The Origami Architect: Joyce Aysta

The Japanese word 'origami' derives from the two root words 'oreru' (to fold) and 'kami' (paper). Most of us would imagine the simple, geometric boats and frogs that are made with colorful squares of paper, but Joyce Aysta takes the concept of origami to a new level with her intricate designs.

From her studio in downtown Los Angeles, Joyce runs a daily production of handmade cards. The cards display her mastery of fiber construction, and apply that artistry to the theme of architecture. Why buildings? Joyce has a profound appreciation for the thought and skill that go into making works of architecture. She is constantly inspired by the iconic buildings that define cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and D.C.
The Milliard House, also known as "La Miniatura" is one of several Frank Lloyd Wright designs in the Live Your Dream Designs card collection.

The cards themselves are miniature replicas of buildings, monuments, or features. Each one is cut from a single sheet of paper - a challenge which Joyce overcomes each time she designs a new piece. After she works out the 2D cutting pattern, she begins to produce batches right in her LA studio. Joyce has managed to maintain the production locally, refusing to consider the option of outsourcing the fabrication process. Making the cards is her favorite part of operating the business.

Before the cards are folded, they are cut in batches of 8 and stacked flat. The Smithsonian Castle's many windows make for a complex cutout design.

Each day, Joyce ships out boxes of freshly made handcrafted cards to customers around the country. The majority of her orders come from gift shops associated with historically significant buildings, or museum shops in cities that she has designed a collection for. In addition to her craft skills and her attraction to architecture, Joyce's practice has been shaped by her natural inclination to be organized. It keeps her business running as smooth as clockwork.

Stacks of Christmas cards in Joyce's studio, cut and ready to be folded.

Before she invented her life as an origami architect, Joyce excelled in jobs that involved production. Whether it was producing costumes for film/T.V. or producing events like the Los Angeles Olympics opening ceremony, she could organize messy processes into smoothly run operations with resounding success. Over the past couple of months, I've been assisting Joyce when she needs to run through large orders in a short turnaround. I've seen how her lifelong ability to organize productions translates into a successful business. Her fusion of artistry, craftsmanship, innovation and entrepreneurship is a valuable model for those of us who aspire to shape our professional lives in the same direction.
The Holocaust Memorial in Washington DC, Synagogue at Subotica (Two cards designed and made by Joyce Aysta / Live Your Dream Designs.)
To order handmade origami architecture cards, go to www.liveyourdreamdesigns.com. More details about the construction process can be found in her book The Paper Architect.


  1. Inspiring post Jen. Helping out must be an amazing experience..

  2. These cards are actually a common tourist product on the streets of Cambodia. Locals make some really stunning cards, themed for all occasions of the year and sell them to tourists for the equivalent of a couple of pounds. They are also beautifully hand made, and meticulously cut. Perhaps the designs aren't quite as intricate, but not a far shout.