Folding Paper travels to New Hampshire!

If you missed the Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami exhibition when it was here at JANM earlier this year, there will be opportunities to catch the amazing origami pieces as the exhibition travels.

Richard Sweeney, 03M (Partial Shell), 2010. Watercolor paper, wet folded. Photo © Richard Sweeney.

Folding Paper just opened at the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery at Keene State College in Keene, NH. It will be on display through December 9, 2012. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

Gallery Hours:
Sunday-Wednesday: noon – 5pm
Thursday & Friday: noon – 7pm
Saturday: noon – 8pm

From there, it will go next to the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, WI from January 26 – April 7, 2013. Future venues are the Crocker Art Museum (Sacramento, CA), Oregon Historical Society (Portland, OR), Peoria Riverfront Museum (Peoria, IL), Bellevue Arts Museum (Bellevue, WA), Center for the Arts of Bonita Springs (Bonita Springs, FL), Brigham Young University Museum of Art (Provo, UT), and the Boise Art Museum (Boise, ID).

Check International Arts & Artists’ website for more info on the tour schedule and dates >>

Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami

The Folding Paper exhibition catalogue is still available from the Museum Store. Will make a great gift for an origami or art enthusiast!

Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami ($24.95)


Girl Scout Patch Program — new date added!

Due to an overwhelming demand, we are adding one more date to our Girl Scout Patch Program. We hope you can join us…

Date: Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Time: 1 pm – 3 pm (registration will begin at 12:45 pm)

What you will do:

– Guided visit of our exhibition Common Ground: The Heart of Community

– Self-guided visit of Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami

– Hands-on origami making session

– Receive a special JANM patch

Price: $10/person (for each scouts, for each adult, for each sibling)

RSVP: In your rsvp, please be sure to include (a) the name of each scout; (b) the age of each scout; (c) the name of each sibling; (d) the name of each adult. Space is limited and advance registration is required.

This is a great chance for Scouts to see the Folding Paper exhibition before it closes on August 26.

Photos by Richard Watanabe and Richard M. Murakami

Summer Festival coming up this Saturday!

14th Annual Summer Festival on the Courtyard - Japanese American Olympics. Saturday, August 11, 2012. 11am-5pm. FREE ADMISSION ALL DAY!

Our 14th Annual Summer Festival on the Courtyard is this weekend!

Sporty Courtyard Kaeru waving JANM flagSummer Festival is our BIGGEST event of the year. We’re preparing a full day of FREE family fun. If you couldn’t make it to London for the Summer Olympics, come out to JANM for the JA Olympics!

LOTS of free activities and crafts to keep kids of all ages busy all day, or just stop by in between checking out the various Nisei Week and Tanabata Festival festivities going on throughout Little Tokyo.

We’re especially excited about our Jan Ken Po TournamentJA Trivia Challenge, and Origami Design Contest! Compete for your chances to win a special JA Olympics medal & prizes!

Jan Ken Po Tournament

P.S. This month is also your last chance to come check out our very popular Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami and Xploration Lab 2012 exhibitions before they close on August 26th!

Girl Scout Patch Program


We’re proud to announce a new Girl Scout Patch Program!

Date: Either July 29, 2012 (Sun) or August 4, 2012 (Sat)

Time: 11am – 1 pm

What you will do:

– Guided visit of our exhibition Common Ground: The Heart of Community

– Self-guided visit of Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami

– Hands-on origami making session

– Receive a special JANM patch (pictured above)

Price: $10/person, including scouts, adults, and siblings

RSVP:  Space is limited and advance registration is required.

Please help us spread the word!

Reflections from a 9-year-old supporter

Photo by Richard M. Murakami

The coolest exhibit at JANM is the paper folding. But I call it origami because I love to learn new origami every time I go to the museum. There’s a beautiful white dress and even shoes that are made by folding paper. Wow! There are masks, dinosaurs and other great things to see. I have been going to JANM for 7 years and I am going to be 9 pretty soon.

Photo by Richard M. Murakami

I mostly go to the Target Free Family Saturdays because there is great stuff to see and do.  And, I get to cook with Lisa.



Blog written by Pika

JANM friend and longtime Target Free Family Saturday participant

Sipho Mabona installing "The Plague" at JANM, 2012

Origami Takes Flight: The Installation Work of Sipho Mabona

Sipho Mabona is one of the most accomplished and respected origami artists in the world.

Sipho Mabona installing "The Plague" at JANM, 2012
Mabona installing The Plague at JANM, 2012, Photo by Michael Dressler

Like many folders of complex origami forms, he starts with square sheets of paper and transforms them into bugs, birds and beasts that are so intricately folded that they often take hours to complete. Without using scissors or glue, he is able to create perfectly proportioned, anatomically correct and artistically exquisite representations of swallows, polar bears, insects and even people. He is not the only artist who does this, as we can see from the other folded figures in the Folding Paper exhibition that is currently at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM). Such artists as Robert J. Lang, Brian Chan and Michael G. LaFosse are renowned for their remarkable folded paper depictions of the natural realm.

What makes this Swiss-South African artist different is what he chooses to do and say with his folded paper bugs, birds and beasts. Mabona’s large-scale installations, often comprising many tens of folded creatures arranged in a particular formation, make bold and very timely political and social statements.

His 2010 work Bearly Surviving, which depicts dozens of polar bears crowded together on a shrinking iceberg—all folded individually from squares of white paper—is a poignant sculptural commentary on the damage caused by climate change. Another of his installations depicts a flock of graceful swallows confronted by a glass window; several have hit the glass and have fallen dead on the floor, suggesting a tragic collision of the human and natural realms.

Bearly Surviving by Sipho Mabona, 2010
Bearly Surviving by Sipho Mabona, 2010, Photo by Sipho Mabona


His site-specific installation The Plague, which is currently on view at JANM, contains an even more potent political message. A total 144 locusts take form out of sheets of dollar bills and swarm the gallery, evoking the Biblical plague that was inflicted on humans who had behaved badly.

The Plague by Sipho Mabona, 2012
The Plague, 2012, JANM. Photo by Sipho Mabona.

According to Mabona, the transformation of money into locusts is a reference to the large, multi-national investment corporations that take over smaller companies throughout the world and then discard them for a quick profit. In German-speaking Europe, such corporations, usually foreign, have recently been referred to as Heuschrecken, or locusts, spreading in swarms and greedily devouring local businesses. In 2011, he decided that it was this concept that he wanted to depict in his next installation. Since the US dollar bill has become the global symbol of capitalism, he contacted the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing and ordered sheets of uncut dollar bills for his project. He then flew out to New York to pick them up, as the Bureau won’t send uncut bills overseas.

Sipho Mabona folding sheets of US dollar bills at JANM, March 2010
Mabona folding sheets of US dollar bills at JANM, March 2010. Photo by Meher McArthur.

In October 2011, he began folding his locusts out of squares measuring 7 by 3 bills each. Each locust took approximately 5 hours to fold, and is cleverly designed so that George Washington’s head appears on the wings and upper back, and the phrase “In God We Trust” runs across their foreheads. Mabona was careful to study not only the anatomy of these voracious insects but also their swarming formation; they all fly in the same direction at once. A week before the exhibition opened at JANM, Mabona began installing the piece, attaching each locust to a plastic thread that stretches up to the 35-foot high ceiling and then down to the floor. The effect is quite menacing. It is easy to forget that these creatures are folded out of paper.

Mabona is fascinated by the transformational aspect of origami, the potential to fold a flat square of paper into any form. The concept of transformation plays a large part in The Plague; dollar bills are morphed into a sinister plague of destructive insects. “Although a locust swarm is scary,” says Mabona, “where there is the ability to transform, there is hope. In origami, paper is folded into forms like these locusts, but the forms can be unfolded again. The creases will remain, but the paper can be folded again into something else—perhaps butterflies.”

To see more of Mabona’s work, see

Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami is on display through August 26, 2012. Visit the exhibition site for more details, related programs, and origami resources:

By Meher McArthur
Curator of Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami

Marie Digby

The musical artist and YouTube phenom Marie Digby is solid with JANM — and JANM is definitely down with her. Recently, Ms. Digby participated in a PSA for The Remembrance Project ( for JANM. (Remembrance Project is a way of commemorating folks who suffered through the US concentration camp experience and making sure that such civil rights tragedies never occur again in this great nation.)

Watching this music video of Ms. Digby’s made me think of another exhibit at JANM: Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami. So, in honor of that exhibition…and in honor of Marie Digby, JANM is posting this for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!

Google’s Origami Logo

Today, March 14, 2012 the internet search engine Google is celebrating the life and work of Japanese origami Master Akira Yoshizawa by spelling out its banner logo in origami letters.

Google Origami Logo designed by Robert J. Lang

Such a move is a testament to Yoshizawa’s contribution to the worldwide phenomenon that origami has become. It’s timing is also wonderful as we celebrate the opening this week of the exhibition Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami at the Japanese American National Museum.

Had Yoshizawa lived another seven years—he was born on March 14, 1911 and died in 2005—today would have been Yoshizawa’s 101st birthday. Yoshizawa was the world’s first full-time origami artist. In his twenties, he gave up his job in a factory to devote his life to origami. Over the course of his long life, he created numerous new origami designed, including rabbits, gorillas, pandas, and the pelican featured in the Folding Paper exhibition at JANM.

Akira Yoshizawa, photo courtesy of Mrs. Kiyo Yoshizawa

Yoshizawa also invented a new folding technique called wet folding, which enables folders to smooth down points and angles to create more naturalistic figures. This technique revolutionized origami, transforming it into a medium that is now used by artists all over the world to create exquisitely modeled folded paper sculptures.

In addition, he developed a system of notation for origami designs made up of arrows and lines to indicate the types and directions of folds. A version of this system, which helps people who don’t read Japanese to understand origami instructions, has essentially become the written language of origami instruction. In acknowledgement of his contributions to the evolution and spread of origami worldwide, the Japanese Emperor Hirohito awarded him the Order of the Rising Sun in 1983

Now, back to Google’s logo. It might be surprising to some that the playful origami letters were not generated by a computer. They were folded by renowned American origami artist Robert J. Lang. Lang, a laser physicist with a Ph.D. from CalTech, like Yoshizawa, left his job at JPL in Pasadena to become a full-time origami artist, and he now designs a wide range of origami forms, writes and lectures all around the world about origami (watch Robert Lang’s TED talk >>).

Lang’s approach to origami is highly mathematical, as can be seen in his super-complex insects and animals like the Emperor Scorpion on view in the Folding Paper exhibition. He is also regularly asked to apply his profound understanding of the mathematical origami to projects in the realms of space exploration, medicine, car air bag design, television commercials and now search engine logo design.

Scorpion HP, opus 593 by Robert J. Lang, 2011, folded from one uncut square of Hanji paper

Lang was my advisor for the exhibition since its conception in early 2010. I had thought I couldn’t be more impressed by Robert than I already was. He epitomizes the spirit of contemporary origami in his brilliance, artistry and generosity of spirit. Today he told me that when he was hired by Google to design its origami logo, he was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement.  He had to keep the project a secret. Now he’s being hired to do top secret origami assignments! Can he get any more awesome?!

Come and celebrate Akira Yoshizawa, Robert J. Lang and other outstanding origami artists at JANM! If you need to find the museum’s address, just google it!

Robert J. Lang will give a lecture at JANM entitled From Flapping Birds to Space Telescopes: The Modern Science of Origami
on Saturday May 26 at 2pm.

Posted by Meher McArthur, Curator of Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami

Folding Paper opens Saturday!

The exhibition opening is almost here! Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami opens this Saturday with a big day of origami activities at our March Target Free Family Saturday event.

It’s a FREE day full of activities, a gallery tour of Folding Paper with curator Meher McArthur, a talk and book signing with Takayuki Ishii, author of One Thousand Paper Cranes: The Story of Sadako and the Children’s Peace Statue.

Check out the full schedule >>


For Museum Members, we hope you can join us for the special Members’ Preview on Friday night. The program will include curator Meher McArthur and our new President & CEO G.W. Kimura.


To learn more about Folding Paper, visit for information about the exhibition, a list of related public programs, artist bios, and photos. You can also download an origami resources list from the Activities page.

Folding Paper exhibition site >>

It’s our last Target Free Family Saturday of 2011

Bring the family to the Museum this Saturday, December 10th as we finish off the year by designing wrapping paper and making paper snowflakes to go with this chilly weather that we’ve had the past couple of days.

We’re big fans of origami here at the Museum so we’ll also be making origami hopping frogs.  After you fold yours, have a contest with folded frogs made by other visitors to see how far they can hop.

If frogs aren’t your thing, we’ll also have an area for you to sharpen your origami skills making other fun things. Join us for these activities as well as Japanese gift wrapping workshops throughout the day.  A full schedule can be found here.

As an added bonus, if you come on Saturday, you’ll have a chance to join artist Patrick Nagatani at 2:00 pm for a gallery tour of his exhibition Desire for Magic: Patrick Nagatani currently on view in the Museum’s Weingart Foundation Gallery.

Finishing off 2011, we look ahead to 2012 for another year of family fun, which we hope you’ll join us for.  Our first event of the year is our big Oshogatsu New Year celebration on Sunday, January 8th.  Bring the whole family as we celebrate the Year of the Dragon! [Check out the Oshogatsu Family Day schedule of activities >>]

Come back on February 11th for our next Target Free Family Saturday and then again on March 10th for Target Free Family Day as well as a celebration of the opening of our next exhibition Folding Paper: the Infinite Possibilities of Origami.  See you soon!