Origami (折り紙, from ori meaning “folding”, and kami meaning “paper” (kami changes to gami due to rendaku)) is the art of paper folding, which is often associated with Japanese culture. In modern usage, the word “origami” is used as an inclusive term for all folding practices, regardless of their culture of origin. The goal is to transform a flat square sheet of paper into a finished sculpture through folding and sculpting techniques. Modern origami practitioners generally discourage the use of cuts, glue, or markings on the paper. Origami folders often use the Japanese word kirigami to refer to designs which use cuts, although cutting is more characteristic of Chinese papercrafts.
The small number of basic origami folds can be combined in a variety of ways to make intricate designs. The best-known origami model is the Japanese paper crane. In general, these designs begin with a square sheet of paper whose sides may be of different colors, prints, or patterns. Traditional Japanese origami, which has been practiced since the Edo period (1603–1867), has often been less strict about these conventions, sometimes cutting the paper or using nonsquare shapes to start with. The principles of origami are also used in stents, packaging and other engineering applications.
Evolution Of Origami
No one really knows when and where origami was invented. Some origami historians argue that since the invention of paper is credited to Ts’ai Lun of China in A.D. 105, paper folding must have been invented soon after. Paper was then introduced to Japan in the late sixth century by Buddhist monks, and paper folding was brought along with it. In Japan, paper was considered an expensive commodity, and it was used in many aspects of Japanese life, most notably in architecture. Certain origami models were incorporated into religious (Shinto) ceremonies. In fact, the word for paper, kami, is a homonym for the word for spirit or god. The designs associated with Shintoist ceremony have remained unchanged over the centuries. However, since there are no known Chinese records of paper folding, and since the oldest Japanese records date only to the 18th century, other historians claim that origami is definitely a Japanese invention. Regardless of its ultimate origin, Japan is recognized as the country that most fully developed the traditional art of origami.
Meanwhile, paperfolding was also being developed in Spain. The secret of papermaking reached the Arabic world in the eighth century, and the Arabs brought it to Spain in the 12th century. The Arabs were devoutly Muslim and their religion forbade the creation of representational figures. Instead, they followed their mastery of mathematics and their paperfolding was a study of the geometries inherent in the paper. After the Arabs left Spain, the Spanish went beyond the geometric designs and developed papiroflexia, an art this is still popular in Spain and Argentina.
Today, master paperfolders can be found in many places around the world. New and improved folding techniques have produced models that would have astounded the ancients. Happily, not all paperfolders have reduced paperfolding to greater and greater achievements of technical skill. Composition and paper choice play an important role in this newfound artistry. Yoshizawa has also led the way in this area, producing fabulous displays that capture the life of his subjects, whether shown as a diorama, as a mobile, or in a shadow box. He has developed a technique known as backcoating that is the lamination of two layers of washi to produce a paper that is unparalleled for folding. Also, a technique known as wet folding, where a heavily sized paper is folded while wet, allows the folder to sculpt his model into soft curves and 3D forms.
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