Every Saturday, Jobe Brown stakes out spots to stash his crafts (or his art, depending who you talk to) into the nooks and crannies of the city’s architecture. The 21-year-old origami artist has been playing what he calls “an interactive hide-and-seek social media game” with the people of Halifax for just over a year now.
His project, dubbed #HiddenInTheOpen, is meant to “spark the awareness that social media can be used as a visual activity that combines art with reality.” People discover everything from paper cranes to pandas, marked with an original sticker, and upload them on social media.
“This is one of the things that I’m known for online, so I have to keep doing it,” Brown says, noting he’s well known on the online art gallery DeviantArt and his personal Instagram account “jobe3do” has over 4,000 followers.
His success has allowed him to ship boxes of his origami—for a small fee—to volunteer “hiders” across the globe in Calgary, New York City, Berlin, Indianapolis and São Paulo, Brazil, to name a few.
“I look at each building and I try to incorporate [the origami] as noticeably as possible, because buildings are designed in such a way to attract your eye,” he says about hiding in Halifax.
Born in Halifax and raised in Newfoundland, Brown’s love for origami sparked in grade four, when a substitute teacher taught the class how to make canoes, cranes and “cootie-catchers.”
“She was my first whiff of it,” he recalls.
By the time he was in grade 11, he was trying a new pattern almost everyday. The one thing he can’t make yet is the human brain.
This Saturday Brown’s #HiddenInTheOpen will be one of 90 urban interventions taking place across the city for 100 in 1 Day, a global festival of citizen engagement returning to Halifax for its second year.
Last year there were 53 urban interventions across the city, including pop-up libraries, a youth poetry brigade, outdoor yoga and the red swing project.
Though Brown’s social media game has already gained attention, he says he hasn’t been a part of something as big as 100 in 1 Day.
It’s hard to put a number on how many pieces he’s left around Halifax, but it’s “definitely over 1,000,” he claims. “You name it, it’s probably all over the place.”
Brown says he hides on Saturdays, so it doesn’t interfere with his job as a draftsman (he’s a graduate of Nova Scotia Community College’s drafting and architectural program). But he folds every day, sometimes for hours.
“I can do the crane with my eyes closed, and ladybugs, stuff like that.”
There are two main kinds of origami: traditional and 3D.
“The traditional uses the one sheet, so that’s like an elephant or the crane is the most famous one,” says Brown, “whereas the 3D origami is like the mockingjay pin and more exotic and uses multiple triangular pieces.”
Brown’s 3D collection, most of which is self-designed, includes many Japanese pop culture icons such as Pokémon and Nintendo characters like Kirby, as well as physiological structures such as an anatomically correct version of the human heart.
As the 3D pieces are delicate, he uses mostly traditional origami for the series.
Brown says he’s submitted his work to local art galleries many times, but they always turn him down.
“That’s the sad part about being an origami artist,” he says. “You have nowhere to showcase them.”