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What is Kusudama Origami?

By Soo Owens
Updated Feb 03, 2024
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Kusudama origami is a style of Japanese paper folding. Building on traditional origami techniques, kusudama origami involves multiple folded sheets of paper that are combined into a spherical construction. The resulting sculpture is usually styled after flowers.

A well-known Japanese art-form, origami dates back to Japan's Edo period, around 1600 CE. Origami artists produce a paper sculpture, often from a single square sheet of paper of various sizes. These sculptures often resemble animals or plants, but new forms have been explored since it gained international attention in the early 1990s.

Origami of the Kusudama style are larger than many other types of origami and are spherical in form. They are made by fastening several, separate pre-folded origami together, often with thread or glue, to form a more ornate sculpture. Kusudama origami are usually intended to resemble flowers but can also be formed into other objects that retain an overall ball-like structure.

Some origami practitioners do not consider kusudama origami to be a legitimate style because of the thread and glue that are used to hold the ball together. They claim that in order for a sculpture to truly be considered origami it must be made entirely of paper. There are others, though, who do not see the need to deny an important stage in the development of the origami art-form based solely on this argument.

The Kusudama style has existed for several hundred years as a Japanese folk art. It is considered a valuable stage in the development of origami, leading to much more ornate and difficult designs and sculptures. Another style called modular origami originated under the influence of Kusudama origami. The modular method produces complex three-dimensional paper sculptures by using a system of overlapping flaps to bind the separate parts together.

Kusudama comes from the Japanese words for medicine and ball. While the actual origins of kusudama are unknown, it is thought that they were herb or flower plants that were gathered and stored by wrapping their stems together. When the kusudama origami first appeared, it was scented and housed fragrances such as potpourri and incense, most likely for medicinal purposes.

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