“Over all, I want you to discover the joy of creation by your own hand. ... The possibility of creation from paper is infinite.”
— Akira Yoshizawa
FOR CENTURIES, ORIGAMI was used to make traditional objects, like simple boats and birds, until one man finally brought the art form into the modern fold.
Akira Yoshizawa imbued his paper artworks with sublime elegance and sculptural innovation. And much how an origami artist transforms a simple sheet of paper into three-dimensional magic, Yoshizawa — model by model, diagram by diagram, year after year — transformed a child’s pastime into the very art of “living” origami.
Today, Google celebrates the 101st anniversary of the late Yoshizawa’s birth with a pleated home-page “Doodle” adorned with ready-to-flutter butterflies so associated with the artist.
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The Doodle was created with the help of Robert J. Lang, an origami master in his own right. “The combination of simplicity and depth is part of the essence of origami, and is key to Yoshizawa's work and legacy,” says Lang, a 50-something former laser physicist who left behind NASA and Silicon Valley jobs to devote himself to the science of origami.
Two of Yoshizawa’s key contributions to modern origami were the technique of “wet-folding,” by which thicker moistened paper can add a soft sculptural feel to a figure; and his notational diagrams that explained how to fold a model in the universal language of arrows and dotted lines. Yoshizawa said he created tens of thousands of origami models, only a fraction of which were diagrammed.
“Instead of trying to be as lifelike as possible, he tried to make it as 'living' as possible,” Origami USA member June Sakamoto, speaking of Yoshizawa’s art, told the New York Times upon the grandmaster’s death in 2005. “If he was going to make a rooster, you really felt it was crowing, but you didn't have to see every detail of the feathers.”
YOSHIZAWA, born in Japan as the son of dairy farmers, did not learn origami as a child, but rather became fascinated with sculptural paper in his 20s, devoting himself to the art for about two decades while making very little money off of it.
In the ‘50s, an origami assignment for a Japanese magazine launched his career, and by mid-decade, he had an exhibit in Amsterdam.
Yoshizawa’s work was shown the world over, including at the Louvre, and in the ‘80s, he received the high Japanese honor of the Order of the Rising Sun.
Yoshizawa emphasized that one's spirit should reside within the origami model’s folds. In today’s Doodle — through the craft of Lang and Google artists — Yoshizawa’s creative spirit lives on.
[Note: On the Official Google Blog, viewers are invited to try their own hand at creating the origami Doodle from six diagrammed “letters”.]
Comic Riffs’ TOP TWELVE ‘GOOGLE DOODLES’ THAT HONOR MUSICAL & VISUAL ARTISTS (*before today):
1. LES PAUL: THE PLAYABLE GUITAR
2. MARTHA GRAHAM: THE DANCING DOODLE
3. JOHN LENNON: IMAGINE THIS DOODLE
4. FREDDIE MERCURY: THE MUSIC VIDEO
5. JIM HENSON: THE CLICKABLE MUPPETS
6. CHARLES ADDAMS: THE SPOOKY DOODLE
7. ART CLOKEY: THE “GUMBY DOODLE”
8. MARY BLAIR: THE DISNEY DOODLE
9. DIEGO RIVERA: THE LARGER-THAN-LIFE MURAL
10. ALEXANDER CALDER: THE MOBILE DOODLE
11. WILL EISNER: THE SPIRITED DOODLE
12. RICHARD SCARRY: THE BUSTLING NEIGHBORHOOD