It's also the 103rd anniversary of Akira Yoshizawa's birth. Yoshizawa is the Einstein genius of origami (shares the same birthday).
Akira Yoshizawa (1911–2005) is widely regarded as the father of the modern origami art form. Over the course of his life, he created tens of thousands of origami works and pioneered many of the artistic techniques used by modern-day origami artists, most notably the technique of wet-folding, which allowed the use of thick papers and created soft curves, gentle shapes and rounded, organic forms. He also developed a notation for origami that has now been the standard for origami instruction for more than 50 years.
Yoshizawa took up Japan's traditional folk art of origami in his 20s, and eventually left his job at a factory to focus full-time on his origami creations. His work came to the attention of the west in 1955, after an exhibition of his works in Amsterdam, and rapidly spread around the world. In his last decades, he received worldwide renown and invitations from all over, culminating in his award in 1983 of the Order of the Rising Sun.
I had the great fortune to meet Yoshizawa several times. In 1988, he came to New York to visit The Friends of the Origami Center of America, and spoke at a panel discussion I attended. There, he addressed a wide range of topics: one's mental attitude, the importance of character, of natural qualities, of having one's "spirit within [the artwork's] folds." Although he was the consummate artist, his work and approach was infused with the mathematical and geometric underpinnings of origami as well as a deep aesthetic sense:
“My origami creations, in accordance with the laws of nature, require the use of geometry, science, and physics. They also encompass religion, philosophy, and biochemistry. Over all, I want you to discover the joy of creation by your own hand…the possibility of creation from paper is infinite.” - Akira Yoshizawa
While there were other Japanese artists who explored their country’s folk art contemporaneously with Yoshizawa, his work inspired the world through a combination of grace, beauty, variety and clarity of presentation. To him, each figure, even if folded from the same basic plan, was a unique object with a unique character.
In 1992, I was invited to address the Nippon Origami Association at their annual meeting in Japan, and my hosts arranged for me to meet the great Yoshizawa at his home and studio. When I was ushered into the inner sanctum, Yoshizawa greeted me, grinning, and then proceeded to show me box after box after drawer of the most extraordinarily folded works I had ever seen.