The origami elephant

One student’s mission to bring joy, luck through an ancient art


Aeryn Kauffman

Benjamin ‘Ben’ Lee was encouraged by his mother to make origami in high school. It’s a habit he has continued for the past year, handing creations out in the SURC.

Aeryn Kauffman, Copy Desk Chief/Opinion Editor

If you’ve walked through the SURC on a weekday, you may have seen a student with glasses and a long, origami nose.

He may have handed you a piece of origami in the shape of a heart, or a paper flower with the words ‘Yas queen’ handwritten on the petals.

This is how many students first meet Benjamin ‘Ben’ Lee, a sophomore physical education major with a paper art making hobby.

On Halloween, he wore white paper glasses taped to his black-framed prescription specs, a black face mask, black bowtie, black vest and his signature origami nose. 

Lee was dressed as Tuxedo Mask from the anime series “Sailor Moon.”

Lee was missing Tuxedo Mask’s distinctive black top hat, however.

“I think it was somewhere in the final battle, [Tuxedo Mask] was without a top hat,” Lee said.

In addition to anime, Lee takes inspiration for his paper art from some of his favorite video games, such as Kingdom Hearts, The Legend of Zelda franchise and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

His paper nose is in the shape of an origami swan, but he began wearing it on his face like a nose to make others happy.

“A lot of people ask me that. ‘Is this an elephant nose?’ And I was like, ‘Yes,’” Lee said.

In his senior year of high school after wanting to find a new hobby, Lee began folding origami. 

He watched do-it-yourself videos on YouTube and was intrigued by the origami videos.

Lee started out using just origami paper to make his paper art, but then he began using other materials such as copy paper, construction paper, plastic utensils, water bottles and wooden chopsticks.

To begin his paper art making process, Lee starts with drawing a silhouette. 

He cuts out the silhouette and repeats as necessary, adding other materials, folding the paper or attaching materials with tape. He often draws on his creations.

Some of the paper art pieces Lee is most proud of are his origami nose, Link’s shield from The Legend of Zelda franchise and a cosplay-sized Keyblade from Kingdom Hearts.

Lee made the Keyblade using copy paper, wooden chopsticks, plastic knives and black electrical tape.

Paper crafting, for Lee, means to “create ideas.” He thinks of an idea and finds an image online to help him picture how it should look. Then, he crafts.

“It helps me to relax,” Lee said.

In Kingdom Hearts, the character receives charms, like those on a charm bracelet. These charms attach to the character’s weapon, the Keyblade.

Lee adopted this idea and now makes paper art to represent good luck charms. 

He started handing out origami and cutout drawings to his friends, but he soon began handing them out to passersby on campus as a “reminder not to be alone.”

Since paper crafting is a stress reliever for Lee, he hopes his artwork is a stress reliever for others.

“You’re not alone,” Lee said. “There’s always hope.”