I am not an Origami expert. By any stretch of the imagination.
But I like trying new creative techniques and today I am wearing the origami creations I made this week.
When I was about ten years old, a young woman from Japan stayed with us for a weekend during her first trip to America. Her name was Miyuki and she brought us some origami paper to fold into stunning three-dimensional shapes.
Unfortunately, I made folded two-dimensional shapes that looked like notes you’d pass in class. They weren’t stunning. But they were colorful.
Over the years I may have tried origami once or twice more but it’s safe to say that my skills are no more advanced than when I was ten. I do love seeing the brightly colored squares of Origami paper in my local craft stores. Some have patterns or are metallic. They beckon but I’ve resisted. I wonder if that’s because origami involves following a precise recipe with specific rules, and I like making up my own art techniques as I go.
But I decided to give it a try this week. This morning I hot glued my creations to some felt and made a necklace and head piece to wear as accessories. Here’s how it all turned out:
The timing of my origami accessories is not coincidental. Last night we came back from six days in the Midwest, visiting relatives. I wanted to make something to wear today and I decided that I'd create something that was lightweight and easy to transport. I also wanted to work on a theme that didn't require electricity, as I planned to do some of my creating while on an airplane. Origami fit the bill nicely, as it's lightweight, small, and can be done on an airplane without a hot glue gun (unlike many of my creations). The upside to doing origami for three hours while on an airplane is that it distracts you from looking at the time every fifteen minutes to see how much longer you’ll be stuck on the plane. The downside is that if you are seated on the aisle (as I was), you have to pick up all your papers and stand up every time someone needs the bathroom. Still, I managed to make a couple dozen creations and it did pass the time.
The paper instructions from the package were not very helpful but there is a great resource called the Internet, which had lots of tutorials for origami. I ran into the dilemma of whether to use folding techniques only, which is what origami purists would favor, or whether I'd choose to fold and also to cut the paper. I ended up doing a mix of the two techniques. Paper crafts using cutting and gluing are called kirigami (whereas origami is folding only) but I decided to mix and match and not stress out over the whole thing.
Origami has its origins in Japanese culture dating back to the Edo period (1603-1867). I love that the basic technique hasn't changed in four hundred years. Folding paper to create something playful or beautiful is such a nice concept, and I like that it doesn't require technology or electricity. Believe me, I love technology and electricity! Especially together. But it's refreshing to use neither one to create something with your hands.
If you've ever held a piece of origami paper, you know that this paper is lightweight. This means that it is easier to fold than heavy weight paper is. Therefore it also holds the crisp folds better than a thicker paper would. Having a crisp fold contributes to the overall effect of whatever you are making. The shape is more defined and the individual parts all work better together if you've made good creases in your paper.
The shapes I made include cat face, fox, butterflies (I did lots since they are easy), hearts, box, leaves, flowers and jets. The hardest shape I made was the crane. It took longer than the other shapes and even watching the technique on YouTube confused me. But I associate origami with cranes and I was determined to finish one. Here is my lavender crane:
Cranes symbolize love in Japanese culture. They mate for life and are considered a lucky symbol in Japanese wedding ceremonies. Some brides (and grooms) make 1,000 origami cranes before their wedding, a tradition believed to bestow longevity on a marriage. It can take a beginning origami crafter 100 hours to make 1,000 cranes, so bridal couples intent on following this tradition start working on their cranes months ahead of time. (Given my very slow pace at making a crane, I can confirm that it could easily take six minutes to make one crane, or ten per hour, so 100 hours for 1,000 cranes is not an exaggeration. Sure, you'd get better and faster with practice, but this definitely could take a while...)
The paper I used for this project came in many bright colors. I didn't buy a package with metallic prints or other patterns on the paper, but these are beautiful, too. Given how much I love color, this project has been fun for me. It's also been challenging. It still amazes me how many three-dimensional things you can make out of a flat piece of paper. I'm always interested in new creative techniques. It's a good challenge and it's also good gymnastics for the brain. Like cross word puzzles and all the other activities that are supposed to keep our minds nimble.
Today I told someone about spending several hours on a plane last night, making origami. I joked that my body feels like origami today—all my joints feel tightly folded. I was on two airplanes yesterday, and sitting still for that long will make your joints feel stiff. I’m not thrilled to feel tired and inflexible today, but it does feel fitting that my paper and my body both did origami together!
It is unlikely that my new (basic) origami skills will lead to my making a scale model of the White House from origami paper. Or a life-sized peacock from a single sheet of paper. But I’m proud of my crane, the trickiest thing I made this week, and I had fun making all the figures.
Now my crane and butterflies and I are going to fly off to bring color and maybe a little luck to all those we see...