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Origami: The Japanese Art of Paper Folding

Although Origami is known to be a Japanese Art or sometimes Craft, it actually started out in China. The Chinese invented paper, and when the invention spread to Japan, so did the art of paper folding. Most Japanese practice origami, but it started out as an art form for religious ceremonies. Find out more about the history of origami, and try your hand at a simple model.

Origami simply means to fold paper. Ori means to fold and kami means paper. The art of paper folding reached Japan sometime in the seventh century. At first it was used in religious ceremonies, where pieces of paper were folded in a particular way to have a particular meaning. It was also used for wrapping gifts. Paper was scarce and expensive so that only the rich could afford to use it. Slowly the process for making paper became quicker and cheaper, and everyone had access to it. Once everyone had access the art of origami really took hold.

Origami wasn't always called that. That was the name given to it in the nineteenth century. Before that it was known by many different names, depending on what it was being used for. No one has ever come up with a definition of origami that everyone can agree on. Some people say it is an art, some a craft, some say you can cut the paper or use more than one piece, others say it must be only one piece of paper and folded without cutting. It is very confusing, but most people seem to think of it as usually being the folding of a single sheet of paper to form an object. The object can either be decorative, as in the form of a bird, or useful, as in a vase or box.

At first no directions were ever written down for the models. They were taught to each new generation and passed on by learning and practicing. The first known book on how to make an origami object was written in 1797 and is called How to Fold 1000 Cranes. There is a tradition in Japan that says anyone who folds 1000 paper cranes has his wishes granted. Many children start folding cranes in Kindergarten, and complete 1000 sometime later.

Today there are hundreds of books and Internet sites offering instructions on origami. Some of them are very complex models, and it takes a long time to learn how to make them. Because the models are so complex, a special system of symbols has been invented for showing the different folds. There is also special paper for making origami models. It is sold in square sheets, usually colored on one side and white on the other. To start with, though, you can use any square sheet of paper.

Now, if origami is defined as the art or craft of folding paper to make an object, then water bombs are a type of origami. When I was a child water bombs were definitely my favorite things to make from paper. Now I'm a Mom I don't like them quite as much, but I'll show you how anyway!

Caution: Throwing water bombs in the house or school may get you grounded for a very long time. It is definitely a good idea to throw these outside.
Also remember that if you live in a high rise, dropping these out of the window from any height can cause serious injury to anyone they land on. They are best used to throw at older brothers and sisters, in your back yard.

You will need a square sheet of paper, and some patience. It is easier to follow the instructions if you color one side of the paper first.

Stage 1: Creasing Your Paper

  • First fold the paper, plain sides together diagonally.
  • Unfold and refold the other way, so that when you flatten out the paper you have two creases in an X shape.
  • Next, fold the paper colored sides together, across the middle. Then unfold again.
  • Now your paper should look like this:
  • Stage 2: Making a Triangle

  • Lay the paper flat, plain side down, with the down fold running across the middle from side to side.
  • Place a finger under the middle of the paper and push upwards.
  • You should see a pyramid shape start to form.
  • Pull up on the point of the pyramid, push the sides inwards and the front and back together.
  • Now you should have something that looks like this:
  • Stage 3: Making a Square

  • Turn your triangle so that you have the top point facing away from you.
  • Take the bottom right hand corner (top layer only) and fold it up to the point.
  • Repeat with the left side.
  • Now you should still have a triangle on the bottom layer, and a square on the top.
  • Turn the paper over and repeat with the second triangle.
  • Now it should look like this:
  • Stage 4: Fixing the Corners

  • Take the right hand point and fold it to the center (top layer only)
  • Repeat with the left point
  • Turn your square over and repeat
  • .
  • You should now have three layers of paper at the top of your square
  • .
  • The points that you folded in should have a little pocket in them, at the top
  • .
  • Take the right hand top layer and fold it down so that it meets the folded in point on the right, at the center of your shape
  • .
  • Now it should look like this:
  • Next, take the right hand piece you have just folded (looks like a small triangle), and fold it again, along the base (see diagram).
  • Unfold it and then tuck it into the pocket that was formed in stage three.
  • Repeat this for each of the remaining three points.
  • Stage 5: Opening out your "Bomb"

  • Take the top point and fold it down to the center, crease hard.
  • Do the same for the bottom point
  • Unfold both points, turn your model over and repeat, creasing them the other way, and unfolding them again.
  • At the bottom point you should see a small hole.
  • Blow hard into the hole, and gently pull the sides of your model until you have a cube.
  • Now you can pour water into the cube and throw it. Don't wait too long to throw it, or the paper will become too wet, and the cube will tear.

    If you want to learn more about origami and try your hand at some other models, visit these sites:

    How to make an Origami Crane
    Origami Pyramid Container
    The History of Origami
    Origami Files and Diagrams
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