What is Origami?

Origami is the art of folding paper. The word “origami” comes from the Japanese “oru” meaning “to fold” and “kami” or “gami” meaning paper, and a lot of its traditions, techniques and experts come from Japan. It is generally agreed that paper in its current form originated in China around 105 AD, and later spread to Japan and the West.

The exact origins of paper-folding are unknown, but I tend to lean towards the view that it is probably about 5 seconds later than the invention of paper – as that’s how long a piece of paper lasts in my hands before it gets folded!

OK, that’s slightly tongue in cheek. The history of paper-folding or origami has actually been well researched over recent years. You can find some fantastic articles on all aspects of paper and paper-folding by BOS Honorary Vice President David Lister on the BOS web-site. The pictures in the panel above, and to the right, are taken from one of the oldest books still in existence on origami the Sembazuru Orikata, originating from the Japanese imperial courts.

Origami became popular in the UK in the 1960s and 1970s, when Robert Harbin, a professional magician, hosted a popular TV show. That’s how I got to know about origami & became involved. Origami has remained as an enjoyable art, craft or pastime for adults and children since. The British Origami Society was formed in 1967 by a small group of enthusiasts, and in 2007 celebrated its 40th anniversary with an international gathering of over 150 members from the UK, Japan, USA, and many other countries in Europe and further afield. You can see lots of photos from that convention, previous ones, and future events on the BOS site www.britishorigami.info

One of the great advantages or origami is that the materials needed are plentiful, easily available, attractive and cheap!

People use origami designs in many ways:

  • As gifts
  • Make into greetings cards for special occasions
  • Entertainment for children
  • Therapy for hospitalised and sick people
  • Mathematical and Geometric designs
  • Decorations, Boxes and Containers
  • Mobiles
  • Yes, even paper aeroplanes!
  • Much, Much More

The internet and email makes origami and communication of information about it more accessible than ever. What you want to do with the wonderful world of origami is then up to you.

Keep folding, keep smiling!