Origami for Beginners

August 16, 2016 by Erin Behan

For origami artists, a blank piece of paper suggests infinite possibilities: a fish, a pinwheel, a dragon, a box, an orchid. It's a transformative art where beautiful 2-D paper, folded just-so, becomes a 3-D shape, sometimes representative of an object or being in the material world like a crane and other times suggesting abstract images or shapes.

Origami for Beginners
The art of origami (ori meaning to fold and kami meaning paper) originated in Japan in the 6th century when it found use in religious ceremonies, but it didn't really emerge into the culture at large until around the 17th century. It remained a folk craft until 1954 when Akira Yoshizawa published Atarashii Origami Geijutsu (New Origami Art), which propelled origami into the category of art, and that art caught fire with modern audiences. Today origami is even being sold as a pathway to mindfulness.

It was Yoshizawa who popularized a system of notation for origami folds, which became known as the Yoshizawa–Randlett system after some tweaking, and it's still used today in most origami instructions. Yoshizawa also popularized wet folding, which folders (as they like to be called) use to great effect to make more rounded, sculptural designs. There are many variations on origami, everything from action origami to modular origami (Origami Resource Center categorizes more than 80 types). How far does the specialization go? You can buy a book on Star Wars origami.

Origami for Beginners - Butterflies
If you're new to origami, there's no better place to start than with the aptly named book Easy Origami by John Montroll. With 32 simple but satisfying projects and truly easy-to-follow directions on creating swans, foxes, rabbits and more, it's a classic for the beginning folder. If you've got a few folds under your belt and you want something beyond animals, try Sok Song's Crease and Fold, whose designs run from an orchid to a wallet, with suggestions of using some non-conventional papers, like a subway map.

To see just how far the art of origami can be taken (and it goes way, way beyond paper cranes), check out the film Between the Folds, directed by Vanessa Gould. The 2008 documentary follows 10 folding artists who show great dedication to the craft and science of folded paper, including Michael LaFosse of Origamido, who also handmakes origami paper; Paul Jackson, who makes organic abstracts and one-fold pieces, among other styles; and Vincent Floderer, who crimps and crumples paper to amazing effect.

Origami for Beginners
Purists say origami should employ a single piece of square paper, and involve no adhesives and not be adorned in any way. However, like any rules, these are made to be broken, and some folders start with different shapes of paper, weave multiple folded papers together, and even decorate the finished product.

To try your hand at the zen art of folding, pick up some paper at DistinctPapers.com, order a book on origami (Absolute Beginner's Origami by Nick Robinson lives up to its name if you're really green), and start folding.

SHOP AT Distinct Papers for your origami projects.

Erin Behan

Written by Erin Behan

Erin Behan is an L.A.-based writer and editor who considers fine paper one of life's little pleasures.


Visit Distinct Papers to buy high-quality paper or card stock for your next project or to find the right copy paper, correspondence stationery and envelopes.


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