“What I like about origami is that you can make something amazing from a piece of paper which to most people is pretty worthless,” says 18-year-old artist Janessa Munt.
As it turns out, Munt primarily works with pieces of paper that are worth about $1.00 each, transforming the bills into bulldogs, goats, mermaids, manta rays, dinosaurs and more.
“When I am designing my origami, what I pay attention to are the main distinguishing features of whatever I am folding,” explains Munt, who has designed more than 50 original dollar-bill origami models. “For instance, my duck … I would need a bill, I want eyes, I want a little webbed feet and a body. I pretty much start with basic concepts, then I map out which parts of the [dollar] bill I am going to use for what part of the body.”
Munt, who was introduced to origami by a friend when she was 7 years old, envisions the overall structure of the figure she is planning to fold in her head. Then she goes through a process of trial and error until she gets the design to work.
“A lot of my process is a lot of experimentation,” says Munt.
While she was growing up, Munt would fold origami both at home and school. “I started checking out almost every origami book I could find at the library,” she says.
Munt got her first job at a small gift shop about a year and a half ago because she wanted to make money to go to an origami convention. On her first day, she gave her bosses a little dollar-bill koi. They loved it and put it on display for everyone to see. Soon, customers started asking Munt if she could make origami figures for them.
“Normally I would Google how to do it,” says Munt. “Then a few people started asking me [to make] things that were not in existence already. So I thought, ‘I could probably make that up.’ That’s how I got to start designing [dollar origami].”
After attending an origami convention in Seattle a couple of years ago, Munt became even more serious about origami. “That [convention] showed me some of the possibilities of how amazing origami could actually be,” she explains. “I went from high-intermediate complexish models to super-complex models and I started designing my own stuff.”
Munt continues to attend origami conventions so she can share her models with others and teach classes.
”I love to travel and meet other origami artists … It’s pretty rare that I meet other people who can fold as complex as me,” Munt says. She has met some internationally known origami artists at conventions, including Brian Chan and Robert Lang.
Often, Munt’s origami attracts attention even before she arrives at the conventions. “It’s really fun to make things on the airplane ’cause everyone around you is bored. You can kind of see them look over at you, [wondering], ‘What are they doing?’ Until you finish it and they are like, “Wow, that’s really impressive.’”
“With dollar bills, not only can you identify what it’s become, you automatically know how small it was to start and that there would be no cuts in it because it’s illegal to do that,” adds Munt.
Once Munt has developed more models with diagrams, she hopes to publish a book of her designs. In the meantime, if you’d like to try making a dollar-bill bulldog designed by Munt, watch the video below.
Munt’s Tips for Making Dollar-Bill Origami:
- Crease your dollars very well because money is technically not paper. It has cotton and other materials in it, so it doesn’t hold a crease as easily as most paper would.
- Start with crisp bills. Old bills don’t work so well.