14 March 1911|
|Died||14 March 2005
Akira Yoshizawa (吉澤 章 Yoshizawa Akira; 14 March 1911 – 14 March 2005) was a Japanese origamist, considered to be the grandmaster of origami. He is credited with raising origami from a craft to a living art. According to his own estimation made in 1989, he created more than 50,000 models, of which only a few hundred designs were presented as diagrams in his 18 books. Yoshizawa acted as an international cultural ambassador for Japan throughout his career. In 1983, Japanese emperor Hirohito named him to the Order of the Rising Sun, one of the highest honors that can be given to a Japanese citizen.
Yoshizawa was born on 14 March 1911, in Kaminokawa, Japan, to the family of a dairy farmer. When he was a child, he took pleasure in teaching himself origami. He moved into a factory job in Tokyo when he was 13 years old. His passion for origami was rekindled in his early 20s, when he was promoted from factory worker to technical draftsman. His new job was to teach junior employees geometry. Yoshizawa used the traditional art of origami to understand and communicate geometrical problems.
In 1937 he left factory work to pursue origami full-time. During the next 20 years, he lived in total poverty, earning his living by door-to-door selling of tsukudani (a Japanese preserved condiment that is usually made of seaweed). During World War II, Akira Yoshizawa served in the army medical corps in Hong Kong. He made origami models to cheer up the sick patients, but eventually fell ill himself and was sent back to Japan. His origami work was creative enough to be included in the 1944 book Origami Shuko, by Isao Honda (本多 功). However, it was his work for a 1951 issue of the magazine Asahi Graph that launched his career, although, according to another account, his first step on the professional road was a set of 12 zodiac signs commissioned by a magazine in 1954.
In 1954 his first monograph, Atarashii Origami Geijutsu (New Origami Art) was published. In this work he established the Yoshizawa–Randlett system of notation for origami folds (a system of symbols, arrows and diagrams), which has become the standard for most paperfolders. The publishing of this book helped Yoshizawa out of his poverty. It was followed closely by his founding of the International Origami Centre in Tokyo in 1954, when he was 43.
His first overseas exhibition was organised in 1955 by Felix Tikotin, a Dutch architect and art collector of German-Jewish origin, in the Stedelijk Museum. Yoshizawa lent many of his own origami models to other exhibitions around the world. He would never sell his origami figures, but rather gave them away as gifts to people, and let other groups and organizations borrow them for exhibiting.
His second wife, Kiyo Yoshizawa, served as his manager and taught origami alongside him till his death on his 94th birthday.
Although Akira Yoshizawa pioneered many different origami techniques, wet-folding is one of his most significant contributions. This technique involves slightly dampening the paper before making a fold. Wet-folding allows the paper to be manipulated more easily, resulting in finished origami models that have a rounder and more sculpted look. The ability to create origami with a more realistic appearance was an important advancement in paper folding, since it took models away from the realm of simple crafts and towards true artistic expression.
Wet-folding is most often used with thicker paper, however. Normal origami paper is very thin and thus prone to tearing when using the wet-folding technique. Yoshizawa believed the process was the most important part. He used to say, “ When you fold, the ritual and the act of creation is more important than the final result. When your hands are busy your heart is serene”.
In March 1998, Yoshizawa was invited to exhibit his origami in the Louvre Museum. He did it willingly, and was not opposed to having his photo taken with other competing origami artists, whom he used to detest in his earlier years; many of his patterns were diagrammed by his professional rivals, which angered Yoshizawa when he was younger. He found that he no longer disliked rival origami folders, and that he now enjoyed their company.
Akira Yoshizawa died on 14 March 2005 in hospital in Itabashi Ward of complications of pneumonia on his 94th birthday.
- Atarashii Origami Geijutsu, Origami Geijutsu-Sha 1954
- Origami Reader I, Ryokuchi-Sha 1957
- Dokuhon, Vol.1 (Origami Tokuhon), 1973, ISBN 4-8216-0408-6
- Sosaku Origami (Creative Origami), Nippon Hoso Kyokai 1984, ISBN 4-14-031028-6
- Dokuhon, Vol.2 (Origami Tokuhon), 1986
- Origami Dokuhon II (Origami Reader II), Kamakura Shobo 1986, ISBN 4-308-00400-4
- "Akira Yoshizawa", Origami (biography), About.
- "History of Origami". Independent Lens. PBS. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
- Fox, Margalit (2 April 2005). "Akira Yoshizawa, 94, Modern Origami Master". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
- Miller, Rhonda J (2003-12-19). "New Morikami Exhibit To Display Works of Origami Master". South Florida Sun – Sentinel. Retrieved 2012-03-14.
- Yoshizwa's books (list), British Origami Society (BOS).
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