Origami Creativity



This page is aimed solely at creation of origami models. Creation of new models cannot be taught. Latent creative skills can be developed. Understanding how the creative process works can help.

The 4 Main Creative Strands

I have recognised several common threads both from my own experience and when talking to other creators. The following are in no particular order.

1. The Improvement Ploy

Most creations come from adapting existing examples. In origami terms, produce a variation of an existing model which has different properties. This stems from the idea that the existing can and should be improved. Several times I've seen new models developed from previous cut models.

2. The Creative Play Ploy

In origami terms, start with a paper, make a couple of moves then see if the shape of the paper suggests part or whole of a model. Make more moves until something is suggested. Work towards enhancing the shape to achieve the final model. With practise recognition of embryonic models becomes second nature.

3. The Goal Setting Ploy

Deciding on a final target then working towards it can be very effective. In origami terms, the final model is decided first, then the most suitable starting point (or points) chosen with the target in mind. What follows must inevitably be the perspiration from the phrase "Creation is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration."

A variation of this ploy is to decide both the overall goal and the starting point i.e. I want to make a modular piece using a particular base (fish, bird, kite waterbomb etc.).

4. Serendipity

I define this as the rare occasions when a complete solution springs into mind, almost out of the blue. This process usually gives the best results. Invariably the moment of realisation must have been preceded by a period of preparation. In origami terms, working with a few selected techniques gives familiarity and can trigger a spontaneous creative surge. Models suggested this way need only a little extra work to complete.

Creativity in Practise

Which path to follow?

There is no single way to create. Creation is an imprecise art. Usually several of the processes outlined above are employed together in the creation of a single model. The path to follow is the one (or ones) which suit you best. The important thing is to keep trying, it does get easier with practise.

Other Creative Aides

Inspiration can be triggered in many ways. Adopting a favourite technique perhaps and developing a new model using that technique. Taking a new tack i.e. tackling a subject nobody has yet done or tackling an old subject from a fresh viewpoint. Brainstorming as a technique can open up new viewpoint ideas. Be open to sources outside origami and be prepared to adapt them. Set a new target - fold a recognisable model in only 5 steps for example. Perhaps you might consider a change of philosophy- start with a triangular paper or allow more than one piece in the finished model. Dare to do something different.

When creating a complex model, try splitting the model into smaller parts and work on each part separately. The separate papers can be fixed together later and any anomalies worked out.

Don't let yourself be sidetracked. Ignore all the exciting distractions of which paper to choose, what colour to fold with etc. Do it the hard way, use brown wrapping paper (if it's an animal say) or your most infrequently used coloured paper (if you need colour contrast). This way, you are more likely to make models that are independent of the paper used.

If you need a few incentives, then consider these. Creators get their work published in society publications (free books/mags, free convention packs). Better creators get their work published for real. (money, prestige etc.) Go for it.

The Creative Cycle

The first step is learning basic techniques. In origami terms, this means folding everything and anything you can get hold of. The next step is usually improving existing models. The inspiration for this is in the form of "What if this model had a better property (shape, movement, etc.)?" The final step is producing your own complete models.

There is another "maturity" cycle which usually applies too, once some creative proficiency is achieved. Most creators discover that once they can improve on existing models then complex models are relatively easy to create. After a period of complex creations then realisation dawns that, paradoxically, good simple models are even more difficult to create. Good simple models are rare. This is no coincidence.

Most creators go through creative Highs and Lows. During a High period models are tumbling out at a faster rate than can be folded or diagrammed. Inevitably after a High there follows a Low or fallow period when inspiration is lacking. The experience is (I imagine) similar to writer's block.

Goodness and Badness

The term "good" as applied to an origami model I define as


The term "bad" as applied to an origami model I define as the opposite to "good" i.e.



There are good models in all classes, simple, intermediate and complex. One thought strikes me. More people are likely to fold a good simple model than a good intermediate or good complex model. Popularity is only one criteria of the success of a model. Critical acclaim is another. As in all artistic activities there are no hard and fast rules, general guidelines perhaps or rules only exist for breaking. Do your own thing.

Final Words

Keep trying and bombard those editors with new models. They love new work, especially if already diagrammed so they have the minimum of work to do.