The LAMB butterfly

A little challenge emerged a couple of months ago: to create an origami butterfly as a tribute to Michael LaFosse and Richard Alexander, who were guest teachers at the BOS Birmingham online meeting in August.

Michael is well known as a butterfly creator: many of these are dedicated to his friends, and form the backbone of this fine book.

But I’ve never designed any origami butterflies at all: in fact I’ve steered clear of insects as they are generally not my favourite creatures. But I’ve long been a lover of the modest little Meadow Brown butterflies which I see when out in the fields near home: they emerge and fly away as I disturb them while walking through summer grasses.

I noticed that the Meadow Brown’s wings slope slightly backwards from the head, unlike most well known origami examples, which conversely rake forward. So I set about trying to achieve a butterfly with this feature, and obtained a fairly simple result. Based on a simple 30/60 degree concept obtained by logical reference points, it’s open to many variations if these reference points are ignored or adjusted. It thus seemed to fit the bill as a tribute to Michael and Richard, who I’ve known and admired for many years, even before I met them for the first time in Paris at an MFPP convention in 1997, and later in Tokyo 1999 for Akira Yoshizawa’s 88th birthday celebrations, or Beiju.

l-r: Jonathon Baxter, Richard Alexander, Michael LaFosse, Eric Joisel, DB (Ginza Tokyo 1999)

My butterfly rang a gentle bell in my memory. I’d seen something similar, and indeed after some hunting through my library I found a somewhat similar butterfly which was the work of Dokuohtei Nakano, and published in a number of books. But I hope that the LAMB butterfly is sufficiently different to be original. Probably I’d stored away Nakano’s concept subconsciously, and it emerged – a little transformed from its chrysalis – some forty years afterwards.

LAMB butterfly tutorial

Here’s a video of the folding session from BOS September 2021 VCon to show the folding method and some of the variations possible.

Hence the LAMB Butterfly (LaFosse Alexander Meadow Brown)… which happens to be the name of my artists forebears, John Lamb Primus and John Lamb Secondus, who were my great great grandfather and my great grandfather respectively. You can read about them at length here. They were the joint painters of the wonderful moving panorama London to Hong Kong in Two Hours, which was acquired from my family a little while ago by the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles, which hopes to open its doors in the next couple of years.