Origami is one of the oldest and most popular Japanese art form. It is an essential part of Japanese culture.

Let’s have a look at what origami is all about and how it started.

Early Beginnings

Origami first started around the 1860s when Japan opened its borders to European nations. German techniques of paper-folding were integrated into origami. Before this, most Japanese paper artwork were made using cuts rather than folds. The so called grandfathers of origami Kosho Uchiyama and Akira Yoshizawa began recording completely original origami designs in the early 1900s. Akira Yoshizawa is the man who invented the Yoshizawa-Randlett system which is the system for most modern origami tutorials that you see today.

Learning Origami

Although most origami tutorials still use the Yoshizawa-Randlett system, some have transitioned to the technique known as origami sekkei which is Japanese for technical origami. It is a system where the creases are already marked on flat paper before any folding occurs. You then just follow the instructions on the paper in order to make the correct folds to complete the piece.

Variants of Origami

There are many variants of origami, perhaps the most intriguing of all is moneygami. Moneygami is created using the same process as normal origami but with United States dollars as a base instead of normal paper. Wet-folded origami is a variant of origami where rather than folding dry paper, you first dampen the paper in order to make it more malleable. Wet-folding an origami piece also makes it preserve its shape better than standard origami since the paper hardens when it dries similar to paper mache or sculpting. Kirigami is the original form of origami in pre-modern Japan. Cutting the paper is allowed in kirigami.

Pirated Origami

Origami designs are often pirated and sold online. Creating origami models from legally obtained designs is allowed unless for profit. If the goal is profit when displaying origami models then they must first receive consent from the designer of the model that they will be showcasing. The group created to uphold the copyright laws of origami is called the Origami Authors and Creators group or the  OAC. A court ruled that folding paper is public domain and that folding paper in an identical way to someone else can easily happen on accident.

Chinese Counterpart

Japan isn’t the only country with a paper-folding artform. China is home to the art of the paper airplane. It began in Ancient China in around 460 BCE, 40 years after China first began manufacturing paper. There are even designs for paper helicopters. The world record for farthest distance traveled by a paper airplane is 226 feet and the record for longest time in flight is almost 28 seconds. In February 2011, 200 planes were carried up twenty-three miles above Germany by a weather balloon and then launched. The tracking chips allowed the paper planes to be found. They were found in Europe, Australia and North America.

Special Tools

Origami makers often use a tool called a bone folder which is used to sharply fold the paper. Most enthusiasts do not use bone folders except for when they are creating more complex designs.

Origami has been around for more than a hundred years and it is definitely here to stay. We now have front row seats to watch it as it evolves into its next form. The next time you pass by some colored paper, try to make a basic figure. You’ll be making origami tessellations and wet-folds before you know it. Origami is one of Japan’s greatest inventions and we are lucky to have the opportunity to participate in the craft.