Don’t fold

• Origami helped Fremantle’s Melanie Gray rebuild her life.

ARE Melanie Gray’s origami birds a metaphor for breaking free from her traumatic past and soaring high again in life?

Gray grew up in a small town in the Wheatbelt, where her life was going along nicely – she was a straight-A student, national basketball player and the owner of several beauty-related franchises.

“But I was lacking self-belief and direction, and without clarity I was attracting the wrong people and made some questionable decisions,” Gray says.

One iffy decision led to another and soon her life began to spiral out of control – battling substance abuse, domestic violence and eventually financial ruin in her 30s.

When she was at her lowest ebb, Gray returned to a childhood hobby for solace.

“I folded origami cranes as a child and found comfort in their method and form and loved what they represented,” she says.

“I returned to the craft when I was forced to start my life over in my 30s and realise now it was a kind of therapy.”

A symbol for peace, hope, strength and loyalty in Japan, it was fitting that origami became central to Gray rebuilding her life.

Her hand-folded cranes are now in high demand via her e-business 22Folds and sold at Australian galleries and gift stores, as well as Perth Upmarket.

“I have had a very colourful life and learned many lessons,” Gray says.

“The artworks and products I create are designed to remind us of our strength; to empower, acknowledge and ignite something within others.

“My hope is that each one acts as a daily reminder for the recipient to strive for a life of purpose and joy.”

Gray has done notable commissions including 2500 cranes for the Miracles Babies Foundation.

“I dressed the cranes up as storks to symbolise the safe arrival of premature babies and then flew to Sydney to create an installation of them all in flight in the foyer of NSW Parliament House,” said Melanie.

“Each stork was sponsored for $30 raising much needed funds to create nurture rooms in hospitals.”

Now happily married with three kids in Fremantle, Gray says she gets most satisfaction out of helping others avoid the pitfalls of her youth. 

“I promised myself I would never allow anyone to make me feel less than who I was. I was prepared to lose, but not prepared to compromise,” she says.

“If I could go back and give my 17-year-old self some advice it would be to be present and to really take the time to know who you are as a person – to really think how you would like to experience your journey through life.”

You can meet Gray and check out her origami at the 22Folds stall at Perth Upmarket on November 27 10am-4pm at UWA. 

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