[From March Issue 2013]
Origami Artist SHINGU Fumiaki
As an origami artist I’ve been asked by the government to promote the art of origami to the world by doing things like setting up a website that shows people how to make origami. Because it uses few natural resources, origami is eco-friendly. An outstanding example of “cool Japan” culture, it’s a pastime that both children and adults can enjoy.
Sometimes I’m asked to give lectures by universities overseas that specialize in the arts, but I’ve also started work on a big origami commission that I received from a Japanese person living in Europe. He said to me, “Though I brought a book on origami with me from Japan, it hasn’t captured the interest of children here. Could you please introduce me to origami that can capture the imaginations of European children.” With this in mind I made, “Origami for Christmas” and “Origami for Halloween.”
In western countries origami is regarded as a kind of paper craft. Origami is translated into English as paper folding, butrecently the word “origami” is more generally used.
The method of manufacturing paper was invented in China and brought to Japan in the early 7th century. Before long, manufacturing methods and materials used in Japan changed, producing durable, beautiful washi of excellent quality. Appreciated by the samurai classes, the use of washi spread, spawning a unique Japanese “paper culture.” In the early days, it was used for special envelopes that contained gifts of money; to express one’s hospitality. It was also used in daily life to create things like “shouji ” (sliding paper doors) and “fusuma” (sliding paper screens).
“Yuugi origami,” or the art of folding paper into things like cranes or helmets, and “unit origami ” constructing threedimensional out of identically shaped pieces of paper –popular in Europe – were invented in the Edo period (17~19 century). In the Meiji period the government invited the world famous German educator, Friedrich Wilhelm August FROEBEL, to Japan. He utilized origami in his child education program. This is how origami began to be taught in kindergarten.
In recent years, people in Hindu and Islamic societies have taken an interest in origami and I sometimes receive mail from them. They say that because it has no religious affiliations, origami can be easily accepted into their culture. It seems that my work will continue.