A Brief History of BARF
by Jeremy Shafer
In kissing BARF goodbye, I would like to just give a brief history of the Bay Area Rapid Folders folding group and the BARF Newsletter.
Bay Area Rapid Folders was started in 1992 by Mark Turner who was a Jazz Pianist by trade and a recent convert to origami. He started organizing the first-Saturday-of-the-month meetings at the San Francisco Bernal Heights Branch Library, which was a few blocks from where he lived.
The name of the group was originally San Francisco Folders. In early 1993, it was changed to SF Origami Group (SFOG), but that name had already been used by a separate group on the other side of town organized by Vicky Mihara. So, in order to avoid confusion, a new name had to be found. Mark put a call out for new name ideas. It was actually my brother, Michael Shafer, who came up with the name Bay Area Rapid Folders - BARF (a pun on Bay Area Rapid Transit - BART). I proposed it, Mark liked it, and in June of 1993 the group was officially renamed BARF.
From the beginning, Mark, with the help of Erik Zo, had been printing a monthly flier announcing the BARF meetings (see example page 4), but in September of 1993, Mark switched from a monthly flyer to a full blown monthly newsletter with diagrams and, believe it or not, even some origami news! $10 was the yearly subscription to the 8-page monthly newsletter, and the membership quickly grew to about 100 members.
The newsletter continued for the next six months and culminated in a 64-page "Best of the West" March 94 special edition, which was an an amazing accomplishment, considering he finished it in only a month, and considering he was just 3 months from the end of his battle with AIDS. In his last 9 months of life, not only did he organize and produce the BARF newsletter, but he also managed to publish "Garden Folds" a 176 page book of his hand-drawn diagrams of his original designs. In his short origami career, he was astoundingly prolific and was a great inspiration to us all. I’m sure that Mark would be happy to know that the BARF meetings that he started almost two decades ago are still going strong!
Mark passed away April 21, 1994. The Summer '94 BARF newsletter was produced by Mitzi Ngim, and contained diagrams from Chris Palmer, Peter Engel and myself, as well as memoriam by Chris Palmer, Peter Engel and Lillian Ho.
That Summer, Mitzi asked if I would take charge of the Newsletter and I agreed. I was just learning how to diagram using the computer and this was an opportunity for me to test out my diagrams on an established group of folders.
Designing and diagramming origami came very naturally to me, but organizing, and in particular asking for help was not one of my strengths. In the newsletter I would put out a call for diagrams, but would seldom if ever follow it up with phone calls. Over the years I did receive quite a few submissions and I shout out a big thanks to all who submitted diagrams, but, as you all know, the BARF Newsletter on the whole has been a newsletter of mainly Jeremy Shafer diagrams which I'm not complaining about; it was what it was. For me, it turned out as not so much a platform for me to test diagrams, but rather became a driving force for me to keep designing and diagramming new models. The quarterly deadlines kept me on a steady, productive path.
In the last decade, as I've gotten busier with my juggling career, the origami newsletter has become more and more difficult to keep up with. I started missing deadlines and making them up with double
ssues (or even triple issues), and although I had amassed hundreds of pages of diagrams I couldn't find the time to organize them into a second book.
In the Fall of 2010, I let BARF lapse and finally started focusing on getting out a second book, Origami Ooh La La!. which I managed to get get out in December. Since I self-published via CreateSpace (the print-on-demand branch of Amazon.com), I decided that to help get out the word of my new book, I would try making YouTube tutorials. I started the YouTube channel JeremyShaferOrigami
) in the beginning of February and in just two months it received 35,000 views.
Compared to diagramming, I found YouTube videos so much easier to make, easier for folders to follow, and easier to broadcast, that all of a sudden, I no longer felt a driving force to diagram, and that spelt the end of my role in this newsletter. I would gladly offer it up to anyone who would like to take it over, but knowing the huge job that it entails and the lack of practically any financial incentive, I can't imagine anyone else would be so silly as to take it on! So, unless someone eagerly jumps forward and volunteers to be editor, contributor, producer, distributor, chief executive officer, etc, I've decided to let the BARF Newsletter melt into history.
I sincerely hope that my origami creativity will continue as strongly via YouTube as it has via BARF, and I do hope you BARFites (not to be confused with BarFights) will come along for the ride, but if you really prefer origami diagrams to video, well, there is no shortage of origami books and magazines in this world! For instance, there's a new origami magazine that just came out in February called Creased (see creased.com). There are also seemingly endless origami diagrams out there on the Internet for free!
In closing (this time for real) I would like to thank you, the BARF readership, whose ongoing enthusiasm over the years has inspired me to dedicate the last decade and a half of my life to designing and diagramming so many models. And so, in closing, as I like to say, "May the folds be with you!"
See you on YouTube!