How many shapes can one paper square make? That depends on how you fold it. From paper cranes, to paper hearts, to fortune tellers with secret messages, the Japanese art of origami is dedicated to creating sculptures from folded paper. In Japanese, the word origami comes from the terms “oru” meaning “to fold”, and “kami” meaning “paper. In modern origami, cutting and gluing paper is discouraged, as the goal of the practice is to create a finished sculpture purely from folding.
The history of folded paper as art is somewhat hard to track, as similar traditions and artforms have evolved separately in different cultures across the globe. In Japan, the art of folding paper is said to have begun over 1000 years ago, though it only became formalized and widely practiced during the Edo Period (1603-1867) when advances in papermaking techniques made colorful washi paper available to the masses. Prior to then, origami was primarily only practiced for ceremonial purposes in Shinto and Buddhism, and by the nobility as a status symbol.
During the Meiji Restoration and the end of Japanese isolationism, paper-folding techniques from all over the world began to filter into Japanese culture and exert their influence on origami. German traditions about paper folding, particularly those created by Frederich Knoeble, the inventor of the kindergarten, became particularly popular as part of early childhood education. The fusion of these German traditions and endemic Japanese ones resulted in modern origami– paper sculptures folded from a square piece of paper.
Origami as an art form is still evolving. Advances in mathematics and computer imaging have made it possible for origami artists to create and plan new shapes and folding techniques digitally, rather than through trial and error, resulting in increasingly complex and artistic folding geometries.
Wanna get folding?
Here at Maido, we carry a number of quality origami papers, suitable for both advanced origami folders and beginners alike.
Check out this origami set by Kuraswa Kyoiku Origami! Perfect for beginners, it contains 75 sheets in 40 colors including gold & silver paper, with the directions of how to fold a beagle!
If you're a bit more advanced, consider these washi papers in shades of blue, red and sakura pattern by Shogado Origami. Each package contains 50 sheets in 5 colors.
And if you're looking to make something extra fancy and refined, check out this paper by Miya Yuzen. Each package contains 20 sheets of gorgeous washi paper, suitable for the most intricate origami patterns.
Origami for Beginners
If you're new to origami and just want to get a feel for some basic, but still classic shapes, we've compiled this handy instructional list just for you! Keep scrolling to see some of our favorite beginner origami!
Super new to origami? Get started with this Easy Heart!
Wanna step it up a little and get something functional out of it? Try this heart-shaped chopstick holder!
Feeling confident and ready to try a classic? The popular paper crane sounds like the next step for you!
Are your skills pretty sharp and up for a challenge? Take a look at this beautiful paper lily design!