Leela Into the Fold

Leela Morimoto’s World of Origami Art and Design

Article by Julie E. Furnas

Photography by Cheryl Parton

Originally published in Bend Lifestyle

Most artists discover and hone individual talents at a young age. Leela Morimoto, owner and chief artist for LeeMo Designs, is no exception. Her talent of folding paper started at three years old when her mother needed something to keep her daughter's fidgety fingers occupied. Once she started, she couldn’t stop—folding anything and everything she could get her hands on. Today, LeeMo Designs features unique origami jewelry and household décor items such as multi-dimensional nightlights and brightly colored wall art.

Growing up in India, Hawaii and Japan, Morimoto was exposed to many different cultures, art techniques, and uses of colors. Her designs draw on inspiration from her paternal grandmother, nature and fashion. Global experiences led her to Oregon, where she graduated with a BFA in product design from the University of Oregon. Whether in origami crane earrings, men’s cufflinks or wall art, her work showcases the beautiful and unique types of Japanese-imported paper she uses. The type of paper determines the level of difficulty and technique of folding used. “[While] the folding is no different for solid [color] versus prints, the thickness and texture of the paper do matter,” says Morimoto. She started making jewelry in 2008 “to challenge myself to fold smaller and smaller,” she says.

The production of nightlights, curtains and wall art began in 2015 when she began to expand the jewelry business and collaborate with other local artists to create one-of-a-kind pieces. Her favorite piece to create is the popular LeeMo Signature Design, called the Ayano Diamond, which happens to bring her back to where she started: the design was created when she was a child. Today she continues to share her love of wearable paper art.


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