Thanks, Max!

Max Hulme at AEP convention, Seville 2004

Early days

I met Max Hulme at my first BOS convention in London, Spring 1975.

BOS convention London 1975. Lunch at Pizza Express Coptic Street. L-R Max Hulme, DB, Roberto Morassi. Steve Carter, Iris Walker, Joan Homewood

It was immediately clear that Max was a natural origami creator. I took Max’s class for a matchbox which is folded flat, then pops into 3D at the last move when the tray is pulled open: simple, clever, and fun to fold.

Chess Boards and Sets

Chess sets and board by Max Hulme

Prior to the convention, the challenge had been launched to fold a one piece chessboard from a single black/white square. Max had achieved it (somewhat controversially), by first experimenting with cuts in each sides of a square, then eliminating the cuts to obtain the pure result – a 64 cm square yields an 8 cm board. Chess pieces were designed, some based on historic sets: they were on display along with the boards at the convention. 

Meeting Yoshizawa

Max (seen far left) meets Akira Yoshizawa, Cobden Hotel Birmingham 1972

Max was in his ascendency. Having met Akira Yoshizawa three years earlier, the origami bug had bitten him hard. See this article about the lessons he learned from the master. The influence of Yoshizawa was evident in Max’s animal designs. By today’s standards they weren’t complex and often used traditional bases. He sometimes used half a bird base from a 45 degree triangle: this polar bear is fully three dimensional. Note how this typical Hulme animal is given volume by a soft crimp on the closed back of the body to form rear legs.

Polar Bear by Max Hulme (1974)

Max’s work showed that the creative process wasn’t down to chance, but instead considered and analytical, and once I’d grasped this my own origami output developed too. Present at that first convention was Martin Wall, and the three of us became friendly rivals. The BOS Whodunnit challenges were triggers for us all and constructive criticism from John Smith and Mick Guy fuelled our energies and steered us onto higher standards. It was a thrilling time!

The Jack in the Box

Max Hulme’s Jack in the Box

I recall folding Max’s newly designed Jack in the Box in a pub in Ludlow, during a BOS exhibition in the stifling heatwave of 1976. Max had heard of the challenge between Elias and Rohm to fold this subject in the ’60s. He felt he could do better: his result from a 2×1 uses a combination of one eighth and on sixth divisions. It is a real classic on many levels: its economical use of paper, an action model, with perfect colour change, and the hinge of box being strengthened and made springy by extra layers within. It’s a pleasure to fold and makes a great gift.

The following diagrams of the Jack in the Box are courtesy of Makoto Yamaguchi, Origami Gallery House Tokyo, who has revised Max’s original’s with Japanese text. They are very achievable for non -Japanese readers if you’re familiar with origami symbols.

Diagrams and techniques

Max carefully catalogued his work with hand drawn diagrams on squared paper which he kept in loose-leaf folders. By analysis of quite a complex object he was able to deduce mentally how it could be achieved in origami even before picking up the paper. He wasn’t afraid of using rectangles: the wonderful vintage London Omnibus is from a 6×1, has a spiral staircase leading to the separate seats on the open top deck. Everyone loves the Lizard from a 4×1 with a curvy tail, lifelike from green foil paper. The popularity of coloured foil backed paper in the 70’s – as favoured by Pat Crawford, Neal Elias and Fred Rohm in the USA –  was a gift to Max, who used this material to embark on an amazing range of vehicles. Cars, aeroplanes, railway engines and rolling stock, the series reached its apogee with the Omnibus, the Traction Engine and Stevenson’s Rocket, each a beautifully engineered masterpiece, showing superb conception and elegant economy of the paper. None of these were generic objects, but recognisable origami replicas of specific originals: a Spitfire or a Bugatti. The list of his memorable work is endless: Gorilla Mask, Tipper Truck, Vintage Car, Man on Penny Farthing, Three Wise Monkeys, Traction Engine… everyone has a favourite Hulme design.

Insects from multi sunk water bomb bases

Subsequently he achieved highly detailed insects using rectangles folded into a succession of connected waterbomb bases which were multi-sunk to form very slim legs, antennae, wings and other details. Eric Kenneway’s Origami Paperfolding for Fun (1980) included Max’s Spider and Fly. Here are a couple of pages from the book.

The Longest Train

In 2003 he was pivotal in a Guinness record attempt, in collaboration with the National Railway Museum and BOS,  for the Longest Origami Train.

Two Rockets

He designed origami railway trucks which could be folded from A4’s. 1550 trucks were received from folders worldwide, and to crown the display at the NRM in York, Max refined a new Stephenson’s Rocket loco, this time a multi piece design using silver rectangle related sheets. In later years he developed a sophistical pixel unit system for figures and animals as well as geometric shapes.

Folding together at BOS con. Edinburgh 2013. L-R: Beth Johnson, Toshikazu Kawasaki, Mark Leonard, Colin Rowe, Sarah Mowbray, Max Hulme, Mark Robinson, Agnieska Mackonyte, Assia Brill, Tomoko Fuse

A quiet and patient man, Max was an excellent teacher, always helpful to his students during workshops. He was invited to OUSA, MFPP, and AEP conventions, and he was always present at BOS events. He received the Sidney French medal in 2007, and was BOS president from 2014-2017. Born in Broseley Shropshire in 1948, he lived in the same house all his life. He passed away on 12 June 2020 from Covid 19, while in hospital for other health issues. 

Many years ago I visited Broseley with Max’s longtime friend Dave Venables. Max was keen to demonstrate his newly acquired stunt kite. We spent an hour or two on a field playing with the kite, practicing aerobatics. This and many more happy memories of Max will stay with me always.

We remember him with affection, gratitude, friendship and admiration.