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The Evolution of Origami

I divide up the evolution of Origami into four


Neo classical


In the sense of long established or traditional as defined by Chambers Dictionary. The characteristics of what I have called classical Origami are that it uses symmetry both in the paper and in the actual folding. Thus Square or hexagonal paper is used and the bases all have a deep symmetry.

We do not know of any creators of the models which seem to be handed down within families as an ephemeral folk craft. There seems little or no innovation thus the balloon, or waterbomb, has been known in the West for some four hundred years. The models result from folding which employs landmarks derived from previous folds or the boundaries of the paper. The models are in the main toys or tricks usually 3 D , but in the case of Japan they also had decorative or symbolic folding. In Japan in an attempt to enhance the richness of the medium cutting was employed. This does not seem to be the case in the West. I have excluded Noshi and folds associated with Shinto as these do not seem to me to be in the mainstream of origami development.

Neo Classical

In the 1940's we see the emergence of creative folders notably Yoshizawa and Uchiyama. They still, however, used the classical bases and employed symmetry in the folding. In an attempt to increase the resources offered by folding, Yoshizawa used two piece models. We also saw the introduction of the blintzed bird base which added to the number of points available for models. In the neo- classical Origami thus we still see symmetry in both the paper and the folding of the Classical era, but there is a new concentration on the final outcome and Origami begins to emerge as a potential art form. Towards the end of the new classical period we see the publication of individual folders creations, notably Yoshizawa's in Japanese women's magazines. This was a vital step in the evolution of modern paper folding since Yoshizawa introduced his symbols at this time which have since become an international standard. Thus communication of folding innovation was enormously enhanced.


In the search for greater realism and increased potential for individual art expression the modern approach to Origami explored new bases and broke away from the use of the square. We also see the use of foil and wet folding that permitted some moulding of the final models. In the modern era there was the beginning of geometric folding and the employment of modules. Increasingly there was a movement away from symmetrical bases, landmarks and classical ideas. The leaders in this movement were Elias , Rohm and Yoshizawa. At the same time Harbin and Randlet published books of the new Origami and thus again enhanced communication.


We now see the strong emergence of Origami viewed at as an art form in its own right. Thus the concentration is on the aesthetic appearance of the completed models. The leaders in the hyper modern movement are Lang, Montrol, Bateman, Maekawa, and Joisel amongst many others. We now see the use made of computers to design the fold patterns that are required to obtain the points, patterns and distances the artist needs. It is no longer possible to find simple landmarks with which to locate the folds. The use of wet folding now permits extensive moulding of the final result and in the case of Eric Joisel we are almost in the realm of sculpture. Folding now tends to be highly complex and often involves the special selection and pre-decoration of the paper. Many creative folders now seek to sell their work as art and this puts increasing emphasis on a final product that is unique and permanent.

To sum up then;-

Simple symmetric folding as a ephemeral folk craft making toys, tricks or decorations.

Neo Classical.
Still using the classical approach but seeking realism. The beginning of individual creators and publication

Origami emerging as an Art form, attempts to enrich the media by wet folding, careful selection of paper, and modules. The beginning of the breakaway from strong symmetry and landmarks. Geometric folding attracts a considerable following.

Creators seeking a saleable end product. Highly complex models and the use of computers to design and locate the basic folds. Pre-treatment of the paper and extensive 3D moulding.

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