Porcupine descending a staircase

porcupine descending a staricase

The porcupines sometimes come down from the mountain above our house, through a built-up area, and into our garden where they dine on the bulbs of arum lilies. I created a poem which is both static and mobile, and which uses the black and white of the lines of words to somehow reflect the black and white quills. I used flexagons to give the poem mobility and a recombinant quality reminiscent of the random-but-purposive movement of the porcupines.

Porcupine descending a staircase is a poem that can be folded into two different hexaflexagons.

Here are the instructions for making the 3D Hexaflexagon. It is a fun thing to do and the flexagons are really fascinating of themselves.

1: You will find the poem here: 3d hex. It’s a .pdf file. Print it out on A4 paper.


2: Using scissors, cut the poem out carefully along the outline. You will then have a strip shaped like the figure above, where black is cut away, and grey will be folded under.
3: Fold both ways along each line. Accuracy is very important.
4: Fold the triangles with grey lettering under their corresponding triangles, in the numbered order  to form a ‘snake’.
5: Glue the parts to be tucked under, using a clear, quick-drying household glue.
6: Finally, tuck the last tetrahedron (4 & 5) into the gap left in the opposite end of the strip, and glue it in place.
You will now have a hexaflexagon that is ready to roll. The poem will appear in new combinations.
But it won’t appear in as many combinations as the 2D hexaflexagon, which is essentially a folded strip that allows its facets to cycle in various combinations.
You can download and print the 2D version of the poem here: 2d hex 2
Print it out and cut out the two strips. Glue them together into one strip. You’ll find good instructions for folding it here: http://www.maths.uq.edu.au/~infinity/Infinity%2012/hexaflex.html

Search for ‘flexagon’ on the internet, for more on these fascinating folding figures.

  1. Frank Colcord said:

    I’d love to learn how you made your flexagon pdf with the text arranged inside. Did you do it manually? Do you have a template? I’ve been looking for a latex template to create that kind of pdf from a plain text file. I have a roll printer to make long flexagons.

    • I used Corel Draw, but any graphics package like PhotoShop should allow you to do it. As long as it allows you to treat a piece of text as vectors, and rotate it.

      • Frank Colcord said:

        Thanks for answering so promptly. I was hoping there was a more automated method.

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