Gathering Folds: Accenting Your Home and Wardrobe with Origami

origami home decor sculpture with backlighting gathering folds

What a difference backlighting makes!


Leveraging math and origami to create works of art 

I'm fascinated by people who leverage their STEM backgrounds in unconventional ways. I also am passionate about engaging young children in DIY activities and hands-on pursuits early on, because they build spatial thinking skills, creativity, and confidence.

So when I learned about Madonna Yoder and her business Gathering Folds, I was immediately intrigued! Like Sebastian, Madonna has created a business based on her love for origami. She earned a degree in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences from MIT in 2017. Now she leverages math and art to create beautiful suncatchers, framed art, and scarves.

Her specialty is tessellations from a single sheet. All of these repeating patterns are made with a single piece of paper or fabric, with no cuts or glue. 

For each large piece that she sells, she makes a donation to the charity Paper for Water to fund clean water development projects around the globe. 

We had the pleasure of interviewing her recently!

Madonna Yoder founder Gathering Folds origami

Madonna Yoder


How did you get started with Gathering Folds? 

I've been folding origami since I was a kid, but I never imagined I could make a career doing it until I took Erik Demaine's folding algorithms class at MIT. Even then, I thought you had to be writing code or engineering products that only used a little bit of origami. Gathering Folds was born last fall when I realized that you could actually build a successful business by making things by hand and selling directly to customers! Now I use my knowledge of tessellations in paper and fabric to produce suncatchers, framed art, scarves, and patterns.

What do you now know about origami that you didn't know as a kid?

I never knew that people are coming up with new origami designs all the time - and it's not even that hard! Origami people are very friendly and love to hang out at conventions to learn the latest designs and techniques.

What has been your biggest challenge with this business?  

My biggest challenge with Gathering Folds has been to learn and implement all the many things that go into running a business on my own. There are many great teachers and tools, but you've got to figure out who to trust and where to ask for help.

What childhood activities did you enjoy that brought you to where you are today? 

I always tried out every kind of craft available. I did lots of origami, of course, but also cross stitch, friendship bracelets, plastic lanyards, beading, knitting, some woodworking, and more. This gave me the ability to guess how things are made from looking at the finished product, and imagine how I could make it myself. As I got older, I added new skills like cutting and drilling glass, glassblowing, blacksmithing, wood turning, and basic household repairs that gave me the confidence that I can make whatever I want to.

What advice do you have for kids who might be interested in following in your footsteps?

Start simple. You may be able to do ten things pretty well, but by focusing on just one thing and making it really perfect you have a better chance to stand out.

What makes Gathering Folds a good place to do holiday shopping?

Suncatchers from Gathering Folds are a perfect gift to the nerd in your life who can't be bothered with interior decorating. Take it from a MIT nerd - the bright colors of the suncatcher and the intricate, shifting shadow pattern all made from a single sheet of paper can change a room from 'meh' to 'woah!'.

Check out her shop here!



finished suncatcher Madonna Yoder origami gathering folds

Finished suncatcher

Check out the OctoGifts shop for more gift ideas inspired by math and origami!


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