As the Origami Folds, the Story Unfolds

IMG_1663by Neva Bodin

Recently I read an article re origami principles playing a part in developing surgical instruments, scoping body parts, and sending solar panels to the international space station.

Origami, folding one piece of paper into recognizable shapes with intricate details, is now a very advanced art form. It is thought to have originated in Japan during the 700’s after paper was brought to the country by Buddhist monks in the 600’s. (Paper was reportedly invented in China around 105 A.D. What a boon to writers!)

Our neighbor’s daughter folded these from small squares of paper while visiting us.

Examples of this art in this century include the folding of airbags in the cars so they may expand and open instantly, and transporting solar panels to space.

Now they are experimenting with a compressed folded robot that can be swallowed as a lozenge made of pig skin (used to love those pork rinds), or frozen in water which melts inside the body, then becomes an instrument to deliver medication to a particular spot in the body, or provide images of the area.

Reading about this remarkable technology, I began to see our writing as a form of origami. We unfold a story, expecting someone to “swallow it,” by first compressing lifetimes, experiences, etc. into pages pressed tightly together in a book. These pages connect the story so the beginning touches the end, with a myriad of folds and connections in between.

These she folded from the white wrapping around the napkins and silverware at the restaurant.

We fold these stories together, so people and their lives touch each other, intertwine and connect in such a way to create a world a reader may crawl inside and feel the connecting structure. We tighten the story, compressing a length of time into a few hundred pages, or maybe less. Reading the book is unfolding the story/creation. “As the story unfolds” is a common saying whether we speak of fiction or non-fiction.

“What’s most important is to breathe life into the paper,” said Eric Joisel, a well-known French origami artist. He died in 2010 of lung cancer after being featured in a 2009 documentary by Vanessa Gould about modern origami masters: “Between the Folds.”

We breathe life into our writing, as our story folds together, to be unfolded by an enthralled reader.

Another example of her talent. I believe she had a larger one like this on display at a museum in New York.

15 thoughts on “As the Origami Folds, the Story Unfolds

  1. I love Orgami. I have a couple of kits, but I haven’t tried to fold any, myself. Great anology. We do bend and fold our stories. They start out flat and end up 3 dimensional. I enjoyed the photos. Thanks Cher’ley


  2. An art form I’ve not tried, but love looking at. You make a great case for the connection between origami and writing. I loved it. Doris


    1. Thanks Doris. No matter the form of art it seems, there are similarities in creation. I like origami too, but only to look at and try to figure out without doing it.


  3. Wonderful post, Neva!! Great imagery to remember as we write and edit. I’ve not done origami, but I’ve certainly seen it and heard about it, especially regarding the creation of cranes, which are sacred in parts of southeast Asia, China and Japan. Thanks for an enlightening and inspiring post!


    1. Thanks for the comments! I am amazed at the talent needed for origami and the creations they are able to do. Really liked that guy’s statement about “breathing life into it” same as we do our writing.


  4. As the ONLY third-grader in my class who NEVER managed to fold the paper so the snowflake came out with six points–every one of mine had eight, and the teacher finally gave up– much less fold paper into anything more complex than a sad little earth-bound airplane, I appreciate your analogy between origami and writing. You make me think maybe I’m folding something right. Thanks for an interesting and inspiring post. (The idea of swallowing a robot is mind-boggling.)


  5. A soon-to-launch space telescope, the Webb scope, is kind of like an orgami tool. Its mirror will unfold, believe it or not. It should allow us to have a peek at the early Universe and maybe at some extra-solar planets. I like your comparison of orgami to creative writing. For the writer creating the tale and for the reader getting the plot revealed page after page, it is an unfolding.


  6. Your post reminds me of a middle grade book I read by Naomi Hirahara called 1001 Cranes. A young 12-year-old girl learns origami in her grandmother’s flower shop where they fold cranes for newlyweds for traditional Japanese weddings. It was a lovely book and I really enjoyed learning about origami and Japanese traditions.


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