Remember the paper fortune tellers we made as kids, where answers would be revealed in a series of slick finger moves? Mention the word “origami” and your mind may revisit these childhood memories of folding paper planes or cranes. The classic art form is still celebrated and practised today as it was centuries ago; and there’s also scion emerging against a more contemporary backdrop. Not only is the paper-folding craft taking on new form, but new materials, such as wood and stone, are being used to adapt its basic principles. Furthermore, disciplines from art and science to furniture design are paying homage too. So who’s doing what?

The surface designer
Pleating, facets, and folds have long been the love of designers across disciplines, so it comes as no surprise that new materials are being used to mimic this form. One such example is stone design company Odyssey, whose Ishi Kiri collection bears a remarkable resemblance to folded paper, but its intricate pleats are engraved into white marble, limestone, and granite. When backlit or front lit, these stone surface creations take on a dramatic three- dimensionality, which can be used to cover walls.

The furniture designers
Emerati product designer Aljoud Lootah’s first furniture collection was launched at2015’s Design Days Dubai. It’s called The Oru Series — “oru” meaning “to fold”. The distinctly geometric language present in her range speaks to the simplicity of creating a product with both aesthetic and functional value by folding a two-dimensional sheet. Her collection includes a lamp, mirror, cabinet, and chair made predominantly of timber.

Canadian architects Andrea Kordos and Tony Round’s Cut and Fold series of plywood furniture takes its cue from the paper craft with two clever pieces: the Origami Chair and the Flip Shelf. Both are beautiful solutions to an everyday problem — the need for easily shipped furniture in small space applications. Using planes of plywood and piano hinges, each piece can be completely flat-packed.

The artist
Swiss-born Sipho Mabona falls more under the fine art vein. His life-sized elephant, folded from a single 15x15m sheet of paper was exhibited at 2015’s Guild Design Fair in Cape Town, but it’s his acrylic on folded paper framed works that caught our attention. The subtle shadows thrown by each facet make for dramatic and singular artworks.

So what is it about origami that has us reinventing it centuries later? The paper craft’s clean lines and angular structure are part of an aesthetic that we liken to modern minimal design especially that of the Asian and Scandinavian schools (surprise, surprise). And what could be more satisfying than creating a three-dimensional object by manipulating a two-dimensional one?

Five origami facts:

1. The exact beginnings of origami are hard to pinpoint, since paper deteriorates with age. Research shows that paper folding was present as early as 1000AD in China, but it became an art form resembling origami in Japan only about the 17th century.

2. It’s only traditional origami if you’re using a square sheet of paper, with no cutting involved.

3. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently invented the Origami Robot, whose tiny folded form can be ingested as a pill and then remotely instructed to remove accidentally swallowed button batteries.

4. Every year hundreds of thousands of paper cranes (a symbol of peace) are folded and sent to Hiroshima to be hung at the Children’s Monument, commemorating the dropping of the atomic bomb.

5. November 11 is World Origami Day. The day is celebrated globally, and its mission is to create awareness around the ancient art of paper folding.

This article was originally published by the Edit.

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