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Bringing Paper to Life: The Magic of Origami

japanese-origami-craneAre you feeling creative today? Really really creative? Creative enough to make paper come to life?

Well, if you're a fan of origami then you've probably already done that. Origami is the art of turning ordinary paper into 3-dimensional artwork. Some sculpture forms are simple and easy to make, others are extremely difficult creations, and are working pieces of art that move and react to a person's kinetic energy.

The rules are you can't cut your paper or use glue, and a lot of the purists say you can't even use tools. The paper is typically square, and can be solid colored or patterned- it can also be made using metallic foil paper, which will hold more difficult and complex shapes than typical paper; or it can be made using washi, which is a very tough kind of traditional Japanese paper.

No one's quite sure who to thank for origami. The Japanese tend to get credit for popularizing the art form, but there are references to folding paper for art or ceremonies all across Europe and China. But whoever it was that began the practice, no one was nearly as innovative with it as the Japanese were.

While paper folding has thought to have been in Japan since the Heian period (794-1185), the majority of origami's most elaborate and striking creations didn't exist until pretty recently. Akira Yoshizawa has been called the Father of Modern Origami, and his innovation and creativity with origami raised it from a stale, traditional practice to a globally recognized form of art. His recognition came about around the 1950's when he published his first book of origami creations, and both he, as well as his artwork, enjoyed great fame over the next 50 years.

Godfather of Origami Akira YoshizawaHis work brought about a technical and mathematic side to the art form that had never existed before. He put in place complex geometrical shapes that allowed the possibilities for what origami could become to grow exponentially. One of his most clever innovations was wet folding, which is the practice of wetting a piece of paper while folding, so that it could achieve a softer, more natural fold, and then would harden once dried.

But some of you are probably wondering, why bother folding pieces of paper into shapes? What's the point? Well, most people do origami because it's awesome, others use it as a cheap method of filling your room with beautiful decorations. But many people also find a good deal of therapy in the art. Again and again, the use of origami has shown positive results in a wide variety of health applications. It has shown to reduce stress levels in people suffering from anxiety, ADD, depression, and it's even been common practice for prison inmates to be taught origami to help add some structure and discipline to their day.

Origami SwanPatients who are recovering after medical procedures tend to enjoy making origami because it is creative and involving, but it doesn't require one to get up and be overly active. Many people who are recovering from hand injuries tend to prefer doing origami over the more conventional forms of rehabilitation. But probably the most common goal achieved by practicing origami is simply a feeling of peace, a little tranquility, and an ease of tension after a long day's hard work.

People also enjoy origami as a practical and personal form of gift giving. Especially in these tough economic times, it makes more sense to make your own gifts than it does to go out and buy them. We recommend using origami to decorate the tree this Christmas- add a sense of personality to your tree by using ornaments you made, rather than simply bought. It'll be a lot more meaningful, and it's sure to be a great exercise in family togetherness to all sit down and make a couple creations together.

Origami Christmas Tree OrnamentsWe hope that you give origami a shot this Christmas. Use it to decorate the tree, or use it on other special days- Easter, New year's Eve, Valentine's Day, even Birthdays. But whatever you decide to do with your winter season, we at AsianFoodGrocer want to wish you a great, big Happy Holidays, and we hope you all have a wonderful end of the year.

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