Folded through the ages
Paper cranes are highly symbolic and require patience and focus to master.
The sculpting technique of origami has only increased in popularity across the world
The art of paper folding, or origami, is often seen as a uniquely Japanese art form - indeed, the term origami comes from the Japanese words - ori (folding) and kami (paper). Paper was first invented in China at around 105 AD, and later introduced to Japanese society by the sixth century.
Paper folding was originally reserved for ceremonious purposes, as paper was rare to come by. But by the Edo period (1603-1868), it had become more commonplace, becoming popular pastime among children and adults.
Halfway across the world, European countries developed paper folding in the 11th or 12th century, notably in Spain and Germany. Unlike Japan, European folding patterns used 45-degree folds, making the resulting shapes more geometric.
In Japan, the folds were set at 22.5-degrees. With these geometric shapes, Germany used paper folding as a way to introduce geometry to children in the first kindergartens. Indeed, it was this schooling system that was adopted by Japan in the late 18th century, and German paper was used to teach paper folding to children.
The modern art of origami, therefore, is a mix of Japanese and European influences, a testament to the influence that cultures had on each other, despite being on opposite ends of the world.
Origami in the modern world can trace its origins to Akira Yoshizawa's design in 1954, where he published a notation on how to fold origami. Indeed, his ideas were so influential that the standard diagramming system for origami folds is called the 'Yoshizawa-Randlett' system.
Newer concepts have been introduced, including 'wet-folding', where the piece of paper is dampened to allow the finished product to hold the shape. The idea of using a single piece of paper is also relatively recent, but the nature-motif of creating cranes, frogs, and flowers with paper is a remnant of the ancient Japanese tradition.
There are other types of origami as well; modular origami uses multiple folded units to create a larger, final construction, and action origami refers to toy-like origami that can move, like the 'jumping frog' origami.
The paper crane has always been a popular, albeit difficult, form to make. There is an older Japanese legend tied to the paper crane, and it is said that whoever makes 1,000 paper cranes will be blessed with happiness and longevity.
Paper cranes are highly symbolic, and are seen as uniquely Japanese - paper cranes are often given as a get-well-soon gift; indeed, in Japan, astronauts are trained to maintain patience and resilience by making hundreds of paper cranes. The delicate folds require a steady hand and focus, both necessary skills in to-be astronauts.
The paper crane has become popular, in part, thanks to a children's book titled 'Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes', revolving around an atom bomb survivor who sets out to fold 1,000 paper cranes so she could enjoy a happy life. Based on a true story, she managed to fold around 1,400 paper cranes, and these cranes have been donated to memorial sites as a symbol of peace.
Origami, therefore, has been a part of global culture since its inception, and continues to inspire artists the world over. Apart from being a unique and fun art form, origami is also a useful hobby, as it promotes delicacy, finesse, patience, and resilience.
Books on origami are easily available in bookstores, along with guides online for a variety of shapes and forms. The art of origami is always seen as a fun and useful skill, and a sheet of paper is all you need.
The jumping frog origami is an example of action origami.