Art of folding objects out of paper without cutting, pasting, or decorating. Its early history is unknown, but it seems to have developed from the older art of folding cloth. Origami has reached its greatest development in Japan, with hundreds of traditional folds and an extensive literature dealing with the art. There are two types of Japanese folds: figures used in ceremonial etiquette, and objects such as animals, flowers, furniture, and human figures. Some objects have amusing action features; best known is the bird that flaps its wings when its tail is pulled. Paper folding has also flourished in Spain, South America, and Germany.
Learn more about paper folding with a free trial on Britannica.com.
(from oru meaning "folding", and kami meaning "paper") is the ancient Japanese art of paper folding. The goal of this art is to create a representation of an object using geometric folds and crease patterns preferably without the use of gluing or cutting the paper,and using only one piece of paper.
Origami only uses a small number of different folds, but they can be combined in a variety of ways to make intricate designs. The most well known form is probably the Japanese paper crane. In general, these designs begin with a square sheet of paper whose sides may be different colors or prints. Contrary to most popular belief, traditional Japanese origami, which has been practiced since the Edo era (1603–1867), has often been less strict about these conventions, sometimes cutting the paper during the creation of the design.
There is much speculation as to the origin of origami. It is safe to say that most of its development occurred in Japan; however, there have also been less developed (but independent) paperfolding traditions in China, Korea, Germany, and Spain, among other places.
Origami had already become a significant aspect of Japanese ceremony by the Heian period of Japanese history. Samurai warriors would exchange gifts adorned with noshi, a sort of good luck token made of folded strips of paper. Origami butterflies were used during the celebration of Shinto weddings to represent the bride and groom.
Although almost any laminar material can be used for folding, the choice of material used greatly affects the folding and final look of the model.
Normal copy paper with weights of 70–90 g/m² (19-24lb) can be used for simple folds, such as the crane and waterbomb. Heavier weight papers of 100 g/m² (approx. 25lb) or more can be wet-folded. This technique allows for a more rounded sculpting of the model, which becomes rigid and sturdy when it is dry.
Special origami paper, often also referred to as "kami" (Japanese for paper, among other things), is sold in prepackaged squares of various sizes ranging from 2.5 cm to 25 cm or more. It is commonly colored on one side and white on the other; however, dual coloured and patterned versions exist and can be used effectively for color-changed models. Origami paper weighs slightly less than copy paper, making it suitable for a wider range of models.
Foil-backed paper, just as its name implies, is a sheet of thin foil glued to a sheet of thin paper. Related to this is tissue foil, which is made by gluing a thin piece of tissue paper to kitchen aluminum foil. A second piece of tissue can be glued onto the reverse side to produce a tissue/foil/tissue sandwich. Foil-backed paper is available commercially, but not tissue foil; it must be handmade. Both types of foil materials are suitable for complex models. is the predominant origami paper used in Japan. Washi is generally tougher than ordinary paper made from wood pulp, and is used in many traditional arts. Washi is commonly made using fibers from the bark of the gampi tree, the mitsumata shrub (Edgeworthia papyrifera), or the paper mulberry but also can be made using bamboo, hemp, rice, and wheat.
Artisan papers such as unryu, lokta, hanji, gampi, kozo, saa, and abaca have long fibres and are often extremely strong. As these papers are floppy to start with, they are often backcoated or resized with methylcellulose or wheat paste before folding. Also, these papers are extremely thin and compressible, allowing for thin, narrowed limbs as in the case of insect models.
Paper money from various countries are also popular to create origami with, called "Moneygami". It is common to create the figure depicted on the note itself.
Only paper is necessary to fold origami; however, some enthusiasts prefer to use a folding bone to sharpen creases while folding. Other folders grow certain nails long to aid with creasing instead of a folding bone.
The practice and study of origami encapsulates several subjects of mathematical interest. For instance, the problem of flat-foldability (whether a crease pattern can be folded into a 2-dimensional model) has been a topic of considerable mathematical study.
There are four mathematical rules for origami crease patterns:
Significantly, paper exhibits zero Gaussian curvature at all points on its surface, and only folds naturally along lines of zero curvature. But the curvature along the surface of a non-folded crease in the paper, as is easily done with wet paper or a fingernail, is no longer subject to this constraint.
The problem of rigid origami ("if we replaced the paper with sheet metal and had hinges in place of the crease lines, could we still fold the model?") has great practical importance. For example, the Miura map fold is a rigid fold that has been used to deploy large solar panel arrays for space satellites.
Technical origami, also known as , is a field of origami that has developed almost hand-in-hand with the field of mathematical origami. In the early days of origami, development of new designs was largely a mix of trial-and-error, luck and serendipity. With advances in origami mathematics however, the basic structure of a new origami model can be theoretically plotted out on paper before any actual folding even occurs. This method of origami design was developed by Robert Lang, Meguro Toshiyuki and others, and allows for the creation of extremely complex multi-limbed models such as many-legged centipedes, human figures with a full complement of fingers and toes, and the like.
The main starting point for such technical designs is the crease pattern (often abbreviated as 'CP'), which is essentially the layout of the creases required to form the final model. Although not intended as a substitute for diagrams, folding from crease patterns is starting to gain in popularity, partly because of the challenge of being able to 'crack' the pattern, and also partly because the crease pattern is often the only resource available to fold a given model, should the designer choose not to produce diagrams. Still, there are many cases in which designers wish to sequence the steps of their models but lack the means to design clear diagrams. Such origamists occasionally resort to the Sequenced Crease Pattern (abbreviated as SCP) which is a set of crease patterns showing the creases up to each respective fold. The SCP eliminates the need for diagramming programs or artistic ability while maintaining the step-by-step process for other folders to see. Another name for the Sequenced Crease Pattern is the Progressive Crease Pattern (PCP).
Paradoxically enough, when origami designers come up with a crease pattern for a new design, the majority of the smaller creases are relatively unimportant and added only towards the completion of the crease pattern. What is more important is the allocation of regions of the paper and how these are mapped to the structure of the object being designed. For a specific class of origami bases known as 'uniaxial bases', the pattern of allocations is referred to as the 'circle-packing'. Using optimization algorithms, a circle-packing figure can be computed for any uniaxial base of arbitrary complexity. Once this figure is computed, the creases which are then used to obtain the base structure can be added. This is not a unique mathematical process, hence it is possible for two designs to have the same circle-packing, and yet different crease pattern structures. Other methods of design exist as well...Boxpleating, polygon packing. See Robert Langs Origami Design secrets for more information.