Have you ever made a paper airplane? If so, you know how much fun it can be to make simple crafts with paper. Would you believe there’s an ancient Japanese art form dedicated to making things with folded paper? It’s called origami!

Origami comes from the Japanese words for “folding” and “paper.” And that perfectly describes what origami is. Origami transforms a simple, flat sheet of paper into a three-dimensional sculpture through nothing more than folds in the paper. Cuts and glue are not allowed!

Origami started in the 17th century in Japan. By the mid-1900s, it had become a popular art form outside of Japan. Today, origami is a well-known art form around the world.

Have you ever tried origami? Anyone can learn with a little practice and patience. The basic number of folds is small, but they can be combined in a seemingly-endless number of ways to create sculptures of everything from simple boxes to complex animals. Some of the basic folds include valleys, mountains, pleats, sinks and reverse folds.

Special origami paper — often called “kami” (Japanese for paper) — is now sold in craft stores, but basically any paper that will hold a crease will work! Some people even enjoy making origami sculptures out of paper money!

There are several different types of origami. Action origami, for example, includes sculptures that can move in interesting ways. One of the most popular examples of action origami is the flapping bird.

Modular origami involves combining several smaller pieces of origami into a larger origami structure. A popular example of modular origami is the decorative ball known as kusudama.

Some of the more intricate origami sculptures require a technique called wet folding. Wet folding is exactly what it sounds like. Origami paper is dampened so it can be folded and sculpted more easily. This allows gentle curves to be created that then stay crisp when the paper dries.

Does origami have any practical application beyond mere art? It does! Insights gained from origami have led to the development of advanced airbags for automobiles and safer stent implants for heart surgery patients.

The most fascinating pieces of origami are probably the smallest and largest examples that have ever been created. The smallest origami crane was made by Mr. Naito of Japan with a piece of paper that measured 0.1 X 0.1 mm square. He folded the crane using a microscope and special tools he created himself!

On the other end of the spectrum, a Seattle organization called Wings for Peace made the world’s largest paper crane in 1999. It was over 215 feet wide and weighed about 1,750 pounds!

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