Continuing what is becoming an annual tradition, Black Ink, a shop at 101 Charles St. specializing in paper goods, is collaborating with Garden Street resident Gregory W. Skaff again next month on their third Origami fundraiser in support of St. Francis House.
Throughout the month of September, Black Ink will be offering Origami bulls designed by Stephen Weber and folded by Skaff for a contribution of $25 or more to the day shelter. (Black Ink can only accept cash donation for the origami pieces, however, as they aren’t store inventory.) Each Origami bull measures 24-by-24 centimeters and is made using Nicolas Terry Tissue Foil Origami specialty paper from France.
The first fundraising collaboration between Skaff and Black Ink was hatched in September of 2019, when Skaff came into the shop to personally thank the owner, Susan Corcoran, for helping rekindle his interest in Origami after a 37- year respite.
Skaff was first introduced to the ancient Japanese art of paper folding at about the age of 6 or 7, he said, when his mother bought him his first instructional book on the subject because she thought he had good special ability.
Soon afterwards, his mother brought Skaff home another book on origami from Japan after she accompanied his father there on a business trip, and Skaff found yet another book on the subject at the long-running New England Book Fair in Newton as well.
Skaff would go on to win an oral presentation on Origami in the eighth grade, but he said he lost interest in it soon afterwards, which he attributes chiefly to the absence of clubs or other resources for the artform at that time in Sudbury, where he grew up, or at the Fessenden School in Newton, where he would go on to attend boarding school.
By the fall of 2016, Skaff’s one-time obsession with Origami had nearly faded from memory when he received, in exchange for a nominal $1 charitable contribution, an Origami star that has ever since graced the front door of his Garden Street apartment.
Nearly three years elapsed from that time until September of 2019 when Skaff drop by Black Ink to express his gratitude to Corcoran and then learned about her ongoing Origami fundraising efforts
In 2011, Corcoran created 1,000 paper cranes for a special storefront-window display for that holiday season, and since Japan had suffered a massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that November, she was eager to help out there any way she could.
Rather than simply discarding the cranes once they took down the window display, Black Ink instead devoted some shelf space to the Origami cranes and used them successfully to garner financial aid for their friends in Japan.
“We sell a lot of Japanese goods, and we’re very friendly with a lot of our vendors from Japan,” Corcoran told this reporter last year. “So we thought, ‘why not ask for a donation for a crane?,’ and a dollar a piece seemed reasonable.”
The effort grew from there, and Corcoran was soon folding a variety of Origami pieces, such as hearts, stars, and butterflies, that were offered at both Black Ink’s Charles Street store and its second outpost in Harvard Square (which closed at the end of 2019) in exchange for a requested nominal charitable donation.
“We started doing it at both stores and got a great community response,” Corcoran said. “We asked people to donate money and take a folded piece of Origami with them, although many people donated without taking one.”
Corcoran selects a local nonprofit as the recipient of the donations each time, and other past recipients have included Community Servings, Rosie’s Place, Food for Free, BARCC (Boston Area Rape Crisis Center) and Partners in Health, which she described as “a local yet international organization.” Or in some instances, the proceeds are used instead to aid in a national or an international crisis (e.g. some proceeds were used last summer to benefit relief efforts in Beirut, Lebanon, in the aftermath of the devastating port explosion there).
As a further testament of her devotion to these causes, Corcoran also personally matches out of her own pocket the donations she receives in exchange for the Origami pieces.
Upon learning how Corcoran’s philanthropic work, and in appreciation for her helping him rediscover the artformi, Skaff contributed 15 Hideo Kamatsu Origami horses he folded to her ongoing charitable efforts, which subsequently raised $350 in donations for St. Francis House in the fall of 2019.
Skaff suggested St. Francis House as the fundraiser’s recipient because, he had toured the shelter’s facility at 39 Boylston St. several years earlier and saw the organization’s positive work firsthand for himself.
“There are a lot of worthy organizations locally, but I see a lot of homeless people around Beacon Hill,” he said, “and I thought St. Francis House is a good organization that makes a real effort to rehabilitate people who might be struggling with mental illness, or substance abuse, and that others might not think about, and who don’t have [support systems].”
Encouraged by the positive response to his fundraising collaboration with Blac Ink, Skaff folded a number of Noboru Miyajima Origami Bats, which he donated to the shop in the fall of 2020 to raise $794 for St. Francis House.
Like the first year, this donation came as a welcome surprise for St. Francis House, said Skaff, since neither he nor Corcoran had made them aware of the Origami fundraiser beforehand.
And although neither he, nor Corcoran, has said much to get the word out about next month’s Origami fundraiser, Skaff had already raised $125 as of Aug. 19 for St. Francis House in donations made by two of his “loyal followers” in exchange for one of his Stephen Weber-designed Origami bulls.
While Skaff and Corcoran are hoping this year’s fundraising effort for St. Francis House will be their most successful one yet, they are already looking forward to doing it again next fall, although it’s way too early for Skaff to decide what kind of Origami creation he’ll be folding the next time around.