I am the author of three middle-grade children's books, and I blog on the side. My favorite topics are movies, writing, and pop culture.
When I was in the fifth grade, I signed up for origami club at school. Every Friday afternoon, the club would meet, our teacher would hand out the origami paper, and she would show us how to make different shapes: boxes, cranes, cats, etc., all by folding thin, square pieces of paper into 3D shapes.
Of course, we all considered ourselves experts right out of the gate because we could make those paper fortune tellers in 20 seconds flat. But it takes a mathematical mind to really understand how to take a flat shape and make it three dimensional. And I knew even then that origami was not my forte.
So, when I saw a giveaway for an origami book on Two Classy Chics’ blog a few weeks ago, I decided to enter it. The prize was a copy of Chrissy Pushkin’s Kawaii Origami along with 50 sheets of 6”x6” origami paper in various colors. It looked fun, and I wanted to challenge myself to see if maybe, as an adult, I could follow the directions better and complete the projects on my own. Here is my review of Kawaii Origami.
About Kawaii Origami
Kawaii Origami features 25 origami project instructions in a Japanese style known as kawaii. In her introduction, author Chrissy Pushkin explains that the concept for the book grew from her YouTube channel where she demonstrated some of the projects that she had mastered while pursuing this hobby.
The projects in the book reflect the kawaii, or “cute,” style that attracts the author, such as tiny boxes, envelopes, and jewelry. The book itself even reflects this style with its pastel-colored pages and adorable emojis offering tips and commentary about each project. They are organized from easiest to hardest, using a star system to indicate the difficulty level of each shape.
After the introduction, there is a chart explaining the different symbols that are included in the instructions which tell you how to fold a specific section of the paper. The symbols are very straightforward, such as a solid line with one arrow to fold the paper once in a certain direction or a line with double arrows to indicate to fold and then unfold the paper. There are dotted lines to indicate whether to fold the paper under or over itself.
It’s super important to recognize each type of fold in each direction and to do it exactly the way that it says. Some folds are meant just to make creases in the page to use as guidelines for a later fold while others are permanent folds that will help to make the shape of the final project. You can’t cut corners or skip even a piece of a step, or you’re going to get stuck.
Masu Box Attempts
Attempt #1: Masu Box
Knowing that I haven’t attempted origami in over 20 years, I knew that it would be crucial to start at the beginning and see how far I got. I started with the Masu box, which is basically a tiny, square box made of paper. The difficulty level is one star, and each fold seemed pretty basic. So, my assistant and I got started.
There are 17 steps to this project, each laid out with images to show you what the paper should look like after each step, complete with symbols to show you how to fold the paper and a sentence or two of written instructions to go along with the symbols. The first several steps are about making folds to create creases in the paper, and I seemed to be on the right track until step 13, where the fold was a tiny diagonal fold that began to raise the box in a 3D shape.
Some of the projects indicate a required paper size. This one didn’t, but I remembered from my origami club that we used very large paper for our first projects. Larger paper is easier to work with. It folds better, and you can see the creases easier. The 6”x6” paper that I was using was very small, and it was hard to make this tiny fold in the middle of the project. I couldn’t get it to look like the image in that particular step.
Trying to forge ahead without this exact shape reminded me of my rule above that you can’t just skip a step. You’re pretty much stuck there if you want the project to look right, and trying to force the project to come together without following each and every rule resulted in a mess of a result which I dared not photograph.
This was discouraging to a visual person who needs to be supervised by somebody who knows what they’re doing. The diagrams were very helpful to show when I was on the right track, but they did nothing to help me when I got stuck except to confirm that I had it all wrong.
Making a Water Balloon
Attempt 2: Water Balloon
The water balloon is the fourth project in the book. I remember making one of these in my club, and it wasn’t too hard. But I was still flustered from not being able to figure out the simplest and easiest project in the book, and this one was listed as a two star difficulty. I hoped my memory could help me through the process.
Again, the small size made folding difficult, but each fold is simple, and the diagrams were helpful in showing how to make each fold as a result. There are 16 steps to this project, and many of them are repeat folds that you make on both sizes of the paper. Step 12 tells you to flip the model over and repeat the same process, but it would have been helpful to say which steps to repeat from. It took some back tracking.
A good skill to have when doing origami is being able to know how to make an identical but opposite fold on each side of the project. The shapes that you make while folding are very symmetrical, but because most people are either right or left-handed, you are constantly trying to figure out how to do the same step backwards.
Slowly but surely, we got through each step. Step 14 is the most fun because you get to blow into an opening made on one end of the shape and inflate your balloon. Despite its name, you can’t put water into it considering the material it is made from, but it really comes to life using your own breath, and in the end you have created a 3D cube.
Here's how you really make the cactus project.
Attempt 3: Cactus
Like I said, successfully completing a project is real confidence builder, and riding high on our success, we decided to try the cactus project, a three star difficulty level. This is one of the few projects that looks like an actual object, not just a general shape.
The first few folds of the 27-step project were easy, but they became difficult very fast. By step 11, our tiny piece of paper was so small that we had difficulty folding it any further. We didn’t have the right materials for the project, and we abandoned the cactus before it even began to take shape.
In the end, I concluded that I’m just not good at origami. This book is definitely for people who have that geometric mindset and have experience completing more simple projects.
Also, the paper that it comes with is too small for most of the projects in the book. I recommend buying larger origami paper. Not only will it be easier to fold, but you’ll have a bigger shape that’s going to look more like what you expect it to look like after you finish a project.
I did manage to complete one of the easy envelope projects the next day, just to end on a high note. But I’ve decided to move on to other art projects and place the book and remaining sheets of paper in my Little Free Library for a more skilled or determined person to try.
The little bit of satisfaction that I got from the successful projects was outweighed by the frustration that I was not able to pull off with the others. I find that I need a visual demonstration, not just diagrams explaining each step. The author’s YouTube videos are a better fit for me.
I also don’t know what you would do with all of these projects once they are made. They are cute to look at, but being made of paper, they’re not very durable and won’t be functional for long as boxes, jewelry, or envelopes.
As a whole, Kawaii Origami is very well-designed, eye-catching and to-the point. I like how it doesn’t waste time with a long introduction or history of the art form. It gets right to the projects.
It’s a really colorful book to flip through, but its seemingly easy instructions are a little misleading to the inexperienced or unskilled artist. I suggest you practice with some easier shapes before tackling this book. Then, see if you can do any better than I did.
Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on April 21, 2019:
Hello, Laura, I think I had grown out of this paper creativity game. Like as you said you had not made a move for the past 20-years. Nonetheless, I had kids who when just return from school will cut a paper or two, and began manipulating the same into an animal, bird, human, or an imaginary object you know what. I will be looking out and then follow suit to be a little creative likewise. Thanks for sharing.