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Origami basics

What is origami?

Answers vary. "Technically" speaking, the essence of origami (paperfolding) is to represent different subjects using (one or more) sheets of paper by folding only, without utilizing any further tools. Although some accept, the majority of origamists refuses cutting and glueing, as well as drawing.

The situation gets somewhat more complicated concerning the number and shape of papers that are used. These issues divide the origami community into different fractions. Some only accept using square shaped papers, others don't mind about (or even prefer) other shapes: triangles, pentagons or hexagons. Likewise, some require that models should be made from one sheet only, while others don't take it as a disaster if a model needs more sheets. Such judgements depend on the subject as well. In case of boxes and complex geometric structures, using more sheets is generally accepted until it is required functionally. As for animals, there is usually no technical obstacle of one-piece solutions. This is well demonstrated by the origami replica of several odd-shaped insects.

As it can be anticipated, the difficulty of origami models ranges from very easy to extremely complex in almost all subjects. Here we have different camps again: those cheering for simple, fast-to-make designs, and those favouring time-consuming, demanding ones. I would note here that simplicity is not an obstacle of ingeniousness and complexity itself is not a guarantee for great design, either...


First steps...

Many have asked me how difficult it is to learn origami and how much time does it take. Well, there is no generally applicable simple answer to this question. My opinion is that the key to success is being interested - all the rest is "just" a question of practice and persistence. A lot of models can be folded successfully by knowing just a handful of basic folds, while understanding a relatively simple set of symbols will help you reading diagrams (step-by-step visual guides that show the folding process).

I would stress only one, but important principle: graduality. Beginners should try to avoid "deep waters" by resisting the temptation of starting their origami endavour with any of those nice-looking complex models. The difficulty of models is indicated by the number of steps in their diagram. This is not a completely objective measure (since diagrammers often fit more than one fold into one step), but usually characterises difficulty quite well. After selecting a model to fold, it is a good idea to skim through its diagram once, in order to survey whether there are any points that are unclear. If you find such, be prepared for the possibility of failure (which is not always the case, of course, so it is worth to try folding at least once). With time and practice, such precautions can be neglegted...


Choice of paper

Just like choosing the model of proper difficulty, selection of the proper paper quality and size is equally important. With some practice you will get a feeling of how to make this choice. Generally speaking, complex models will need thinner, yet strong (durable) papers with large size. There are techniques, such as "wet folding" and "sandwich paper" (combination of paper and aluminum foil), that can help fulfilling the sometimes contradictionary requirements. Probably I will describe these at a later time.