Spotlight Columns

And now for something completely different … Folding Paper at the Crocker

By From page B2 | August 14, 2013

Paper is a part of the human experience. Whether you hold it in your hands as you enjoy your coffee or employ it in your tablet’s printer, this “consumer staple” is an ancient companion.

The First Dynasty Egyptians used the fibers of the papyrus plant to jot down their accomplishments some 6,000 years ago. It is from “papyrus” that we derive the word “paper.”

The next leap forward came almost 4,000 years later. The Chinese developed the precursor to today’s modern paper, made from wood pulp, around the second century B.C. It was developed there as a substitute for writing on silk.

By the middle ages, modern paper spread from China to the Middle East and Europe.

Buddhist monks carried paper to Japan in the sixth century. Paper was rare and expensive, so it was first used only in religious ceremonies. Perhaps this is why the Japanese, being an innovative people, began using this new material in a reverent, contemplative and beautiful way.

They started to fold it.

Origami, the art of folding paper, derives its name from two Japanese words. “Ori” means “to fold” and “kami” means “paper.”

A little more than 1,000 years later, Europeans also began crafting objects with paper.

Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami is an exhibit currently on display at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento.

This exhibit takes the visitor through the worldwide history of origami to today.

Dynamic, innovative and exquisite, the art of origami exceeds the boundaries of the craft. Origami today inspires innovative concepts in mathematics and design, as well as inventions in engineering, architecture and technology.

The origami crane is even a symbol of the global peace movement. One sees displays of “One Thousand Cranes for Peace” at various times around the world.

The Folding Paper exhibit features approximately 140 works by more than 50 international artists. This examination of paper also includes origami-related woodblock prints, photograph murals and videos.

The exhibit has four parts: The History of Origami, Animals and Angels: Representations of Real and Imagined Realms, Angles and Abstractions: Geometric Forms and Conceptual Constructions, and Inspirational Origami: It’s Impact on Science, Industry, Fashion and Beyond.

When I toured this exhibit, I was charmed by the traditional origami. I was flat-out astounded by the more innovative shapes and spheres.

Origami’s contribution to science is also fascinating. Here, I learned that Dr. Robert J. Lang, scientist and mathematician, used computational origami to determine how to fold the lens for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Eyeglass Telescope. This allowed the lens to be launched compactly and then re-opened in space. The resulting design used an origami structure he dubbed “The Umbrella” after its resemblance to the furled state of a collapsible umbrella.

Allow a good hour to go through everything, then enjoy browsing through the Crocker’s many other galleries. The museum boasts a very nice gift shop and a boutique café with excellent salads, pastas and sandwiches.

Folding Paper runs through Sept. 29. The Crocker Art Museum is located at 216 O St. in downtown Sacramento. Bring plenty of quarters to feed the hungry parking meters. A quarter buys you about 12 minutes, so plan accordingly. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and closed on Monday. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for college students and seniors, $5 for youth ages seven to 17 and free for kids 6 and younger. Visit for more information. 

Send your event for consideration in Susan’s column to [email protected].

Susan Laird


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