some scientists, nature, at both the macroscopic and microscopic level, ‘folds’ rather than ‘builds.’ Through the manipulation of folds, colors, light, and its conversation with the people who come to experience it, Orix, as a mystical being, actively engages, encloses, protects, and connects the Trades District site and the community.

Another rendering of Orix, courtesy of BrownStudio

Light, if rendered into art, must be transmitted and transformed through multiple materials. Non-material light, either emitted or reflected, interplays with a material surface that is folded from thin aluminum sheets and perforated with generative patterns inspired by Indiana limestone fossils. When light interacts with the mountains and valleys of the perforated surface, it is transmitted and reflected through the porosity of the colored aluminum. The folded form anchors to the ground plane through a series of similarly faceted limestone benches.

Bloomington quarry images. Courtesy of BrownStudio

The design draws from local inspiration at multiple scales. The color palette pulls from the interplay between autumn foliage, sky, and water. The folded form references the order and chaos found in piles of discarded limestone in area quarries, while the porosity is inspired by overlapping crinoid patterns.

Orix schematic drawing
A schematic drawing showing the form generation of Orix

The generative seed of Orix is a triply periodic bi-foldable mathematical surface that is the result of a collaboration between IUB mathematician Matthias Weber and artist/designer Jiangmei Wu. The DNA of the surface is an ‘X’ shaped vertex that can be aggregated in three-dimensional space. Through a process of adding, subtracting, folding, and distorting, Orix can be generated and optimized into various potential solutions based on artistic compositions, engineering analyses, and community engagement.

Siqiao Gao and HIroko Hanamura holding a paper model of Orix
Orix paper model
A small scale paper model of Orix
A group of Bloomington kids examining Orix

A folding workshop and collaborative ideation session will be used to familiarize community members with the form-making process and to allow participants to provide design input. The artist team will use feedback from the session to help define the final location, form, pattern, and colors.

Our proposal is one of the five finalists selected to present proposals to the city of Bloomington. We are seeking public comments. Feel free to leave us feedback here: