With every new invention comes an even bolder and more brilliant plan to make it better. From the invention of crude tools to the latest mobile device, we, as humans, thrive on the ability and desire to make things we use more functional and easy to handle. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, but clearly, imagination is what keeps the world going.
Paper is no different.
Paper was first invented in China around the year 105 AD by a man named Cai Lun. Slowly, the art of making paper travelled across Europe and Asia, and around four hundred years later, paper was introduced to Japan.
Because of the intricate process of making paper at that time, in Japan it was a rarity for anyone to actually own or use it. It was often only the elite who made use of it. Now, it is everywhere and many people know how to make origami.
Still, the Japanese saw the beauty in paper and Buddhist monks invented the wonderful art of folding it into intricate creatures and designs. At that time, however, due to the rarity of paper, origami was only used for ceremonial or ritual purposes.
It’s all in the name
The name “origami” comes from two Japanese words: “Oru”, which means “fold”, and “Kami” which means “paper”. You can see why the name is fitting. Although it is not the original name for the Japanese art of paper folding, it is certainly the most popular name and has been used for hundreds of years.
The origins of origami are simple; it was used to decorate temples for weddings and other ceremonies in ancient Japan. The art of origami was considered sacred and secret and people who learned this mystical art of paper folding were often taught by oral tradition, keeping its secrets well hidden.
The art of folding paper, however, soon became popular in other places and wasn’t limited to Japan.
Even during the twelfth and thirteenth century, European children were making origami creations in school and taking them home.
Origami in Japanese culture
In Japan it isn’t just about folding a piece of paper; it’s never really that simple. In their culture origami is traditionally very sacred and special. Originally, it was created when the thin and flexible paper known as washi was invented. This thin paper was used to wrap special gifts, such as wedding gifts, and to wrap gifts used as offerings to the Gods.
The idea of gift wrapping in Japan is very special. Wrapping a gift is just as important as the gift itself. The presentation shows the care and time the presenter took to give the receiver the gift and that is a tradition which has been very long standing in Japan.
Washi paper was lovely and rare, but it still lacked something. Giving a plain wrapped gift to the Gods was not nearly as presentable as giving a gift with more design to it. Origami was that inventive and creative gift giving flair used to show appreciation to the person receiving the gift.
It wasn’t always easy, either.
Origami uses simple squares of paper to bring it to life without using scissors or glue. You fold and manipulate it into becoming what you visualize. It is an art form.
Don’t worry; it’s an art you can easily learn.
Origami and its usage now
Many of the original origami creations are lost to us today because they were traditionally passed down through oral teachings. This doesn’t mean the tradition stopped. In fact, the opposite has happened.
Origami has continued to grow as an art and a science. Today many scientists use complicated mathematical calculations to create intricate origami designs. Also, many designs are used to help decipher complicated mathematical calculations.
Origami has progressed from a beautiful art into a complex science. It is very much alive and well in both the traditional sense and the modern sense.
You too can enjoy making origami creations. It won’t be easy at first, and it often takes a lot of time and patience, but that’s all part of the art process.
Easy origami art creations
There are many different styles and types of origami that you can create, and although you might be tempted to start with something intricate and complex, let me be the first to tell you that it’s best to begin…well…at the beginning.
Origami is a tricky art. It looks simple. It sounds simple. After all, you’re merely folding a small square of paper, right?
Well, it isn’t as simple as that. You have to be precise in where you’re folding the paper, you have to watch your angles and your bends, you have to be careful not to rip or tear the paper…you get the point. Origami takes time to master, just like any other art. It is not impossible to master, however.
One of the easiest origami creations you can make is the box. That’s right, a simple cube made of paper. Sounds easy, right? Believe me; it can get pretty complicated the more you want to add to it.
In high school Geometry, our math tutor used origami as a way of teaching us about precision and angles. We had to be very precise indeed.
But let’s start with a box.
1. The box
Because origami began as a way of gift wrapping, creating an origami gift box seems like the first step for anyone who’s interested in learning it. You will need equal sized sheets of origami paper.
- Lay the square paper flat on the table and fold the bottom right corner up to the top left corner creating a triangle. Fold down the crease.
- Unfold the paper and repeat the process from the lower left corner to the top right corner.
- Bring all four corners of the paper into the middle of the square; they should touch the “dot” center fold.
- Lift the bottom edge up and fold it to the center crease. Repeat with the top edge of the paper. Unfold again.
- Fold each side into the center crease as you did the top and bottom, unfold the two sides.
- Unfold the left and right flaps and then refold the top and bottom creases. It should look like a rectangle with triangular ends now.
- Carefully fold both of the pointed sides down to the creases from the top and the bottom.
- Fold the two flaps up on each side and then fold the inner creases in towards the center, creating the “box”. Repeat on both sides.
- Repeat with a second piece of origami paper to create the top half of the box.
- Insert gift and deliver.
2. Origami cup
Another great beginner origami piece is the cup. Although I don’t suggest using it for your morning cup of coffee, the origami cup is a lovely conversation piece…and also a great little way to present a small gift or token to someone you love.
- Just as before, bring the bottom left corner up to the right hand corner of the square and crease the fold.
- Next, fold down the top of the triangle to where the top edge meets the bottom edge of the paper. It should look like an overlapping triangle.
- Unfold step two from above and bring the left corner of the paper over to the center of the right hand edge. The tip should almost touch the middle.
- Repeat step three with the right corner of the paper.
- Fold over the top edges and open the center. Now you have a cup!Origami isn’t just for looks; it can be quite useful as well.
3. Origami heart
With Valentine’s Day coming up, wouldn’t it be nice to make your lover something sweet this year? How about a hand crafted origami heart with a little love note written on it? Origami hearts make the perfect love note to give to your partner and show him just how much you care.
- Fold the square into a triangle from the bottom left corner into the top left corner.
- Bring the bottom left corner up to the top corner making a smaller triangle on the left side and fold the crease.
- Repeat step 2 with the bottom right corner. Your paper should be square shaped again.
- Pull the open corner of the square down.
- Fold the triangle edges over the top of the paper. Your paper should be heart shaped now.
- Gently bend the four edges of the top of the heart in, and flip over the paper. Your love note just needs words now.
There are many other easy origami creations you can make and you can find numerous books and tutorials at your local library and online. Once you’ve mastered the easy part…it’s time to move onto something a little more complex.
Intermediate origami creations
It’s difficult to estimate what you should use for intermediate origami projects because everyone learns origami at different levels. For example, I still have problems with an origami box, but I’m okay at making other things. In order to move you past the basic beginning and into something a little more challenging, I’m going to use animals and intricate flower videos. This section will be much more visually based, so pay close attention to the videos.
1. The crane
The crane is a beautiful bird and has an interesting bit of folklore in the world of origami.
Traditionally, the crane has been used to symbolize many things. In Japan, it is one of the most mystical creatures and is actually an almost holy animal. With its grace and slender beauty, it is considered a symbol of good fortune and longevity.
In origami, cranes are the wish givers. They are also a symbol of both peace and strength. This origami project is one of the most well-known and loved among all paper folding creations.
2. The butterfly
In Japan, origami butterflies were used in wedding ceremonies as a way of blessing the bride and groom. Butterflies are a transitional symbol and have a lot of meaning all across the globe. For some, they are a symbol of grace and beauty. For others they are a symbol of luck, which is why they were used in weddings.
The butterfly is much more than that, though. It is a symbol of change, just as the caterpillar changes into a beautiful butterfly, your origami creation would make the perfect gift for a birthday or a new beginning in life.
3. The dinosaur
Dinosaurs might not have much symbolic meaning, but they sure are fun! Imagine creating an origami dinosaur diorama, or having origami dinosaurs as creative birthday invitations to your little boy’s party! They are also an excellent way of introducing the magical art of origami to any young boy who fears arts and crafts are too “girly” for him. After all, how can a T-Rex be just for girls?
4. The frog
Origami frogs are some of the cutest origami creations you can make! Not only do these little critters look adorable sitting next to a potted plant or hanging around your living room end tables, but frogs are actually pretty lucky to have around.
Frogs, being amphibian, are often seen as a symbol of adaptability and transition. These little guys are also known to be a water symbol because they most often come out during the rain. In many Asian cultures, frogs are known not only for their luck and their prosperity attributes, but they are also considered protectors of children. Keeping one in your home is certainly lucky indeed.
5. The elephant
Elephants are one of the most amazing creatures on the planet. They are unlike anything else on Earth! With their large ears, their long trunk, and their giant stature, these majestic animals are quite a powerful symbol. Elephants are considered benevolent and lucky, but they’re also a spiritual symbol in many cultures.
Have you ever heard the saying, “He has the memory of an elephant”? According to legend, they are known for their wisdom. This is especially true for maintaining wisdom in their old age. They’re known for their intelligence as well, and are often regarded for their familial loyalty.
Keeping an origami elephant close to your front door is bound to bring you good luck and good fortune, and this creation is too cute to pass up!
Advanced origami creations
Now that you’ve mastered the art of origami elephants, it’s time to get a little bit deeper into the world of origami. There are so many different and wonderful things you can create with paper, and these next few items will require your skill and patience, as well as time. Watch the videos attached and create your own art along with them!
1. The sunflower
Sunflowers are one of the most beautiful flowers in the world. They’re large, they’re glorious, and their leaves represent the flaming rays of the sun as it heats up the sky. Sunflowers have long been heralded for their beauty and their symbolism. Plus, who doesn’t love munching on sunflower seeds?
This sunflower is not like many of the daintier origami flowers you can make, it is strong and powerful! You’ll be creating an origami sunflower that will stand up to the sands of time and be everlasting and beautiful. You can also choose to make your glorious flower in whatever colors you wish.
2. The Yoda
Did I happen to mention that you can do almost anything with origami? If not, then this little Yoda should be the proof. Another very cool and ingenious way to get your guy interested in the art of origami, Yoda is fun to make and fun to play with.
Step away from the animals and the flowers for a moment and let the force be strong within you. After Yoda, who knows? You might want to make Leia or Vader. You might even want to expand your horizons and go under the sea with Sponge Bob!
3. The spiky ball (mathigami)
Origami is one of the most mathematically challenging creations you could ever make. The angles must be precise, the folds must be straight and accurate, and even a tiny bit off your mark could leave your project lacking. You might even end up with a lopsided project.
This very fascinating origami spiky ball is an excellent challenge for those of you who want to kick things up a notch and try something that looks impossible (but isn’t). It’s also a great project for anyone who just really loves math or puzzles. Plus, it looks cool; did I mention that it looks cool?
4. The sphinx
Whenever I see a sphinx I think of mummies and ancient Egyptian tombs. I think about the mysteries of life and the secrets of the desert. I marvel at the design and structure of these fascinating mystical beasts.
An origami sphinx is an excellent project to take on if you’re looking for a bit of an origami challenge. It is not only complex, but it is also quite beautiful once completed. Enjoy creating your sphinx and display it in your home with pride.
5. Origami jewelry
Don’t limit yourself to origami creatures whether they’re real or mythical, you can also put your origami skills to marvelous work by creating some amazing origami jewelry.
The art of origami jewelry is something that really must be seen to be appreciated. When I was in middle school, I remember a young Asian woman in my ballet class brought me a pair of origami umbrella earrings. I lost them over the years, but I remember that they were one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen and certainly one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever owned.
You, too, can make origami jewelry!
Imagine yourself wearing a necklace of your own creation. Imagine giving your best friend a one of a kind pair of earrings. Now imagine a hair clip with origami butterflies intricately attached.
There are so many different pieces of origami jewelry you can make:
- Fish earrings
- Box earrings
- Crane earrings
- Origami rings
- Heart necklace
- Folded fan necklace
Just about anything you can imagine can be turned into jewelry. You see, the great thing about origami is that you’re not stuck with blank pieces of paper. You can purchase multi-patterned origami paper at just about any arts and crafts supply store. You can also create your own origami paper by cutting your favorite patterned wrapping paper into equal and exact squares.
In order to make origami jewelry, the trick is to use smaller paper. That’s right, begin your origami project just like you would make anything else, but use smaller squares of origami paper so the finished project is smaller and better able to be turned into jewelry.
Once you’ve completed making the origami, simply attach your final product to the necessary jewelry equipment. Origami is a fantastic way of wearing your art. These creations are also beautiful miniatures that make fantastic gifts.
Beautiful origami legends
Origami is steeped in myth and mystery. It is quite magical how one small, square piece of two dimensional paper can be turned into something three dimensional, lifelike, and beautiful. Origami easily captures out heads, our hearts, and our imaginations.
Because of its fascinating history and marvelous mysticism, there are many legends surrounding it. Origami has very traditional roots and for many of us, it is still a mystical art that isn’t quite understandable yet. I often wonder how the original crafters came up with such a fascinating art, and how a simple square of paper can make anything from a little trinket box to a fascinating three dimensional flower.
I mentioned before that the crane is a powerful symbol in origami, and there’s a legend that gives us the reason for this. According to a Japanese legend, if a person folds a thousand paper cranes and then ties them with a string, they are granted one wish. The cranes must be folded only by the person who wants to make the wish, and the whole thousand must be completed within one year.
By tradition, many fathers give their daughters a string of one thousand cranes on their wedding day for a lifelong marriage full of joy and good luck. Other people celebrate the birth of a baby by bestowing the string upon their child.
There is a book called Sadako and the Paper Cranes, in which a young girl who has been exposed to radiation during the bombing of Hiroshima tries to create a thousand cranes in order to wish for health. Sadly, the young girl dies before she can complete her cranes, and so, her classmates and friends finish making the thousand cranes in her honor.
In ancient Japan, Samurai were honorable warriors who followed their samurai ancestor’s traditions, and origami became a tradition to them as well. Samurai would often give gifts of origami with dried meat or fish attached, which was called “noshi”, and these gifts were meant to give the receiver good luck.
It is also Japanese tradition that if someone gives you a gift you must give a gift in return, and many stores will attach an origami decoration to your box if you say that you’re giving your purchase as a gift, a modern way of bestowing good luck like the samurai noshi.
If you’ve ever heard of a Japanese tea ceremony, then you are aware of the importance of such a ceremony. During ceremonies of great importance, such as this one, where they honor someone for mastering the sword, the certificate given to the person being honored was often wrapped in origami.
This was not only a symbol of honor, but was also meant to ensure that the important documents were not tampered with.
Isn’t it amazing how a simple sheet of paper can change the world?
How to put origami in your home
If you’re looking for a creative, and a beautiful way to decorate your home, consider origami. Now that you have the skills you need to start your lifelong love affair with paper folding, you should display your art with pride showing off your talent and beauty.
There are many ways to incorporate origami into your home. Before we begin, I’m going to assume that your origami art is mostly made from paper; therefore it is extremely important you keep your creations away from water.
Don’t let that limit you, however.
One of the easiest and most beautiful origami pieces you can put in your home is an origami vase. Just like the origami folded cup you were taught how to make before in the article, a larger sheet of patterned paper can easily create a stunning “vase” to sit on your coffee table or on your nightstand.
Because you don’t want to ruin the vase, instead of using real flowers it’s best to use fake flowers. In fact, you can create origami flowers to put in your beautiful paper vase.
Another creative way to display your origami is to incorporate nature into your work. For instance, a small cinnamon broom or a lovely tree branch can be decorated with a multitude of different colored cranes and then displayed beautifully on your wall.
If you’ve managed to create a thousand cranes, you can string the cranes together and hang them from your ceiling. Even better, you can wrap them around your stairwell banister. Many people string Chinese paper lanterns in their homes and incorporating a string of cranes into that would make your home decoration even more enchanting.
Is it Christmas? Why not decorate your tree with origami ornaments? A string of cranes will work here too, of course, but you can also use any origami creation you can think of and turn it into your tree ornament.
Baby mobiles that are placed above a crib can be made from origami as well. A cute and easy idea would be to make an origami cat and have small origami fish “swimming” around it. Make sure it’s out of the baby’s reach, of course.
If you want to try something other than paper, you can create puffy pompom flowers out of tissue. Using colored gift wrapping tissue is also a fabulous decorating idea. It is an excellent origami tool for soft flowers and anything that needs to “flow”. Even tissue butterflies make pretty decorations.
You don’t have to limit yourself to wall decorations or baby mobiles; you can use origami for numerous things in your home. Consider wrapping an origami butterfly or heart around a bottle of wine before bringing it to a friend’s house. You could also put origami frogs in your potted plants or create origami plant holders for your air ferns.
Origami isn’t just an art for the elite anymore. It also isn’t just for religious or ceremonial practices. Now it can be created and utilized by anyone who desires to add the magic of paper folding into their lives.
We generally aren’t born with a talent for paper folding, so remember that it is an art form and it will take time to master. Be patient with your paper and be patient with yourself. As you continue to learn and grow, your paper folding skills will become more enriched and you’ll find that even the most complicated origami creation takes less thought than you needed in the beginning.
Also, origami isn’t limited. From paper Yoda to paper dragons, there isn’t anything you can’t create with this wonderful art. So sit back, get yourself some paper, and get ready to enter a world you will never, ever forget. The only limit you have in this world is your own imagination.