Paper cranes fly

PUHI — The cranes have taken flight. But not because of the gusty winds that have buffeted the Hawaiian Islands lately.

“Last year, my students and I created an art installation of 1,000 paper cranes for our campus,” said Kristi Gibbs, an art instructor at the Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School. “It was always my intention for this art project to be shown in multiple locations. Initially, I intended on contacting one of the hospitals or a nursing home for displaying this art, which consists of 50 strands of 20 cranes each and made to hang from the ceiling. I wanted them to feel the energy of the youth who created the display.”

The cranes have landed at Kong Lung Trading Co. in Kilauea — a natural place for the display to go because the store features a lot of Asian inspired clothing and artifacts, a worker pointed out.

Every student in the art class, numbering nearly 200, had a hand in creating tsuru, the Japanese term for cranes, Gibbs said. The cranes were created using scrap pieces of paper from a previous art project. They used different techniques such as suminagashi, watercolor and metallic paints to create the art papers, inspired by artist Rex Ray who is known for making his own paper.

“It takes patience to fold paper properly,” Gibbs said. “I learned origami, or the Japanese art of paper folding, during a professional development course, and after teaching the students, they each had to make six or seven cranes.”

To create the display, people were folding tsuru everywhere, Gibbs said.

“I was doing it during dinners, watching television, any time I had some time to spare,” she said. “The crane has long since been a symbol of love, good fortune, longevity, truth, health and honor. According to Japanese tradition, it is said that whoever can successfully fold 1,000 cranes will have the thing they want the most because of the patience and commitment required to do the task.”

Some of the students struggled with the project.

“I didn’t know how to fold the cranes,” said Mia Takekuma, one of the students. “But I was on vacation in Las Vegas and my grandma, Carol Moriguchi, showed me how to fold the cranes. Once I learned, it was easy and I kept making cranes. I even made a pair of earrings for Ms. Gibbs.”

Cranes are lucky, said another student, Cassidy Yamauchi. She referred to the story of Sadako Sasaki, who after learning of the 1,000 crane legend, started folding cranes for world peace using whatever paper she could find in the hospital to which she was confined after contracting leukemia following exposure to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

“Mia’s story about learning how to fold cranes is so inspiring,” Gibbs said. “I’ll treasure these earrings she made. Origami is a paper folding process and can be recreational as well as ceremonial. Modern origami has evolved to incorporate advanced mathematical theories and complicated folds, but the crane continues to be the traditional symbol of this art of paper folding.”

Gibbs said having the display at Kong Lung represents how the community has supported the arts, and demonstrates to the students how art projects can be used for traveling exhibitions after being installed at the school.

“There was a young boy who saw the display at Kong Lung,” Gibbs said. “He did not believe there were 1,000 cranes so he sat there and counted the number of cranes on each strand and counted each strand. That is the purpose of the display — to make people ask questions.”

With the cranes secure at Kong Long, Gibbs has her eyes set on the next project involving origami butterflies.

“I’m in the process of collecting the butterflies now,” Gibbs said. “I have butterflies of all different sizes, on different papers, and even some that have been cut out. This will be flying in the wind — just like the cranes.”


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or


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