Origami literally translates as "folding paper," which is perfectly descriptive of the art. The art of origami dates back centuries, with constructions ranging anywhere from a child's good luck crane or drinking cup to intricate structures that might take weeks to complete. Essentially, anything that occurs in nature or in the imagination can be reproduced with origami, and many artists apply themselves to creating as accurate an interpretation as possible. The medium used for these sometimes elaborate constructions is truly extraordinary-every bit of it is done using only pieces of paper.
The basics of origami
Origami dates back to ancient China around the first or second century. It is not clear if this is truly where the art began, or if this is simply the earliest example that still exists in such a delicate medium. Originally, origami involved only one piece of paper, which might have special dyes or designs on it for added intricacy. Today, modular origami has become extremely popular, which involves paper folding constructions made from multiple pieces of paper. The true challenge in origami comes from the fact that it involves no adhesives, and generally the paper is not torn or otherwise changed. It is simply a matter of folding square pieces of paper.
Types of paper folding constructions
Anyone who has ever heard of origami probably knows how to make some of the simpler paper folding constructions. These all involve a single piece of paper, and generally only have a small number of folds. These might include cranes, drinking cups, paper boxes and decorative rings. With modular pieces, the sky is the limit. Colorful animals, geometric shapes and complex insects are among the favorites.
Paper folding materials
One of the favorite materials for paper folding constructions is specialty origami paper. This paper is similar to very thin cardstock, and it is ideal for creating sturdy constructions that hold crisp folds with ease. It is readily available in a wide range of colors and patterns, and many specialty craft stores offer it pre-cut in a variety of square sizes. The major drawbacks to this paper are its price and its somewhat unforgiving nature in the event of incorrect folds.
Any type of paper can be used in origami. Even very thin paper, such as tissue paper, can be used with a light brush of fabric stiffener. If you'd like choices in color and pattern but don't necessarily want to pay the price for origami paper, specialty scrapbooking paper works nearly as well. Designer paper is available in either single-sided or double-sided designs. Construction paper or faux parchment makes great practice paper, and it's easy to add your own decorations to it prior to folding.
Getting started with paper folding
If you're new to paper folding, there are countless free tutorials available online. Most of these will include single-paper beginner designs, though you may also be able to find some basic modular tutorials as well. An internet search will also turn up a plethora of books, as well as paid tutorials for more difficult pieces. Focus on learning as many types of folds as you can, studying the effect of each, and play with your own ideas using some inexpensive paper. As you learn how each curve or angle can be made with paper, an entire world of designing paper folding constructions will open up to you.