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Updated: January 14, 2013 20:00 IST

Fold it up

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Paper: at its best. Photo: Murali Kumar K.
The Hindu
Paper: at its best. Photo: Murali Kumar K.

The art of folding paper is timeless. It provides hours of fun and is also a relaxing pastime.

Origami is the art of folding paper to create shapes, without using glue or scissors. The word “Origami” is of Japanese origin — Ori meaning “folding” and kami meaning “paper”.

If you have ever folded a paper into a rocket and aimed it at a friend, or made a paper boat and sailed it in a puddle, then you have already practised origami!

Leisure activity

The origins of origami are widely debated. Since the nature of this art is such that it cannot be preserved easily (paper falls apart with age) there are hardly any records of this art being practised beyond a certain point in time.

But most people believe that since paper was invented in China around 100 AD, it must have begun there. It is believed that a monk carried the art to Japan around in 600 AD. And from Japan, it travelled the rest of the world.

At first, paper was expensive, and so only the rich could afford it. For a long time, origami models and designs were used only in formal or traditional settings. Paper butterflies were used during weddings in Japan to wrap sake (rice wine) bottles.

But as paper-making techniques improved, paper became cheaper, and came within the reach of the common man. Paper-folding for entertainment and leisure seems to have begun only at the end of the 19th century.

Initially, scissors and glue were also used to give shape to the models. But now, only folding paper is considered origami.

Also, it is assumed that you will start folding from an initial square shape.

Akira Yokoshiwa, around 1950, laid down the rules of modern origami as is practised now.

The art consists of just a few basic folds that are easy to learn, and with practice, you can do it effortlessly. Just using these few folds, a mind-blowing variety of models and shapes can be created, starting from the simplest paper crane, right down to the most complex ones.

Origami even has practical applications. Many origami models have served as bases for mathematical study.

Geometry is also taught using origami, because it is easy to understand angles and 3D shapes when a child can observe it in models.

Origami models have been used for medical and technological applications.

Paper-folding is also considered relaxing, and it is used for mental and psychological therapy too.

Try it out

You can make a tray to hold your stationery, or a lampshade, party hats, envelopes, and bags. Little birds with flapping wings, or frogs that leap when tapped or you can make realistic, moveable models of animals.

There are a number of origami books available in the market, and you could choose one that is right for your age, and try them out. You can graduate to complex models, and once you get the hang of it, you could even try fashioning your own designs.

If you want to get started right away, here are a few links

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Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar

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