Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Origami cranes

I have to admit to being a little tiny weeny bit of an origami fan. It's not ever something that I have done that regularly but whenever I do find the time or happen across a piece of origami paper I love to sit down and have a little fold. I won't profess to having any major talent or getting much beyond the basics though I have managed to make a few origami insects that I'm quite proud of.
My latest passion however has been for cranes. I'm not sure how this came about but I think it's an amalgamation of ideas that have been swirling around in my head for a few weeks now. The first part came from wanting to make something other than by knitting which I realise is a shocking and scandalous thing to say. I used to do a lot of different arts and crafts though and whilst I'm not particularly inclined to pick any of them up again at the moment due to time commitments or cost I still thought it might be nice to just have another little string to my harp (that phrase should be 'string to my bow' but it never made sense to me as it meant you could only ever use one string at a time and people are much more complex than that).
The second part I think came from reading about a friends personal spiritual and emotional journey using Buddhist teachings. I was quite touched by what she had to say and it gave me a reason to sit and read around on a subject that I haven't ever really taken the time to explore. From this came a desire to spend more time on me, doing some meditation and generally having a purposeful relax. I realised that whilst I spend a lot of my time at home sat on the sofa knitting away I wasn't actually necessarily relaxing whilst doing it. This is especially true of recent times when I have been working on a lot of projects that have deadlines.
The third part is a little silly but it was a good reminder. I was watching Season 1 of Heroes the other day with my DH in which there is a scene where one of the characters, Hiro, folds a thousand origami cranes and hangs them in the blink of an eye to prove he can stop time.

(Photo linked from the Origamisources website)

It served as a good reminder that I do have one interest/hobby that doesn't take up much time, room or cost a lot of money. It has the extra added appeal of something that requires precision and just enough concentration that I am forced to stop thinking about problems and just think about folding and breathing.
I knew about the Japanese legend that promises that anyone who 'folds a thousand cranes will be granted a wish by Crane such as good health, long life or a cure from illness'. I didn't however know the full story behind this legend or about other stories/practices that have arisen around it.
At this point Wikipedia came to my rescue. To read the whole article go here but the essence of it is that the crane is one of Japans Mythical Beasts (along with e.g. dragons) and strings of cranes have thus become popular gifts in Japan and China. A thousand cranes are often given as a wedding gift, for the birth of a child and when hung in the home are thought to work as a kind of lucky charm.

Strings of paper cranes (very pretty)

A thousand paper cranes have also become a symbol of world peace, mostly bought about by the story of Sadako Sasaki who developed leukemia after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Sadako started to fold paper cranes with one wish in mind- to live. There are conflicting accounts of whether Sadako managed to complete her thousand cranes before her death at the age of 12, but her story has spread through the release of a book entitled 'Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes'. There is a statue of her holding a paper crane at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial as well as in Seattle Peace Park and she has become a symbol for world peace.

A quick search of the Internet will produce many other uses for paper cranes ranging from peace initiatives to art installations- well worth a look in my opinion.

With all of this this in mind, I have decided that I will make an attempt at making a thousand paper cranes myself. I figure that it will give me a few minutes in the day where I have to relax and I can take those minutes whenever and as often as I like. As I make them I'm going to try and keep my mind clear, focus on my breathing and if I can't do that then I'll think of someone to send some love to as I fold my little crane up. It will also give me a nice little goal that I work towards in my own time and at my own pace. On top of this it is great practice at origami and I hope that by the end of it my creases will be razor sharp.
I've already made a start at stockpiling cranes- I have 10 done already. I think I will be stringing them up with beads in between (so not piled up like they are in the photo above) and hanging a few around my house. The rest I plan to give away. I might even make some mobiles from them just for something a little different. One of the other things I'm really going to enjoy about this is the chance to geek over the paper. I plan on making my cranes in a multitude of colours and patterns. I know that it is possible to get origami paper with Japanese prints on the sheets (which I love) so expect to see pictures of pretty colours here soon. Just to start off with here's a photo of some of my 'early works'.


  1. I love origami, too. Every once in a while, I go back to it, too. I know what you mean about neglecting my other crafts.

  2. Several years back I read this story to my students and we made 1,000 cranes. They were displayed on Multicultural Day.
    My daughter is a Middle school Art teacher and she teaches origami to her students.
    I am hooked on Heros as well.