The art of origami is one of Japan’s most widely recognized cultural contributions to the international world. Although the practice of paper-folding has many possible roots, the Japanese approach to sculpting three-dimensional shapes from flat squares has had a large impact on many people’s approach to not just art, but also packaging and product design. Here are six very special items, designed both in and out of Japan, which claim inspiration from the practice of origami.

1. The Balloon Stole


When worn flat, the Balloon Stole looks just like any other long, wide scarf, but inflate the bits at the end, and the fabric adopts a shape reminiscent of folded paper. This shawl draws inspiration from the kind of paper balloons created using origami. The triangular pieces affixed to the fabric allow the wearer to sculpt the ends of this stole into any number of crinkled shapes! Wrapping it around your neck is just the start of creating your own unique fashion statement.

2. Oru Folding Kayak


This convenient brand of kayak was created by the boat-loving designer, Anton Willis. He got the idea after reading a magazine article about the science of origami and thinking to himself how great it would be if kayaks could be folded like paper and made more compact. Willis’s finished product is made of lightweight plastic, both durable and pliable. Creases in the plastic allow it to be folded-up and carried with ease.



IKAROS, short for Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun, was the world’s first spacecraft to successfully utilize solar-sail technology. Rather than rely on non-existent wind power, solar sails use pressure from the sun’s rays to propel their ships through outer space. In order for this to work, the sail must be incredibly thin. We’re talking one tenth the thickness of common plastic wrap! And the whole reason that Japan was able to produce the first successful solar-sail was because they used techniques born from origami to fold the film in such a way that it could be safely launched, and still open smoothly in space.

4. BE Light


This very modern-looking lamp was designed with a hint of origami in mind. The simple design can be folded into a compact shape or extended for far-reaching light. This cool design is elegant from any angle, and super functional, as one can freely control the angle of the lamp.

5. Origami street art


The piece above was created by the 29-year-old French artist, Mademoiselle Maurice. After spending some time studying in Japan, she felt inspired to create works such as this from folded paper, in hopes of capturing the spirit with which Japanese people fold paper cranes. It’s said that if a person can collect 1,000 origami cranes, they will be blessed with peace and longevity, or can recover from serious illness.

6. Oritsunagumono


Oritsunagumono roughly translates to “items tied to folds.” This collection of art was created by a student at Kanazawa College of Art as part of their graduation final. The bones of various animals were printed onto sheets of translucent paper and then folded into origami creatures, giving the distinct impression that these paper sculptures are living animals on the inside. Although, if you look closely, you can see that the skeletons also envelop images of man-made trash. Thus, the origami becomes a beautiful carrier for a message about man’s careless attitudes having a bad impact on nature.

Who knew that origami could have such a variety of impacts on top of its innate cultural value! And I’d bet you anything that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Let us know if you can think of any other objects inspired by paper-folding.

Source: Naver Matome (Japanese)
Images: Monomatopee, Make Zine, dutdut on livedoor, Q is Design, Mademoiselle Maurice, Monogocoro