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New York Times: The Modern Life of Origami, an Art as Old as Paper

Precision is key, whether folding a humble crane or an interlocking modular structure. So is enthusiasm.

Origami as an art reaches back thousands of years. “Origami is really almost as old as paper,” Ms. Zeichner explained — it means “to fold paper” in Japanese — and paper in sheet form is thought to have been invented in China around 105 A.D.

“I would say the biggest rule is no cutting,” said Wendy Zeichner, the president and chief executive of OrigamiUSA. It’s “one piece of paper and no glue.”

Before the 1950s, certain Origami objects were more difficult to create, partly because diagrams weren’t standardized. Some guide books simply presented the results, without the necessary steps to get there. Yoshizawa, in Japan, and Samuel Randlett, in the United States, helped develop a set of international diagram conventions that is now referred to as the Yoshizawa-Randlett system.

To start making shapes like cranes and frogs, it boils down to two basic techniques:

Mountain folds and valley folds, which are different ways to make the edges meet. After that, you can get creative. There are also sculptural techniques such as wet-folding, a process in which part of the paper is dampened, which weakens the paper fibers and makes it easier to shape. When it dries, the paper stiffens.

Origami has inspired many engineers and experts in various fields to develop many applications in our practical life, such as:

- NASA: A few years ago, NASA engineers were able to create foldable telescopes and a flower-shaped shade to block out light from distant stars by using paper-folding techniques. “If you want to send something in a rocket, it has to be packed small,” Ms. Zeichner said. “The same algorithms you would use in origami would be used in this.”

-The same goes for folding an airbag into a car, or creating pop-up homeless shelters.

- “Before it got codified, it could be very confusing,” said Jeannine Mosely, a software engineer in Cambridge, Mass. Ms. Mosely is known for large-scale projects such as an Origami Menger sponge, a series of cubes adding up to a giant cube, made out of business cards.
At the time, the fact that she didn’t use square paper caused ripples throughout the origami community.

 

Toshiko Kobayashi, an art therapist in Manhattan who grew up folding as a child in Tokyo after World War II, believes in the art’s ability to heal. “Just after the war, there was nothing. Paper was one of the readily available toys for me,” she said.

In New York, she has been busy introducing the art to different communities through the Origami Therapy Association in Manhattan, which she founded in 2002. She has a regular session on paper-folding techniques for visually impaired patrons at the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library in Manhattan.

For many, the practice is embraced for its calming aspects. “It’s lessened my anxiety a lot,” Ms. Kawataki said.

In the following you will find many photos for paper artworks:

Paper cranes folded by New Yorkers and donated to people recovering from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Toshiko Kobayashi, an art therapist, then led a workshop in the Fukushima area to turn the cranes into flowers.

“Eddy,” curved crease sculpture by Erik and Martin Demaine; Mi-Teintes watercolor paper, 10 inches by 9 inches by 12 inches.

Eddy,” curved crease sculpture by Erik and Martin Demaine; Mi-Teintes watercolor paper, 10 inches by 9 inches by 12 inches.

Elephant designed by Beth Johnson, folded from water-color paper by Robby Kraft.

Polar Sine Wave,” left, and “Voronoi Flagstone,” center, by Robby Kraft, designed using his own custom code for developing new crease patterns. Right, “Hyperbolic Cube,” designed by Thomas Hull of Western New England University, folded by Robby Kraft.

Three boxes by a patient recovering from brain surgery, folded from pages of the patient’s medical chart.

Two birds and green box folded by visually impaired patrons at the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library, in a program run by the Origami Therapy Association. Front-right, folded by a patient after brain surgery.

Modular origami folded by Jewel Kawataki; front: “Mette Ring (x2),” designed by Mette Pederson; back: “Tico Star,” designed by Maria Sinayskaya.

Wet-folded animals, left to right: pink panther by Taro Yaguchi; lion designed by David Bril, folded by Taro Yaguchi; swan by Taro Yaguchi.

Tinygami,” folded by Stacie Tamaki, with quail eggs. From top to bottom: sea turtle, blue dragonfly, koi fish, mushroom, frog, white bunny, yellow flower — all folded from one-half to three-quarter inch squares of paper.

“Salt Creek Tiger Beetle,” designed by Robert J. Lang, folded by Robby Kraft. “Longhorn Beetle,” designed by Robert J. Lang, folded by Robby Kraft.

“Stone Tower,” curved crease sculpture by Erik and Martin Demaine; Mi-Teintes watercolor paper, 9 inches by 13 inches by 17 inches.

Resource:

- New York Times Newspaper- The Modern Life of Origami, an Art as Old as Paper

Written by Kathleen Massara Photographs by Ryan Jenq

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