Cleverly transforming a flat square of paper into three-dimensional sculpture through folding and without the use of scissors or glue is a beloved pastime in Japan among both children and adults, and dates from the Edo period (1603–1867).
Such paper folding – called origami – produces creations as wide-ranging as a person’s imagination. Enthusiasts make animals, from horses to rabbits; sea creatures, from whales to seahorses; insects, from crickets to butterflies; trees and flower blossoms; figures of geisha and samurai; and even action figures, such as cranes with movable wings.
“Between Folds: Origami Classical and Modern” features ingenious folded paper forms by origami artist M. Craig. Raised in Japan and America, “M, as she calls herself, holds a degree in Fine Arts and is co-founder of the Tucson Origami Club and has taught Japanese paper-folding techniques throughout the Tucson region since 1996. She has also exhibited at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and the Tucson Botanical Gardens.
Our exhibition continues until April 1, 2018 and entrance is free with regular Gardens admission. Also of interest: a parallel exhibition of larger-than-life metal origami sculptures – “Origami in the Garden 2” – at the nearby Tucson Botanical Gardens also until April 1, 2018.
The human touch in folk crafts in Japan was largely brushed aside by the country’s rapid modernization in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In response, there has arisen a folk art preservation movement called mingei. It focuses on the beauty in objects created by average people that are practical and used in daily life.
Our new museum gallery and its permanent exposition, “Mingei: Old Japan on Hand,” shows the movement to be a distinctly Japanese appreciation of the traditional. Mingei challenges narrow definitions of art by focusing on utilitarian items made by their everyday users, rather than on refined works from professional artists.
The collection includes objects spanning more than 200 years. Among them are a straw barrel and porcelain cups to store and drink Japanese rice wine, or sake, and brushes tipped with deer, horse, rabbit, or squirrel hair to draw calligraphy and make ink-wash paintings. You’ll find garments, too – kimonos and obi sashes – as well as a rustic iron hearth and traditional hasami, or sewing scissors, forged by an ironmonger from a single piece of steel and reflecting the skills of sword makers applied to a household item.
With “Mingei: Old Japan on Hand,” we celebrate nameless creators who used materials as common as themselves – stone, ceramics, textiles, paper, bamboo, lacquer, and wood – to make functional things that are humble, but nonetheless of value, because they preserve the sense of the personal in an era of mass production.