Before we appreciate origami as part of the maker’s community, let’s understand the origin of origami and why it is a craze nowadays especially where some schools introduced it as part of their school programs.
Brief History of Paper
The art of making paper from pulp originated in China in the year 102A.D. The secret of making paper was kept in China for several hundred years and finally made its way through Korea and into Japan. The introduction of paper making to Japan several hundred years later coincided with the development of their religion and soon became part of the lives of its people. Colors and silk threads were added and paper folding was held in high esteem.
Who Were The First Paper Folders?
There is an ongoing debate as to who were the first paper folders. Certainly, paper folding is a part of Chinese culture: perhaps they were the first. When people are buried, replicas of items are folded and included in their tombs. Also, the Chinese have always been frugal people who wouldn’t waste something that could be reused. So, a paper that has served its original purpose now can be recycled for origami. Many origami toys were developed by the Chinese. The most famous of these is the “waterbomb.” Children make balloons out of paper, fill them with water and throw them down with a loud splat. Today, paper folders refer to the base of the waterbomb as the “waterbomb base.”
Today the strongest evidence points to the Ancient Egyptians as the first paper folders. A map to the tombs in the Valley of the Kings was found. It resides in a museum in Milan, Italy. It is more than 2000 years old. Here the papyrus (The first known paper dating back 4500 years is made in a laborious process from papyrus reeds.) shows creases on the map. This crease pattern is similar to the way maps are folded today. However, a sheet of papyrus took a week to make and it is brittle. Probably there was very little other paper folding done by the Egyptians.
Though the debate continues as to who was first, each nation brought something to the fold and you have a chance to do that too. After you learn some of the basics, start experimenting with folding paper. You can make your own folds and become part of the history of origami.
Paper Folding and Origami
The word “Origami” is a Japanese word “折り紙”, a literal adoption of Chinese character “折紙” which means paper folding. The art of paper making made its way from China to Japan via Korea in the 6th century. The word origami became popular in 1950s when Japanese paper folder, Akira Yoshizawa popularize it. Today the word origami and paper folding are used interchangeably to refer to any paper model folded without utilizing scissors, glue, drawings and embellishments in the process of folding.
Development of Modern Origami
The work of Akira Yoshizawa, of Japan, a prolific creator of origami designs and a writer of books on origami, inspired a modern renaissance of the craft. He invented the process and techniques of wet-folding and set down the initial set of symbols for the standard Yoshizawa-Randlett system that Robert Harbin and Samuel Randlett later improved upon.
Types of Paper Folding
- Representational Origami – One or more sheets of paper folded into an animal, flower, or figure from the real or supernatural realm.
- Geometric Origami – Includes modular origami and origami tessellations. In modular origami, multiple sheets of paper are folded into individual units and then assembled into a larger, more complex geometric structure. These structures, created using mathematical calculations, are held together by friction or tension. In origami tessellations, a pattern fills a plane with no overlaps or gaps, like decorative wall tiles, often created using pleats to connect together elements such as twist folds in a repeating fashion.
- Action Origami – Refers to origami which requires inflation to complete, or, when complete, uses the kinetic energy of a person’s hands, applied at a certain region on the model, to move another flap or limb.
Wet-Folding – A technique that involves slightly dampening the paper before making a fold. Wet-folding allows the paper to be manipulated more easily, resulting in finished origami models that have a rounder and more sculpted look. The wet-folding technique was pioneered by Akira Yoshizawa.
Pureland Origami – A type of “pure” origami, in which no cutting, decorating, or using of glue, tape, or scissors is allowed. Pureland origami allows only the use of simple mountain and valley folds.
- Kirigami – In traditional origami, you fold paper. In Kirigami, you fold and cut paper. Cutting was often used in traditional Japanese origami, but modern innovations in techniques have made the use of cuts unnecessary. Most modern origami designers no longer consider models with cuts to be origami, and most contemporary books do not even mention cutting.
Inspirational Origami: Impact on Science, Industry, Fashion and Beyond
Origami, mathematics, science, and design are becoming increasingly interconnected. Origami is not only used today to explain and teach arithmetic and geometry, but computational origami employs algorithms and theory to solve complex problems. Other examples of the intersection of origami with other fields includes airbag logistics, cell phone design, architectural design, and even heart stents have their basis in origami principles.