Origami – the art of folding paper into decorative forms – has many appeals: it’s cheap, easy to practice and beautiful, so it’s no surprise that the craft has grown from Japanese to global culture.
Dennis Walker, Origami Scotland member said: “Origami seems to have originated in Japan. Early Japanese records show representative models, depicting things such as cranes and flapping birds. Then in the early 20th century the craft was developed almost singlehandedly by Akira Yoshizawa.”
He added: “Yoshizawa’s work reached 1950s America and its enthusiasts were inspired to hold an exhibition in Holland. At the same time origami societies started popping up, hosted by people such as Lillian Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer founded the OrigamiUSA club and went on to help establish the British Origami Society.”
The British Origami Society will next year celebrate its 50th anniversary, showing just how far the craft has come.
Walker said: “About 15 years ago people didn’t know what origami was. Now the British Origami Society holds conventions every year. A few years ago we had the first one in Scotland, situated in Edinburgh and organised by Origami Scotland.”
A member of both Origami Scotland and the British Society for Origami, Walker explained his love of the craft.
He said: “Origami is versatile; it is both mathematical and creative. It can be as cheap or as expensive as you like; and it is mobile, you can pick up a bit of paper wherever you are and start practicing.”
This accessibility was what first got him hooked.
He confessed: “Some of my early models were made from the inside sheets of my school jotters; so my early origami has little blue lines across it.”
Having practiced the art for years, Walker then went on to create his own origami model, the Snowflake.
He said: “I like snow, so a few years ago I had gone looking for a design for a snowflake fold. I found a diagram by a well-respected artist called Joseph Wu; but the edges seemed quite curved and didn’t seem spikey enough. I wanted something that had more spikes and a layered effect.”
Failing to find the design he wanted, Walker set about making it from scratch.
He recalled: “I understood the techniques that would be needed to create such a pattern -having folded many models before – and knew that I would need something based around a centre twist fold; to give me paper to create the spikes and overlaps. So after trying a few variations I settled on the pattern that you can see now.”
Walker added: “I can now fold this pattern in about 20 minutes; it’s quite mathematical and includes repeating the same pattern of folds around six times.”
Repetition is – Walker explained – one of the things that causes origami to be so relaxing.
He said: “Modular origami – which repeats folds in paper the same way – can be quite meditative. But another way practicing origami can be relaxing is through following technical designs that require concentration; this allows folders to focus on following diagrams – step by step – and forget their troubles.”
As well as relaxing participants, origami can stimulate its creators.
Walker explained: “Origami creators can be likened to composers. Like composers origami creators will make the diagrams detailing construction of the final piece. Folders are then like musicians; they take these patterns and use them to perform the final piece. Folders also put their own interpretation into the pattern as they go.”
Walker recalled his favourite origami creators.
He said: “I like the work of the late French artists Eric Joisvl; his work is very artistic, but very difficult to diagram, because all the folds were improvised.
“At the opposite end of the spectrum is an origami artist called Joel Cooper who folds beautiful masks using a polygon technique to form faces.”
Both artists’ creations can be found online, along with a host of many other origami and how-to videos.
Walker said: “My favourite video sharing site is Happy Folding, but beginners can visit the British Origami Society information site and visit the Origami Scotland Facebook page for support.”
The internet – Walker said – has been a double-edged sword for origami clubs.
He explained: “Social media has made it a lot easier for origami clubs to stay in touch, however it has made it harder to attract new members, as the art form lends itself to online resources, which enable people to practice more and more from home. Sometimes this makes people less inclined to join a society – which means that they miss out on the social aspect of the clubs.”
Walker explained the other benefits of origami meet ups.
He said: “When members go to clubs they get a varied understanding of the way in which people fold. Some fold more accurately than others and these differences lead to different techniques that are easier to understand when meeting in the flesh. I certainly find it easier to be more creative when I can listen to live feedback.”
Walker encouraged people to come along and try Origami Scotland.
He said: “Every two months or so we meet up. Before our meeting we have a look through books at origami patterns that we would like to share. If there are beginners struggling with a fold then we all muck in and try and give them a hand. It can help to have a few people put their heads together.”