The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Month of Fundays: Day 8 – Origami – Learning to Make Something Out of Paper

I think I’m getting a cold. This is dumb, because I’ve staved off two colds in June and July with the help of Zicam, but when I felt the sore throat coming on yesterday I decided to ignore it and skip the Zicam. I took some today, but I think it might be too late. I think this because I can’t swallow, I have a headache the size of Montana & I just sneezed for 15 minutes straight. This is also dumb because we are in the middle of the hottest summer months when colds should not attack.
This is dumb yet again because I know I hate to write when I’m sick, my brain gets all fuddled and I just sit in front of the computer wishing for my pillow and more tea. Well, I always wish for more tea, but even-more-than-that-tea! Trust me: That’s a lot of tea. So writing a blog post – let alone doing a fun day activity – is making me cranky. Hello, fun day activities are supposed to be FUN – hence the name.

Now that my complaining is out of the way, I’ll try to write a cohesive fun day post about paper folding – specifically Origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. My husband, the artist, likes creating things with his hands (not really a shock). I’ve been living with a very talented artist for more years than I can count…or, I’m counting it out now…I hate math…Um…Wow, cold brain, really…16 years. Yes, I’ve been living with a very talented artist for 16 years and I’m intimidated by his perfection. We sat down to fold things with paper and he has, like, six books on Origami in the middle of the living room; I’m folding a crane while he’s creating a hydra. Ah-huh, that’s right; the Greek mythology monster with many heads. I made a fish and a bird today, yay! Surprisingly still fun because I realize I don’t have to be the best at everything…or anything, really. What am I the best at? I can write better than my husband; although he’s quite deft with the English language too. I usually win in an argument and I think we’re both equal on the cooking/baking front – although his food looks prettier. I have an easier time talking to people; but is that a good quality? Let’s just say Chris wins in the creativity department!

Let’s Face It

He did this.

And I did this.

Another Example:
This painting hangs in our living room.

And this napkin holder I made in the seventh grade sits on our dining room table, because I have to have some homemade thing in the house too.

...I think we may be going to IKEA to purchase a cheap napkin holder soon...

We still had a good time, nay, a fun time! I read a couple things from those Origami books while Chris worked out his complicated, paper folding prowess on the hydra, and learned that most children in Japan play with paper folding; I’m assuming like I played with Silly Putty as a child. Yet, Western adults (including yours truly) are fascinated with this child’s play. Japanese adults also perform Origami, but it tends to be for religious and ceremonial functions. I’m getting my facts out of a craft book published in the UK in 1987 so take that info with a grain of salt, but I do think it’s amusing that child’s play in Japan prepares you for an actual adult function whilst playing with Silly Putty as a child has prepared me for sod all. I know we – the Westerners – use Origami as a teaching tool: Geometry and other mathematics, as well as dexterity and rehabilitation/therapy purposes. Heck, I’m using it as a fun day activity and consider it creative art. As a culture, we tend to take things from other cultures and lessen their worth; I’m not sure I like that about my culture, but I know I do it too. In fact, I’ve recently had a few dinner party discussions about the same sort of thing and I still have no forgone conclusion. I’m enjoying my paper crane folding activity and I do know the crane itself has ceremonial purpose; in fact, I’ve folded cranes for a friend’s wedding in the past. Does knowing the religious and ceremonial purpose behind something make it OK to do it, even if you are not of that culture or religion? Can you believe that something as simple as folding a little paper animal is making me question this? I have no answers. I know from previous conversations that I’d personally rather know and learn about other cultures religious and ceremonial beliefs. As a writer I think it is OK to write about them as well. I won’t have the same perspective, but as a reader you should know my opinions about Origami are not the same as someone who grew up in Japan learning this ancient art form.

Japanese-American/Hawaiian Crane Tradition
It is believed that if you have a special wish, fold one thousand origami cranes. By the time you finish this task, your wish will be granted. This is called Sembazuru, or the folding of one thousand cranes.

In ancient Japan, a bride-to-be would fold sembazuru to wish for a long and prosperous marriage. The crane is not only a symbol for luck, but for longevity as it is believed that the crane lives one thousand years. The crane also mates for life, thus folding sembazuru ensures a bride her good fortune.

In the 1960's, Japanese-Americans in Hawaii started to create artwork with sembazuru for weddings, with one exception: 1,001 cranes were used. It is believed that the one extra crane brings extra luck, and in Japan, an odd number is considered lucky. The cranes were folded out of gold foil, arranged in the shape of a family crest, and then framed as artwork. The art would be displayed at the wedding reception, then in the couple's new home for continued good luck. Folding 1,001 cranes was a way for many Sansei (third-generation Japanese-Americans) to celebrate their culture and acknowledge their ancestors.

The art of 1,000 cranes is tradition that continues today, not only with Japanese-Americans but with couples from all ethnic backgrounds. Thus, the art of one thousand cranes has become a true American art form.

I have to interject here that the wedding I was talking about – Yes, Karen & Brian, your wedding – was still one of the most memorable and culturally woven ceremonies I’ve ever witnessed. It was beautiful. The crane folding parties were fun; I’m glad I got to be a part of it. I think K&B’s wedding also embodied what it is to be American – the Scottish and Japanese traditions and the Friends Meeting ceremony threw a little freedom of religion into the mix – it was more than fun, it was educational and matched K&B both so well! Years later, I used some Origami touches in my own wedding. No, not the cranes, but paper lanterns and parasols in red, yellow and orange. I know my 25 guest, outdoor affair fit me and Chris just as much; and I don’t feel like I intruded on another cultures traditions to accomplish it.

Picture: Whatever it is that you made, of course. Feel free to tell me what you did with your paper creations. Were they airplanes, did you fly them? Maybe an Origami creature play of some sort? My crane made little cawing sounds and flapped one of its wings (apparently I did it wrong, the other wing seems to be unflappable) as it flew around my husband’s head. No, I’m not sure why he loves me either – most days I act like a petulant child. In retaliation, Chris threw a pillow at me head. OK, that was me too. Chris just made tea and sliced strawberries to serve with it. Mmm…strawberries…

Song: The Bangles “Manic Monday”, which has nothing at all to do with this post, but it is Monday.

Tomorrow: Reread a Favorite Book


  1. what a joy to read your blogs, thank you. please keep on writing.

  2. Feel better soon. The best I can do is a coodie catcher.

  3. Thank you both! And yes, at some point during the evening of Origami fun I totally wanted to throw in the towel and make a cootie catcher/fortune teller thing.