What is origami? This topic is often discussed on the origami list, and can be quite a complex question. Does origami refer to folding paper, or does it include other mediums, like sheet metal or edible paper-thin pancakes? Is origami a craft or an art? Can it be both? Should the definition of origami allow some gluing and cutting, as long as the origami model is arrived at mainly through folding? In an email to the origami list dated 21 Jan 1999, Joseph Wu provided this simple yet encompassing definition, which I happen to like quite a bit:
Origami is a form of visual / sculptural representation that is defined primarily by the folding of the medium (usually paper).
You may have your own ideas on this subject. As has been pointed out on the origami list, the search for an exact definition might at first seem impractical: put simply, who cares? Well, suppose someone were to set up a permanent origami exhibition at a museum, or a charitable trust for the promotion of origami. Both of these situations would require the organizers to set down a definition of origami for legal purposes.
As for the word itself, it is commonly known that the word is Japanese in origin; oru means "to fold", and kami means "paper". But did you know that the folding of paper was not always called origami? We Will cover that in our next post.