Origami: From its Traditional Roots to Modern Designs

Origami, the ancient Japanese art of paper folding, has a rich and colorful history. But what many people don’t know is that origami is still being practiced today by artists from all over the world, who are creating innovative and beautiful new designs.

What is Origami?

Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding. Its name comes from the Japanese words ori (“folding”) and kami (“paper”). Traditional origami is the process of folding a single square sheet into a sculpture without cutting, gluing, taping, or otherwise changing it.


Origins of origami

The origins of origami are unknown, but it is thought to have originated in China and then spread to Japan in the sixth century. In Japan, origami was initially used for ceremonial purposes, such as wrapping gifts or creating religious objects. But by the Edo period (1603-1867), origami had become a popular pastime among all classes of Japanese society.


During the Meiji period (1868-1912), origami declined in popularity due to the influx of Western culture. But in the early 20th century, there was a resurgence of interest in traditional Japanese arts and crafts, and origami once again became popular.


In Europe, paper-folding is said to have begun as napkin-folding, which was widespread in the 1700s. Napkin-folding, like Japanese origami, included a variety of methods and techniques that resulted in a range of abstract and figurative forms.

Origin Of Origami
Origami techniques (Photo: Deutsche Fotothek via Wikimedia Commons, PD-1923)

Paper-folding in America

The first known mention of paper folding in America is in a children’s book called The Little Folks’ Paper Toy Book, which was published in 1857. This book included instructions for making simple animals and objects out of folded paper.

The American origami movement began in the early 1900s with the work of Lillian Oppenheimer (1898-1988) and Ruth Merrill (1914-2001). They were both members of the New York Origami Society, which was founded in the 1950s.

Over the centuries, origami has evolved into an art form that is practiced by people of all ages. Today, there are many different types of origami, including traditional, modular, and geometric origami.

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Types of Origami

There are two main types of origami: classical origami and modern origami. Classical origami consists of folding a single sheet of paper into a sculptural form. Modern origami, also known as modular origami, involves joining multiple pieces of paper together to create larger structures.

Classical Origami
classical origami
Modern Origami
modern origami

Modular origami is often made from square sheets of paper that are folded into individual units, which are then stacked or joined together to form a larger sculpture. Geometric origami is a type of origami that uses mathematical concepts to create intricate designs.

Famous origami artists

Some of the most famous origami artists include Akira Yoshizawa (1911-2005), who is credited with revitalizing the art form in the 20th century; and Jun Maekawa (born 1960), who is known for his use of color and pattern in his origami designs. He is also credited with popularizing the use of non-traditional materials, such as fabric and foil, in origami.

Akira Yoshizawa
Akira Yoshizawa
Dragon Jun Maekawa
dragon by jun maekawa

Origami Today

Origami is practiced all over the world by people of all ages. It is a popular activity at schools, camps, and birthday parties. There are even origami competitions, where people can showcase their skills and win prizes.

Origami is also used in a variety of settings, including engineering, architecture, and product design. For example, origami-inspired techniques have been used to create airbags, solar panels, and medical devices.

For more about the History of Origami


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