Tag Archives: origami

Origami for Chinese New Year

For most of my life, my origami repertoire has been quite limited. I only know the flapping bird, which my brother taught me when I was really little, and other very basic stuff from  my 5th grade art class — paper cup (very useful, I swear), crane, and a few others. But ever since a friend of mine got me a pack of beautiful origami papers for Christmas, I’ve been expanding my knowledge quite a bit.

Since Chinese New Year’s coming up on February 10th, I thought I’d learn to make some cute little things to mark the occasion. They’d make awesome decorations and if they bring good luck, well that’s a great bonus!

So I did a little research online and found some lovely prospects. I am listing them below in order of difficulty and complexity.

Gold Yuanbao

Yuanbao are what the Chinese call the boat-shaped gold ingots. Having likenesses of these precious bits are said to bring good luck, as they supposedly attract the real things. I found some instructions on how to make paper versions of these, and they are insanely easy!

Here are the products of my efforts. I used matte gold giftwrapping paper left over from the holidays, which I cut into squares.

Lotus flower

The Lian Hua, or lotus flower, represents of purity and wholesomeness, peace and harmony. Feng shui experts say that it clears away negative chi and generates positive chi and helps achieve enlightenment.

Some say it even attracts love and good marriage, which makes it a great good luck charm for Valentine’s Day. They’re pretty easy to make too, no complicated folds. The last bit is a bit tricky, but nothing that a patience and a gentle touch can’t manage. Here are the instructions.

The Omega Star

This awesome star is by John Montroll. It looks like a nightmare to make, but after bungling dismally on my first try, it got a whole lot easier. I love how sophisticated it looks, and it’s just made from a single piece of paper. Small versions of this would make great hanging ornaments and charms, and I can picture this as a lantern, when done on a large scale.

There’s a modular version of this, composed of pretty easy-to-make components, but takes some practice to put together.

Here’s a great video how-to from Origami Nut, and the page also has a link to a diagram, for those who find it easier to look at one picture rather than sit through a 10-minute video.

The Snake

This year is the Year of the Water Snake. This origami snake by Jo Nakashima is modular and is composed of several identical components that are joined together in the end, and the ends modified to make the head and tail. I thought this would be easy to make, only to discover later on that it’s not really for the faint of heart, nor for somebody who only has 2 hands with only 5 fingers each. But it felt so rewarding when I finally assembled it. And it looks adorable — probably because of the pastel blue and green paper. But still, even a person with ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) wouldn’t find anything scary in this cutiepie.

Ready for this challenge? Here’s a video on how to make it.

All images by Nathalie Mariano.

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TED Talk: Robert Lang Folds Way-New Origami

If you’ve followed us for any length here on the blog, you may know that we are enamoured by paper, by origami, by the seeming infinite potential a single piece of paper holds.  By way of evidence I present some of Robert J. Lang’s work:

Anna's Hummingbird by Robert LangAnna’s Hummingbird.  All images by Robert J. Lang, langorigami

Orchestra by Robert Lang


Robert J. Lang's Quezada PotQuezada Pot

Lang's allosaurus skeletonEven an Allosaurus skeleton, in a sheet of square paper.

I came across this TED Talk this weekend during an internet wander.  Have you seen this?  Robert J. Lang, an origami master and physicist, uses math and engineering principles to fold intricate origami designs.  The results are startling, magnificent. If you’ve got 15 minutes, you won’t regret watching this.  Bonus: it makes math fun, something years of Kumon couldn’t do…

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Advent Calendar Idea Round-Up

image via Brigette.

I have fond memories from childhood of opening a chocolate a day from my advent calendar.  I remember searching the Christmas image for the day’s hidden date for the little treat.  What a simply wonderful way to start the day: excitement, joy, a taste of chocolate.  Of course I also remember my younger brother who’s never been good with anticipation, sneaking the entire chocolate tray out of the advent calendar box to eat them all.  Leaving a 10 year old me with 25 days of total exasperation.  But I digress…

This year I am very excited to introduce my kiddle to the advent calendar.  With just shy of 2 years under his belt, time is still a concept slightly out of reach.  The day by day countdown will probably help both ignite and contain his excitement.

Whether you go store bought or make your own, here are some wonderful versions that caught my eye!

image via Crafty Nest

These folded origami boxes hung on a tree made of painted craft sticks is just darling!  For full directions visit Crafty Nest.  The site does warn, while easy, it’s a bit time intensive with all the box folding…

images via All Things Simple

I just love this note version where each day schedules some special family time.  The reusable advent tree you can make yourself or purchase.  Just print out the notes to hide in each day’s pocket.  This version by Kim McCrary of All Things Simple includes such gems as “Go sledding with Dad”, “Unwrap a book to read”, “Buy gifts for children in need” and “Decorate cookies”.  Sweet!  And a good reminder that ’tis the season for quality time with family and friends and generosity.

image via My Kind of Blog

image via The Craft Department at Martha Stewart

These two DIY projects are super easy to do and oh so cute.  Just hide notes and tiny surprises in each day’s package.  Love!

image via Bower Power Blog

I really love this homemade linen pinboard with a Christmas tree decoration for each day.  It’s beautiful to look at and means the family can steal a moment of quiet to take in – and expand on – the beauty of their tree.  For full directions on how to make your own pinboard, visit Bower Power Blog.

image via Amazon.com

image via Mastermind Toys

And of course if you can’t help but spoil the little collectors on your list, both Playmobil and Lego have advent calendar box sets out this year (of course).

What Origami Inspires

I’ve written about my love affair with origami before (though please don’t confuse that with my ability to do anything more than basic). Origami offers the power to transform a single sheet of paper into something representational through folds alone and what the masters create is nothing short of amazing.  It’s the stuff of magic as far as I’m concerned, though serious minds – think aerospace engineers, physicists, and mathematicians – give much weight to the science behind the folds.

Here are a few designers who have also been inspired by the Japanese art of paper folding.

Image via Daily Design Live Journal

These origami curtains by Florian Krautli are breathtaking.  The structured design which incorporates magnets allows the curtains to be folded into any shape. You can contact Krautli directly for information on when these might be available for purchase.

These Flux chairs were created by inventor Douwe Jacobs and industrial designer Tom Schouten and offer a new take on the folding chair.  Light weight making them portable (10.6 pounds to be exact), collapsable making them easy to store (pile them 21 high and they take up only a foot of height), they’re also a beautiful design adding oomph and ahhh to the lowly folding chair.  Available in the US through YLiving for a limited time.

The Flux chair can be purchased in a rainbow of colours, carries up to 352 pounds of weight and can be assembled in 10 seconds by the ‘average’ person (whatever that means).  Images via YLiving.

Now here’s a dress with wow-factor by Yuliya Kyrpo. The train is constructed from 1000 paper cranes that the fashion designer folded herself from old issues of the Metro newspaper.  Now that’s upcycling!  This dress was on display at the London’s Science Museum last summer as part of their Trash Fashion Designing Out Of Waste exhibit.

Images via Eccouterre.

And last but absolutely far from least is this unique origami-inspired outdoor portable emergency housing shelter called cardborigami by USC School of Architecture graduate Tine Hovespian.  Constructed from cardboard it unfolds into a structure that can sleep two.  They are also sustainably built, durable and very light weight.   Hovespian has always had an interest in humanitarian work and is currently working on a project for Skid Row in LA where she hopes these  emergency shelters can be used.

I love to see how one artform can inspire and inform the world of design.  There are so many stunning examples of such ingenuity, but these are a few of my faves today.

Origami: the Art and Design of Paper

Folded paper cranes

Folding 1000 paper cranes and stringing them as pictured is said to grant you one wish from the mystical animal in Japanese folklore. Photo credit edwinasharp.blogspot.com

I remember being about 5 – maybe 6 – and having my dad sit me down to teach me to fold the paper crane. It was a right of passage. I remember struggling with it, specifically step 3-4 (now I absent-mindedly create them out of paper detritus from my pockets while idly riding the streetcar). This is where my life-long interest and admiration in origami art began — I am endlessly enchanted by the seeming magic a square of paper can hold. As a craftsperson, however, I have remained ever the dilettante.

Pretty origami crane

This was not the same kind of crane I folded. Design by modern day Origami Master Roman Diaz, folded using one sheet of paper. Yes it can stand on one foot by itself. Photo Credit Sea-wayblog.blogspot.com

Origami, the art of Japanese paper folding has been practiced since the mid-Edo period (scholars believe it began sometime during the 17th century) and continues to entrance today. In fact this popular Japanese folk art that transforms a square sheet of paper into something representational through folds alone – no cuts or glue allowed for the die-hards – has today gained quite the devout following internationally and is of special interest to scientists and mathematicians. Origami, with its own mythology, with other designers paying respects through their own art, is now the subject of a documentary.

Folded paper elephant

Origami Grandmaster Akira Yoshizawa, created more than 50,000 origami models in his lifetime (the elephant above is one, folded from a single square). Credited with creating new folding techniques, and having published 18 books, Emperor Hirohito granted him the Order of the Rising Sun in 1983 for inspiring a renaissance in the art form. Photo Credit: Orizuka.free.fr

Folded paper dragon

This dragon, by Satoshi Kamiya is one of the world’s most complicated origami designs. Each scale is its own piece of paper, intricately folded into the body itself. Photo credit blog.mckenkie.com

Paper Yoda

60 fold Master Yoda designed by Fumiaki Kawahat. Photo credit: listsoplenty.com

Access the step-by-step here

Between the Folds is a recent documentary that follows 10 fine artists and theoretical scientists who abandon those careers to devote themselves to the art of origami. Reinterpreting their worlds in paper, they bring forth a bold mix of sensibilities towards art, expressiveness, creativity and meaning. Check out the trailer (and good news! PBS will be airing it January 2011 on Independent Lens):

Origami has entered into the western consciousness forever altering the way we see a sheet of paper.