The History Behind Origami – The Art of Paper Folding

The DIY culture is popping up with creative ways offering an artistic approach to adapt and adopt. The origin of these projects differs in its artistic nature depending on the country it originates from. Sometimes, the origin of a papercraft tends to be misleading by its name. For example, the  French-craft and paper-mâché were actually conceived in ancient China. Looking at the papercraft trail originating from different countries leads us invariably to the art of paper folding – Origami. Origami is believed to have close ties with Japan, but it also has its strong roots in Europe and China.

What is Origami?

Origami simply put, is a paper-folding art. This name is derived from the Japanese words ‘Kami’ (paper) and ‘Ori’ (folding). This craft gained recognition in the 1880s as ‘Origami’. Traditional Origami refers to a single square paper sheet that had only one coloured side. This term was speculated to be the easiest for children to write on and learn folding at the same time. The shaded side is usually the outside and hides the underlying white side, which children can make markings on. 

Origins of Origami

The inception of origami or the exact origins is unknown even by Historians. But facts remain that soon after the invention of the paper by the Chinese nearly 2000 years ago, the monks of Buddhist faith carried paper to the Japanese people. This is the reason historians contemplate whether the paper folding practice is as ancient as paper’s origin itself or if it came later. Therefore, it is believed that the Chinese practiced some paper folding form much before Japan did. However, one thing is for sure. The Japanese conceived the name ‘Origami’, and it means ‘folded shapes’ 

Who Started the Origami Trend?

Religious leaders and monks did the earliest projects in Origami. The elite and wealthy Japanese started creating origami, later. Earlier, the paper itself was very expensive, and it was unaffordable to the common person. Only the affluent crowd had money and time to allow any dedication to this art form. In fact, the earliest origami records reveal that it was basically used for ceremonial or religious reasons. However, with the growing interest in Origami, people started to use it for artistic and decorative purposes. It was used to teach the basic principles of geometry and math.

The Evolution of Paper-Folding

The earliest mention about Origami was in 1797 from Sembazuru Orikata. In this book, Akisato Rito, the author, explains the importance of origami culture and the customary methods of paper art making. A man by the name Akira Yoshizawa, after 150 years, revolutionised this art form. He initially worked in some factory and made use of origami as a learning means. He distributed his book in 1954, ‘New Origami Art’ or Atarashi Origami Geijutusu, introducing the common man to the progressing origami art. His ideas about the folding paper art revolutionized crafting overall, while the traditional methods restricted the artists to paper square sheets. Yoshizawa came up with innumerable patterns and encouraged people to snip, glue, cut, and dampen the paper to create exciting origami creations.

There are now thousands of free origami diagrams available on the internet and origami books, besides origami videos. This art form now continues to develop. The styles of origami and its techniques include mathematical origami, complex origami, wet folding origami, modular origami, origami tessellations, and lots more.