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Origami Revisited

June 19, 2011

June 18, 2011
Four years have passed since I wrote my first post about origami. I went back and read it today. It was hard to imagine that I was ever at a point where origami was new to me. Someone who’s grown up in Asia would likely never understand or be able to imagine not having an intimate knowledge of origami. They’d probably read my post and think it sounded crazy. They’d probably think, “How could someone look at origami paper and not know it is origami paper??!” It’s one of those environmental/cultural things that you would not even know you know because it is so familiar to every part of who you are.
It would be like looking at any every day object, a kitchen sponge, for example, and not knowing it’s a sponge. But, if you’d never seen a sponge in your life, think how you might look at it and be interested to learn what it really was. It’s sort of how Ariel in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” felt about the snarfblat and the dinglehopper.

Nowadays, origami has gained much more popularity in the US. I’ve seen a number of origami kits for sale in bookstores, and there are a few more books around about how to fold origami. I even downloaded a very interesting origami App for my iPhone last week. I actually thought of this idea a couple of years ago, and now it’s cool to see that someone has actually created one. The App features video of someone folding a variety of animals and designs. It’s very interesting to watch. Something like this would be great during a long airplane ride so you could watch the video and then fold the item.

Still, even with the stronger awareness that I think people in the US have about origami, I’m sure that it doesn’t even come close to equalling the appeal and impact of origami in Japan, Korea and China. You cannot go into a convenience store in either Japan or Korea and not find a pack of origami paper for sale. The 7-Eleven stocks origami regularly for its customers. It’s that common. I would go so far as to say that every native person living throughout Japan knows about origami and could fold at least one design. That’s 1.3 million people who have at least a basic awareness of origami. In my observations, it is that pervasive.

I wonder if half of the 3 million people living in the US have a basic awareness of origami? It doesn’t seem too far-fetched to say that this could probably be true. I think we are familiar with the idea of it and, if asked what origami was, I bet at least half of Americans would know the answer. But, I really doubt that all of them would be able to fold at lease one design. That seems like a stretch to me. What do you think?

Yes, I’d say that my outlook on origami has most definitely changed over these last four years. Since I bought my first pack of origami paper, I have bought dozens and dozens more. I have been to origami museums in both Japan and Korea. I have seen elaborate origami creations. I have been to craft stores with rows of paper in every color and size. I have seen thousands of cranes, folded by school children throughout Japan and sent to hang in a memorial in Hiroshima. I have taken folding classes to learn to make elaborate origami ornaments. I have learned to fold dozens of designs as have my children. And now, I am even a mommy who folds origami to entertain my kids and pass the time while we wait in the doctor’s office or the airport.

I understand, now, that origami is not just a pursuit for geniuses of spatial relations.
It’s a form of creativity, of creation, of making something out of nothing.
When you have learned to fold a specific design and can sit quietly, focusing on the details of a perfect crease, folding and manipulating a plain piece of paper to create an intricate and meaningful design, it is a very calming event — almost therapeutic.

It’s also a challenging puzzle of artistic expression because we may see an object in life, like a cherry blossom flower or a pair of eyeglasses, and try to create folds to reproduce it. It’s imaginative.

It’s also a useful tool because we can fold cups, or envelopes or chopstick rests when any are needed in a situation.

And, it’s practical, because we now often fold mini books and use them for note-taking, list-making or just fun.

I have been amazed and inspired by some of the things people have made from folded paper. It’s probably too grandiose to say that origami changed my life. I don’t suppose it actually did that. However, I would feel comfortable saying that being so thoroughly exposed to origami enhanced my life.

And, as if I needed any excuse to shop, I’ve also had a ton of fun shopping for new origami boxes to house all of our amazing patterned paper — though my husband probably wishes that was not the case. But it is.

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