Linda Stephen

Artist, Author, Illustrator

Linda Stephen’s origami landscapes are part of collections around the world, from the Mayor’s Office in Omihachiman, Japan to the J.W. Marriott in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She presents programs to ages 3 to 97 on origami, Japanese paper arts, invention, and writing to schools, senior centers, parks, arts centers and museums nationwide. Her picture book The Day We Went to the Park won the 2021 Nebraska Book Award for illustration.

Fluent in Japanese, Linda taught in Japan for six years. She has worked as a writer for projects on five continents. Contact about book signings, collaborative community art projects, school visits, presentations or custom designs.

Artist/Illustrator Bio

Linda Stephen’s paper artworks are part of public and private collections around the world, from the Mayor’s Office in Omihachiman, Japan to the JW Marriott Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan to the Minden Opera House in Minden, Nebraska.

A native of Michigan, Linda spent much of her youth outdoors in all seasons. She has also traveled and worked extensively across North America, Asia, and Europe. Her art celebrates special moments and beauty in our everyday lives.

Linda has more than 25 years of experience in origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. Fluent in Japanese, Linda studied at the Japan Center for Michigan Universities and worked for six years as a teacher and translator in rural Japan.

Linda began making bas relief origami landscapes in 2003 while working in New York City. Since then, her artworks have won national and regional art awards and have been featured in more than 150 juried exhibits across the country.

Her favorite commissions are collaborative community artworks that celebrate a place and the many talents of its residents – including honoring those who are part of the audience or serve on the clean-up crew. For these, she teaches origami to all ages and then incorporates papers folded by hundreds of hands into her art.

Linda presents workshops on Japanese paper arts, Japanese culture, origami (paper folding), and origami’s connection to math and design thinking to audiences at libraries, museums, arts centers, schools, universities, businesses, and senior centers. She has taught thousands of people, ages 3 to 95, across the country.

Her origami picture book The Day We Went to the Park (Handersen Publishing, 2020) won the 2021 Nebraska Book Award for Illustration, presented by the Nebraska Center for the book and the Nebraska Library Commission. the art took seven months to create and includes more than 1,000 origami sculptures from hundred of washi papers. The illustrations reflect the diverse communities in which we live and include people of different ages, mobility, ethnicity, race, and gender.

A lifelong student of culture and language, Linda has worked in communications on five continents for United Nations’ agencies, international nonprofits, Fortune 500 companies, and book publishers. She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her children.

Artist Statement

I have lived and traveled around the world - from Osaka to London, Chicago to Oslo. There is beauty of place, and of spirit, all around us, though these are often overlooked. In my art, I aim to celebrate both the festive and the quiet moments in our everyday lives.

Origami is the Japanese art of folding paper into representational shapes. My origami and layered paper constructions represent a new and unique approach to this ancient tradition.

My medium is paper, primarily a wide range of handcrafted Japanese washi papers, which I first began collecting when I was a student in Japan. The colors, patterns and textures found in the washi papers themselves, as well as those created through the folding process, are key design elements in my art. Hundreds of artisanal papers form my palette – from tissue-thin, transparent chigiri-e hand-dyed rice papers to wrinkled momigami papers to the vibrant silkscreened yuzen fabric papers.

For the background, I create a watercolor look through layering thin chigiri-e washi papers. I do not use any paint, so my color choices are limited to the papers I have gathered, not unlike the limited choices we have at times in life. After choosing key papers, I invent 3D origami paper sculptures that add shadow, give dimension, and bring my work to life. This is an intricate process – both the folding of individual pieces and carefully gluing each piece in place, one layer at a time. Large, detailed works take months to complete and may include 10 different planes/layers, from the back to the foreground. Although I may incorporate 1,000+ paper sculptures in dozens of patterns and colors, every piece is added with purpose and must enhance the composition.

To me, origami is a metaphor for the potential that lies within each person and each place in our world. One flat piece of paper, a seemingly simple material, through a multifaceted progression of paper-folds, can be transformed into almost anything. It can even be deconstructed – unfolded – in order to begin again.

Even in the hardest seasons, there are opportunities to be grateful. It is my hope that my art inspires viewers to live with intention and appreciate the beauty, people and moments of their lives.

Music at the Market

Music at the Market

Blossoming Smooth Milkweed

Blossoming Smooth Milkweed

Union College in April

Union College in April

The Path through the Corn Maze

The Path through the Corn Maze

Summertime on the River

Summertime on the River