|Fumiaki Kawahata's Pegasus. See additional pictures at the gallery|
Origami is Japanese for "paper folding". Originally an ancient and traditional pastime, it achieved considerable progress in the last fifty years, both in techniques and in worldwide popularity. Several cultures dispute its origin, but today it is recognized both as a vibrant international art form and a powerful symbol of peace and cooperation.
Origami's appeal lies maybe in its simplicity. An inexpensive but delicate material, simple rules and a basic set of folding maneuvers: nothing more is required but precision and discipline.
Designing a "model" (folded piece of paper) is an art in itself. Even following a diagram (set of instructions) resembles a performance: it can be done mechanically, or "life" can be breathed onto the model, lending it part of the folder's personality.
There are several "styles" of origami. Many modern folders (myself included) regard folding from a single square sheet, with no cuts, a more refined expression of art. That is probably a recent restriction: Japanese creators from the 18th century didn't reject cutting (although modern design techniques allow the creation of much more spectacular uncut versions); also, many multisheet models are so beautiful, their elegance will probably never be matched by a single sheet version's.
I appreciate folding fairly complex, detailed models; nevertheless, simple models can be equally or more interesting. Origami is an art of minimalism, economy and elegance: painstakingly crafting a minute detail can be as challenging as suggesting the very same feature by its absence, or with a minimum of creases.
Books and paper can be purchased at OrigamiUSA and Kim's Crane.