The ancient art of origami dates back to the sixth century. Monks would fold paper for ceremonial purposes and religious events. By delicately folding and bending pieces of paper, origami artists create stunning works of art. These contemporary artists are pushing the boundaries of paper and creating masterpieces like you’ve never seen before.
You won’t believe the amazing things these artists can do with paper.
Yuki Tatsumi’s “Japanese Tip”
Artist Yuki Tatsumi bases his artwork around the Japanese tradition of folding chopstick papers as a sign of gratitude and respect to your host or server. It’s not customary in Japan for customers to tip their waiter or waitress so they frequently leave little paper figures instead. In 2012, Tatsumi was a server and began saving the little works of art left behind for him as well as creating his own. He launched a project called “Japanese Tip” and set up a website to showcase photographs he takes of each piece. So far he’s collected over 13,000 sculptures.
Sipho Mabona Created A Life-Size Elephant
Swiss contemporary artist Sipho Mabona set out to create a life-size origami structure. He set up an Indiegogo to fund his project. He wound up raising just over $26,000 from 600 backers. He created a to-scale elephant crafted from a single sheet of paper. He describes his project on Indiegogo as “an ultimate prove [sic] that there are no limits to what can be made out of a square piece of paper I came up with the idea to fold a life-size origami elephant.” He constructed his 10-foot elephant with a team of three assistants and live streamed the whole thing so Swiss fans could watch the construction in full.
Jun Mitani’s Science-Influenced Art
By day Jun Mitani is a computer science professor at the University of Tsukuba and by night he’s an origami extraordinaire. As a kid, he wasn’t very interested in origami but interested in the science behind it. He said, “I thought that I should challenge origami, particularly the geometrical constraint, which is harder than in papercraft. Shortly after starting my origami research, I was surprised how fascinating it was.” He wrote his Ph.D. thesis on designing paper models with the computer. Mitani has even created his own origami production software called ORI-REVO, which creates a variety of three-dimensional origami shapes.
Robert Lang Experiments With Size
Robert Lang is an Ex-NASA physicist who uses mathematics to make his origami pieces as life-like as possible. Using computer-powered calculations he crafts pieces that human hands would never be able to. He’s credited with creating the smallest origami piece ever made and his work is on display in museums all over the world. One of his most famous pieces is 14-foot long origami pteranodon. It’s also his largest piece. His creations are always centered around realism. He loves to recreate living things such as praying mantis, hummingbirds and owls. Lang tests out his designs on the computer first, ensuring they’ll work without wasting hours folding and refolding paper.
Jo Nakashima Is All About Movement
Artist Jo Nakashima creates origami kinetic sculptures. He displays the construction and movement of his pieces on his Youtube channel. He also offers tutorials that go from super simple to mind-blowingly complicated. With over one million subscribers, he’s obviously struck a chord with origami lovers and aspiring artists. The Brazil native also offers thousands of free templates on his websites to encourage origami education. If creating works of arts isn’t really your thing you can at least appreciate the beauty of his work on his Instagram account, @jonakashima. Nakashima’s creations include everything from a detailed bald eagle to a range of emoji faces. He even does specialty pieces for the holidays like snowmen and jack-o-lanterns.
The T/Shirt Issue
Berlin-based designers Mashallah Design and Linda Kostowski teamed up to create The T/Shirt Issue, a project that intersects fashion and art. By adding origami-inspired elements to regular garments they crafted styles that elevated clothing from the norm and made it more like a piece you’d find in a museum. Together they used 3D technology to rethink the way t-shirts and basic items are clothing were crafted. On their Kickstarter page they say, “Worried about the general rep of T-shirts, we sat down to reinvent the way they are made, look and feel and initiated a project called The T-shirt Issue.”
Alma Haser’s Photography-Origami Fusion
Photographer Alma Haser crafted a series of incredible, thought-provoking photographs that are infused with origami. The project, entitled “Cosmic Surgery” is created by Alma first photographing her subject, then she prints multiple images of the subject’s face and folds them into delicate origami modular shapes. Finally she places the origami onto the subject’s face and photographs them again. She explains her love of origami, saying, “Origami is very meditative, you can get lost in the world of folding for hours. It is also extremely delicate and fragile, so by giving each geometric shape somewhere to sit within the final image, the origami has been given a backbone.”
Jacob Hashimoto – “Skyfarm Fortress”
Jacob Hashimoto constructed a large scale paper mobile entitled “Skyfarm Fortress” which wowed art aficionados during its stay at the Mary Boone Gallery in New York City. The New York based artist draws on his Japanese heritage to inspire each of his larger-than-life sculptural creations. His work has been on display all over the world. Some of his most popular pieces reside in Venice, Helsinki and Dubai. By piecing together thousands of small paper origami structures – usually kites – Hashimoto replicates the beauty found in nature. The literal lightness to each of his pieces creates an airy and almost ethereal space for audiences.
The next artist created a piece of origami a day for an entire year!
Ross Symons’ Year Of Origami
Origami artist Ross Symons challenged himself to make a new piece each day for 365 days. He documented his journey on Instagram. He quickly gained over 100 thousand users and decided to make it his full time gig. He launched his brand, White on Rice, in 2014 and now works with clients to create original origami pieces for social media and in-person installations. Ross was working a regular 9-5 job in Cape Town, South Africa and took up origami as a hobby. He says, “I was always folding little paper creatures which littered my desk at work, and I kept challenging myself to create more intricate pieces.” His project was his year of new pieces and now four years later, he still hasn’t stopped.
Keith Lam’s Shrinking Art
New media artist Keith Lam created an origami structure that shrinks from your touch by using kinetic energy. The reactive work is a sea star-like kinetic sculpture made with dozens of geometric origami parts that can be triggered by human touch. Lam’s inspiration is drawn from the vision he maintains that all art is alive. He explains his mission, saying, “By creating a conversation between men and objects, we hope the viewer can use a different way of thinking about life’s origin and its various forms, as well as to show a more fleshy and warm side of new media art.”
Karlen Chang Creates Interactive Origami
Karlen Chang is the creative director behind well-respected design firm mixMotion. In 2013, she created an incredible interactive sculpture called Kamiko for the TEDx Toronto launch party. The concept of the piece is to explore the future of smart objects and a future in which objects become self-aware. Sounds kind of scary! But it looks cool! Chang drew most of her inspiration from the ancient art of origami. She said, “The insight is that with the right design, even a simple piece of folded paper can create a range of dramatic emotions.” Although unlike origami, her structures are made from synthetic moisture-wicking materials.
Joanie Lemercier – Technology Meets An Ancient Art
Well-known artist Joanie Lemercier crafted a jaw-dropping piece that blends origami and color with a touch of technology in Birmingham, United Kingdom. Lemercier likes to give extra depth to his pieces by using three-dimensional pyramids. He describes his motives, saying, “Every day we stare at screens. We look at cinema screens, TV screens, phone screens, and it’s always a flat, rectangular projection or a flat rectangular image. What I like with projection mapping is that you can turn anything into a display, you can take a sculpture and project colors on it and really change the way it looks.”
Dinh Truong Giang, Origami Master
Origami master Dinh Truong Giang uses the phrase “less is more” to describe his mission statement. This rings particular true with his minimalist yet exception simple handcrafted pieces. Known as the godfather of origami, Giang gained his notorious reputation by perfecting a style of origami called wet folding. Wet folding is done by dampening the paper surface to allow it to be more malleable to curve and make distinct features. This allows GIang to take his pieces far beyond simple folds and create incredibly realistic designs like the polar bear above. Giang describes his work as simplistic, saying, “When one pays too much attention to the techniques, he or she tends to forget about the goal is to breathe life into the final piece.”
Adam Tran’s Attention To Detail
Vietnamese chemistry teacher Adam Tran creates some of the most realistic and detailed pieces of origami in the world. When he’s not teaching he spends his free time designing and executing new folds or perfected the folds of origami masters. His passion lies in crafting intricate dragons and prehistoric creatures look just like realistic models from museum exhibits. He showcases his work on his Flickr account and has gained notoriety all over the world. His skillful structures are crafted from colorful and textured paper, adding an extra special finishing touch to his already incredible pieces. Tran also works to preserve the art form for future generations of Vietnamese.
Cristian Marianciuc’s Origami Diary
Origami enthusiast Cristian Marianciuc dedicated set time each day to create an origami structure describing his mood. He writes, “I decided to start a different kind of diary at the beginning of this year. Every day, I fold an origami crane and using it as a blank canvas, I describe my day through colours, shadows and everything that surrounds me.” He documented his journey on Instagram and wowed his 21,000 followers. He’s been met with so much success, he actually opened an Etsy shop to sell some of his highly desirable pieces. But he’s not in it for the money. Marianciuc describes it as almost a therapy session for him. He says, “It has helped my creativity a great deal, and it has also become somewhat of a daily ritual.”
Hoang Tien Quyết’s Rounded Technique
While most artists prefer to create stiff geometric designs, Hoàng Tiến Quyết decided to go in a completely different direction. He prefers soft rounded off structures. He creates these by using the wet folding technique. His designs are remarkable, cartoon-like creatures that looked both real and out of a storybook at the same time. He carefully rounds off the edges with a dab of water. Too little water and the paper dries before the folding is done; too much water, and the paper will rip. Quyết’s designs have garnered so much attention and acclaim that he has authored two different origami inspiration books.
Jason Ku – Accurate And Detailed
Dr. Jason Ku is a lecturer in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at MIT. In his spare time he translates his studies in hand-crafted incredibly accurate three dimensional origami structures. By applying his engineering background with computational geometry and algorithms, he designs sculptures that are unbelievably precise. He uses three-dimensional printing technology to aid in getting his specifications just right. On his website he offers tips and graphs to help other aspiring origami artists perfect their craft. Ku also regularly uploads instructional videos to Youtube and contributes to The Fold, the online magazine for members of OrigamiUSA.
Alexander Kurth’s Imagination Guides His Work
Alexander Kurth started his passion for origami as a child folding paper airplanes in class. Now, he’s channeled that creative energy into creating cartoon-like creatures and replicas of favorite film and television characters, like Yoda from Star Wars. The social worker from Germany continues his passion for paper folding as a way of keeping himself happy and tying himself to his childhood, which he credits as being full of creativity and wonder. He says, “Origami for me is the possibility to create things out of my imagination as the chance to receive results which weren’t in my mind.”
Tomoko Fuse Has Written 60+ Books About The Art Form
Tomoko Fuse is considered one of the great masters of the craft. She began her passion for origami when she was hospitalized as a child. The paper folding craft kept her busy through the boring hours spent in bed. When she was 19 years old she went to study for two years with origami master, Toyoaki Kawai. She’s best known for her Kusudama, or flower-like designs. They are ancient Japanese designs that were used to hold incense and potpourri during religious ceremonies. She’s also authored sixty books on the art form and gives regular talks, hoping to inspire and keep the tradition of origami alive.
Martin Demaine Is Guided By Mathematics
Martin Demaine is an artist and mathematician specializing in geometrically perfect origami structures and glass blowing. He is the artist in residence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His works are in permanent residence at some of the world’s most highly esteemed museums like the National Gallery of Canada and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. He currently works with his son, Erik, who is the youngest professor to ever be hired by MIT on mathematical origami works. Together they perfect the folding and unfolding of each intricate detail in their work. Their pieces are considered to be flawless, thanks to their computations.