Student Spotlight – Jonathan Bitner: Paper Architect

Freshman Jonathan Bitner has excelled in making complex origami structures. His work can be seen on his Facebook page, "Jonathan Bitner Origami and Visual Arts." | Photo From: Melissa Johnson

Freshman Jonathan Bitner has excelled in making complex origami structures. His work can be seen on his Facebook page, “Jonathan Bitner Origami and Visual Arts.” | Photo From: Melissa Johnson

Freshman Jonathan Bitner makes origami. But it’s not only a casual hobby – he’s even recreated famous monuments.

Bitner was first introduced to origami during his sophomore year of high school. His class was doing a project to raise money for people affected by the tsunami in Japan by making 1,000 paper cranes. The cranes were then sent to different organizations that would donate $1-$2 to Japan for every crane.

During this time, Bitner made about 500 cranes, and his interest in origami was sparked.

He began to look for more complex types of origami, such as modular origami, which usually involves 30 individual pieces added together to make one shape. Smaller modular pieces take Bitner two to three hours to complete, Bitner said.

Because origami takes such a long time to complete, he said it has helped him develop patience.

“When I show people something they’ve never seen before, it’s really awesome to see the joy that’s on their face,” Bitner said. “Pretty much everything I’ve made so far I’ve given away to someone.”

Freshman Katelyn Byram is one of the many people who have received Bitner’s origami as a gift.

“The ability to have all that creativity to even start doing (origami) just blows my mind,” Byram said.

Bitner’s biggest origami accomplishment is a swan made out of 1,300 pieces of paper – a project that took 10 hours to complete. But then a coworker of his mom’s accidently knocked it down. However, Bitner says he can just rebuild it.


Bitner enjoys modular origami which involves multiple pieces of paper to make one object. A project like this takes Bitner several hours to complete. | Photo From: Jonathan Bitner

Byram, who worked with Bitner at a summer camp, gave him an origami instructional book as a high school graduation gift.

“It was hard finding a book that would challenge him,” Byram said.

The book deals with architectural origami, and Bitner has put it to good use. Since then, he has recreated famous landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, entirely out of paper. His work can be seen on his Facebook page, “Jonathan Bitner Origami and Visual Arts.”

In addition to his skill at crafting origami, Bitner knows about the art.

“It’s kind of surprising to me that people don’t know what origami means,” Bitner said. “From Japanese, it literally translates into ‘folding paper.’”

Another misconception is that origami originated in Japan. Bitner said that the Chinese actually created origami but that the Japanese made it into a fine art.

Jonathan Bitner White House.jpg

One of the famous landmarks Jonathan Bitner has recreated with origami is the White House. | Photo From: Jonathan Bitner

Bitner, a native of Lancaster, Pa., said he thinks it would be cool to visit Japan one day to experience the thousand origami cranes firsthand.

“There’s a tradition … if you make a thousand cranes, one wish will be granted,” Bitner said. “Because of this tradition, thousands and thousands of colored cranes are left at temples around Japan each year.”

Although he hasn’t had much time to work on origami since coming to college, Bitner said he hopes to continue doing it in the future.

“Once you develop an interest in something like that,” Bitner said, “it just stays with you.”

Mary Kate Browning is a junior applied communication major and a reporter for Cedars. She loves coffee, goats and wearing her Batman backpack around campus.

More Student Spotlights

Lesley Nash: Colonial Dancer (November 2013)

Brian McCray: Caricature Artist (October 2013)

Alisha Symington: Student Witnesses Using the Arts (September 2013)

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