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!

“Folding Paper” Preview — Origami exhibition coming to JANM next year!

On Sunday, September 18, the museum hosted a special sneak preview of the upcoming exhibition, Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilites of Origami for our Upper Level Members.

Meher McDonald sharing slides of origami works during her presentation.

Meher McArthur, curator for the exhibition that will be opening at JANM in March 2012, gave a wonderful presentation about the history of origami in Japan, but also revealed a tradition of paper folding in Europe that surprised many in the audience.

Museum staff are collaborating with Meher on this exciting exhibition that will look at not just the origins and growth of paper folding, but also present an incredible selection of origami works from a diverse array of “folders” around the world. Not only do they represent countries like Japan, the U.S., France, Belgium, and Vietnam, they are diverse in their backgrounds as well. Some are artists and educators, while a large contingent are from math & science backgrounds.

Many exclamations of amazement from the crowd when Meher informed us that this was made from one piece of paper, and that the artist conceived & figured out how to fold it in his mind!

In addition to the mind-blowing contemporary pieces, the exhibition will also include a section on the influence of origami on science, medicine, fashion, and architecture. A very special section will focus especially on the role of origami cranes as a symbol of global unity and world peace.

This exhibition is being produced to travel by International Arts and Artists, but the Museum is a co-developer and will be the originating venue. Our own origami expert, volunteer Ruthie Kitagawa, is helping to create examples of some of the traditional pieces. It will open at JANM on March 10, 2012 and will travel for 3 years.

Inspired by the documentary, Between the Folds, Meher is putting together an exhibition that will delight and inform kids, educators, mathematicians, artists, and everyone in between.

If you are interested in supporting this exhibition, call Sarah Carle at 213.830.5670 for information about sponsorship opportunities.

P.S. Meher will be guest-blogging here on our FIRST & CENTRAL JANM blog! Check back for updates from her and more behind-the-scenes sneak-peeks!

These masks elicited a lot of 'oohs' and 'aahs'
Geometric origami. (sorry for the quality of the images. Took them on my phone)
Sadako Sasaki's story has inspired people around the world. Very excited that one of the cranes she folded will be in the exhibition.