Folding Paper

Folding Paper

The Infinite Possibilites of Origami

Folding Paper

"...a rare, fantastic experience... should not be missed." - International Examiner

Origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, is widely known as a children’s craft and an artistic hobby for adults clever with their hands.  But during the last 60 years paper folding has developed beyond the realm of “craft” into a highly sophisticated art form, with talented artists from all over the world creating figural, abstract, modular, and conceptual works.  Pieces by renowned origami artists are housed in museums and sought-after by collectors.  Origami is even a source of inspiration beyond the art world—bringing innovation to mathematics, engineering, and design while encouraging global unity through its association with peace.

Folding Paper is a groundbreaking exhibition that explores the history of paper folding and the evolution of origami from craft to fine art. Works by 45 master folders from around the world—from countries as diverse as Japan, the United States, Uruguay, and Russia—showcase the power and potential of contemporary origami.  In these artists' hands, paper is a medium for endless creativity. These spectacular works illustrate origami’s transformation into a form of artistic, scientific, and spiritual expression.­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

The History of Origami

Paper was introduced to Japan from China around the 6th century AD. Japanese paper folding is assumed to have begun sometime afterward, when priests in the native Shinto tradition performed purification rituals using wands made with zigzag strips of folded white paper known as shide. Later, members of the Imperial Court of the Heian period (794–1185) and eventually upper class warriors wrapped gifts in folded decorative paper and adorned them with noshi, an auspicious charm made of folded strips of paper. Recreational paper folding also appears to have begun with the nobility and over the years was known by a variety of names, including orikata, orisue, orimono and tatamigami.

Paper folding spread to the general population in the Edo period (1600–1868). A 17th century poem refers to the Shinto wedding tradition of folding paper butteries to represent the bride and groom. Contemporary stories referenced a legendary wizard called Abe no Seimei, who breathed life into a folded crane, transforming it into a real bird. The first known origami instruction book was published by 1797, attesting to its growing national acclaim.

Meanwhile in Europe, a lesser known tradition of paper folding was evolving, primarily in Spain and Germany. In the late 19th century, the two traditions merged when the Japanese adopted the German kindergarten system founded by Friedrich Fröbel—an avid paper folder. Paper folding became part of Japanese kindergarten curriculum, and the term origami (meaning “folding paper”) became the standard Japanese name for this creative pursuit. In the mid-20th century, Japan’s first true “origami artist,” Yoshizawa Akira, modernized origami and inspired countless paper folders around the world.

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Exhibition Credit

Folding Paper is curated by Meher McArthur with tour organized by the Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles, and International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.  The exhibition was generously supported by the E. Rhodes & Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.