Mariano Zavala can do amazing things with a piece of paper. With a few precise folds, one mottled gray sheet becomes a regal elephant. Creative creases transform bright green paper into a lifelike praying mantis.
A self-taught origami artist based in Lima, Peru, Zavala's work has earned a following on social media. Not only does he show his finished creations on Facebook, but he also shows video tutorials on YouTube.
He talked to MNN about how he developed an interest and talent in the traditional Japanese art of paper folding.
"With origami I discovered a way to develop the skills in the art that I have," Zavala says. "I love three-dimensional sculpture, to work with my hands, shape, the figures. And origami has all that, besides it gives me many benefits, such as concentration, patience, creativity, motor skills, mathematical theories, etc."
Zavala says he has come to know and value nature through the variety of figures — from animals to insects to dinosaurs — that he is able to create through origami. Plus, he says, it's a simple craft to pursue.
"It is a very noble art and does not require much investment. Only a few materials are needed: some kind of paper (tissue paper, rice paper, etc.), school synthetic glue or methylcellulose."
Zavala started to teach himself origami several years ago and says now it has become his lifestyle. Although he majored in marketing, he loved art as a child — he made figures out of modeling clay and pursued music through piano and guitar classes.
"Finally in 2009, origami captivated me completely," he says. "I have conducted origami workshops for high school, universities and private classes. Now, I'm making videos of origami tutorials. I like to help and share all my years of experience with the portfolio."
Zavala's subjects range from dogs and dinosaurs to caribou and chameleons. He has tackled insects and birds, flowers and pop culture characters. He admits to having a few favorites.
"I love insects in origami like beetles, they look so real. I also like the mythological characters like Mahoraga/Makora Taisho, or my design Hatsune Miku from Japanese culture," he says. "I spend many hours, even days, shaping them, to make them look as real as possible."
One of Zavala's first pieces was his now well-known dog.
"I started designing my bulldog several years ago and until I felt comfortable with the result, I couldn't show it," he says. "Designing a figure in origami takes a lot of time. You have to analyze the animal or character you want to perform and study its physiognomy (structure) to achieve a good result and look as real as possible."
Zavala sometimes creates origami art of his own design and sometimes creates origami designed by other artists. So far, Zavala says he's only been able to fold dragons and insects that other authors have designed. He'd like to be able to create his own eventually.
"It is easier to fold a figure from another author, because diagrams are already published in magazines or books of origami," he explains.
"In this case I only make my paper, I fold the figure and shaping — which is the most important part for me — that gives life to the paper. All this can take a week to finish a figure."
Here's a look at more of Zavala's creased creations.